Prime Day has landed today, and as we look over the myriad of Prime Day deals available right now, it’s a good time to issue a reminder: The “cloud” is not your only storage option — nor is it the best one. The cloud (which is really just someone else’s server) can be complicated and is only useful when you have online access to it, which is not always the case. Some of us favor external hard drives for ease of transfer, portability, security, and peace of mind, and right now, there are some great Prime Day external hard drive deals up for grabs. Whether you want a back up to your back up, faster transfer speeds, or just a physical alternative to the cloud, this is your opportunity to save big.
Today’s best Prime Day external hard drive deals
How to choose an external hard drive
There are a multitude of external hard drives brands, fabrications, and sizes to choose from when browsing Prime Day external hard drive deals. So many, in fact, that the choice can be overwhelming. To help you find the right external hard drive for you, let’s take a look at the major features — storage capacity, SSD vs. HDD, transfer speed, portability and durability, security, compatibility, and extra features — to make sure you get the right one.
The first thing we should look at is storage capacity. Ask yourself how big a hard drive you need? Look at what you’ve got saved on your computer, and in the cloud and measure accordingly, taking into account your future needs and how many devices you’re going to back up on this external hard drive, which can range from 64GB to several TB, which is quite a difference. Then consider SSD versus an HDD. We go deep on the difference here, but, basically, SSDs have no moving parts (HDDs do), making SSD drives much faster, less easily damaged, and more expensive. We usually recommend SSDs, with budget considerations in mind, of course. Older drives will have USB 2.0, as a standard, and it’s pretty slow, reaching only 480Mbps. Newer drives will have USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, or USB 3.2 Gen1 as standard (they’re similar) with speeds of up to 5Gbps. Then there’s USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen2 (again, similar), providing 10Gbps transfers. At the top of the USB 3 pile is USB 3.2, or 3.2 2×2, with 20Gbps. Up from there is the Thunderbolt 3 protocol with up to 40Gbps in transfer speed.
One of the main reasons to choose an external hard drive over, or in addition to, the cloud is its portability. Lots of great drives are meant to stay at your home or your office, but if you’re looking for one to take with you where you go, there are some things to consider. External hard drives can vary greatly in size and weight; the smaller ones with the most capacity tend to be, you guessed it, the most expensive. Part of this consideration is durability; no drive lasts forever, and lots of contemporary drives come with rugged casings to protect them against damage, SSD, without those moving parts, tends to stand up better to impact damage than HDD.
Another consideration is security. How sensitive is the data you are backing up and transferring? If the answer to this question is anything but “not very” you’ll want to consider encryption, either through software or the device’s hardware. You can get software that’s compatible with most drives, but if you want to step up your security, get a drive with hardware encryption. If security is a top concern, you can even look at drives with physical security systems.
Finally, but not least important, is compatibility and features. Hard drives often come formatted for a specific operating system. So ask yourself before buying, ‘Do I have Windows or MacOS and will this change any time soon?’ You can always reformat an external hard drive, or partition it, but you probably want to avoid that challenge by making sure your external drive is compatible with the target operating system. Look at the features too: Consider what kind of warranty is offered; look at your machine and note whether you’re going to need to buy extra cables; some come with Wi-Fi — is this important to you?
When you’re exploring Prime Day external hard drive deals, make sure to get the external hard drive that’s right for you.
Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.