We ran our File Transfer test, which copies 4.97GB of mixed media files, three times per device to calculate read (PC to HDD) and write (HDD to PC) speeds for each one. We benchmarked these devices using the Surface Book with Performance Base and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar (for the Mac-compatible drive) as the go-between devices, since their internal SSDs are among the fastest we’ve tested.
Even if you use cloud-storage services such as OneDrive or Dropbox to back up some of your files, an external hard drive still belongs in your tech tool kit. Portable USB-powered hard drives provide a speedy and physically secure way to store and transport huge amounts of data that either wouldn’t fit in a space-limited cloud account or would take hours to upload or download. An external drive is also the best place to keep a full system backup that’s available for an emergency restore if you computer can’t boot.
Fortunately, you can find a speedy, high-quality 1TB USB hard drive for under $60. To help you find the best cheap USB hard drive, we tested several popular models and evaluated them based on their speed (both read and write) and design.
There’s also an elegant and highly visible indicator ring in the top right corner that lights up blue when the drive is in use, something not all of its competitors offer. Toshiba includes a free third-party backup solution from NTI with the drive. In our tests, the read speeds were close to the top at 101.12 MBps, while write speeds averaged 90.35 MBps.