Top 10 Portable Hard Drives and SSDs for Photographers and Videographers

Photographers and videographers depend on storage devices to hold all their hard work. The last thing anyone wants is running out of storage space, especially during excursions and traveling. While capacity is perhaps the most common deciding factor when buying a portable storage device, there are a few other things to consider too.

This guide aims to help photographers and videographers choose a portable hard drive/SSD and includes out top picks for some of the best drives. The HDDs and SSDs have been carefully selected based on the value they offer, not just the price or capacity.

Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Hard Drive

Budget and Capacity

Capacity is the most critical criteria when buying a portable hard drive, but you also need to make sure it’s within your budget. Capacity and the amount of money you have to pay are directly proportional.

With all other things being equal, it’s better to buy higher capacity hard drives than what you think you currently need. Frequent travelers should pick compact, lightweight and rugged portable hard drives. Non-SSD/HDD portable drives are a better option if affordability and large volume are the key concerns.

Interface and Power Source

The most common interfaces used today are USB and Thunderbolt. USB interface is the universal and most common interface compatible with all operating systems. On the other hand, not all computers have a Thunderbolt port. That’s why a USB hard drive is a safer bet than devices compatible with other interfaces.

USB-C is the current trend and used by almost all types of modern USB gadgets. A USB-C portable hard drive will work with both a regular (USB-A) and USB-C ports. Although a little expensive than ‘standard’ USB hard drives, USB-C portable hard drive future proofs your investment. Try to pick at least USB 3.0 (backward compatible with USB 2.0) a device as it will offer a substantial gain in transfer speeds than old USB 2.0 interface.

Thunderbolt portable hard drives are generally faster than USB interface and work well for Mac users who can achieve faster data transfer speeds using the new Thunder Bolt 3 port.

You’d also want a bus-powered hard drive that draws power from the port instead of a separate adapter. This saves you from having to carry an adopter and provide external power to the hard drive whenever you need to transfer data.

Speed and Transfer Rates

Photographers and videographers need fast hard drives to move large files and perform heavy tasks such as editing high-resolution videos. SSD hard drives are much faster than non-SSD hard drives, but also cost a lot.

If you just need a portable hard drive to backup your data and other small tasks and want the maximum capacity, a non-SSD/HDD drive can save you quite some money. You can buy a much higher capacity non-SSD portable hard drive for less money as SSD hard drives can cost up to 10 times more for the same capacity.

SSD is a must if you don’t want a hard drive with moving parts in your backpack and are looking for a reliable solution to your storage needs. You have to invest in an SSD hard drive if you plan on storing and reviewing high-resolution videos (e.g. 4K) from the same hard drive.

Ruggedness

Rugged portable hard drives are designed to take some beating and suitable for users who are clumsy with their tech or travel frequently. Rugged drives are water resistant and can survive shock (usually up to 4 feet) and work well for travel photographers and videographers who want to keep their work safe.

Security

Most hard drives are compatible with a variety of software-based encryption solutions, allowing you to protect your data. However, you should consider portable hard drives with hardware encryption if you plan on storing sensitive data while on the go. Some drives even dip the PCBs in a resin, which makes it very hard to directly access the memory chips inside.

Extra/Advanced Features

You may also like to consider extra features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, RAID (for keeping copies of data), extended warranty, bundled accessories, software support and complimentary cloud storage.

Top 10 Portable Hard Drives for Photographers and Videographers

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Seagate Backup Plus 5 TB (affordable, high-capacity)
Western Digital My Passport 4 TB (Another affordable option for backup and storage)
LaCie Rugged Mini Hard Drive 2 TB (Rugged, highly portable)
WD My Book Duo RAID 4TB (RAID optimized, great for backups and storing large files)
WD My Passport Wireless 2TB
G-Technology G-Drive SSD 1TB (A durable drive that offers a great balance between price and performance)
Samsung T5 500GB SSD (Stylish, fast and portable)
ADATA SD700 Ruggedized SSD 512 GB (High-speed, ruggedized SSD at a reasonable price)
iStorage Diskashur 2 5TB (Pin-authenticated, ultra-secure portable HDD)

Seagate Backup Plus 5 TB (affordable, high-capacity)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.0 interface, Up to 120 MB/s
  • Bus-powered, no adaptor required
  • Sleek and elegant design
  • Auto, on-demand and customized backups
  • Works on both Windows and Macs without reformatting
  • Complementary 2-month Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (Photography Plan)

Western Digital My Passport 4 TB (Another affordable option for backup and storage)

Key features and specifications

  • USB-C ready, USB 3.0 compatible
  • Refined anodized metal cover
  • 256-bit AES encryption (hardware-based) and password protection
  • Formatted for Windows
  • USB Type-C to USB Type-A adapter included

LaCie Rugged Mini Hard Drive 2 TB (Rugged, highly portable)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Up to 4 feet shock/drop resistant
  • Water and dust resistant
  • Formatted for Windows
  • Built-in password protection
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Up to 130MB/s transfer speed
  • One-month free Creative Cloud Subscription (All Apps Plan)
  • Easy backup software

WD My Book Duo RAID 4TB (RAID optimized, great for backups and storing large files)

Key features and specifications

  • Massive capacity, available in up to 20 TB capacity
  • RAID-0 ready and optimized for RAID (for creating mirrors of data)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 ready
  • USB 3.0 compatible
  • Requires 2 USB 3.0 ports to work
  • Hardware encryption (256-bit)
  • USB Type-C to Type-C and Type-A cables included
  • Two USB 3.0 Type-A hub ports for connecting additional storage and USB accessories

WD My Passport Wireless 2TB

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac connectivity
  • Built-in battery, up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Can also be used as a power bank to charge phones
  • My Cloud app for Android and iOS
  • Support for RAW image previewing
  • SD 3.0 card reader
  • USB 2.0 port for transferring media from other devices

iStorage Diskashur 2 5TB (Pin-authenticated, ultra-secure portable HDD)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.1 interface
  • Up to 148 MBps transfer speed
  • PIN authenticated (physical keypad to input 7-15 digit pin
  • Real-time AES-XTS 256-bit encryption (hardware based)
  • Software-free operation
  • GDPR compliant
  • Built-in physical protection, tamper=proof design
  • Water-resistant keypad
  • FIPS PUB 197 validated
  • Protection against brute force hacks

G-Technology G-Drive SSD 1TB (A durable drive that offers a great balance between price and performance)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface, USB-C, up to 560 MBps transfer speed
  • Water and dust resistant (IP67)
  • Drop tested (3 meters, carpeted concrete floor)
  • Aluminum core for keeping the drive cool
  • 1000 lbs. crush resistant
  • 5-year limited warranty

Samsung T5 500GB SSD (Stylish, fast and portable)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface
  • Up to 540 MB/s read-write speed
  • Shock-resistant metal body (up to 6.5 feet shock resistant)
  • Built in hardware encryption (AES 256-bit)
  • Compact and lightweight (less than 2 ounces)
  • Type-C to C and A cables included

ADATA SD700 Ruggedized SSD 512 GB (High-speed, ruggedized SSD at a reasonable price)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface
  • IP68 water and dust proof, works when submerged under water (4-feet, 60 minutes)
  • Meets MIL-STD-810G US military specification
  • Compact and lightweight

Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA Bay/Docking Station/Cloner (If you already have spare hard drives you want to use)

Key features and specifications

  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Supports both 3.5-inch (desktop) and 2.5-inch (laptop) hard drives
  • Up to 10TB hard drives
  • Driverless operation, plug-and-play
  • Offline cloning functionality, up to 60 Mbps
  • SATA I/II/III compatible
  • Effortless hard drive swapping
  • Power supply included for cloning