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External high-capacity desktop drive reviews

Last updated: 04 June 2015

If your multimedia file collection has outgrown your internal hard drive, a large external desktop drive might be just what you need. A second drive would be useful for backing up. We lab test and review the latest desktop hard drives to help you find the best one for you. Our buying guide explains what to look for.

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Our test covers high capacity external hard drives ranging in capacity from 3 to 6 terabytes (TB). Our expert testers give every desktop hard drive a thorough workout to help find the models that:

  • have the best average read and write speed
  • are easiest to set up and use
  • use the least amount of energy
  • cost less per GB of space.

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which drives come with image back-up software and which have hardware encryption. Our Recommended list will help you see quickly which models come out on top.

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List of brands we tested in this review.

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Price paid in February 2015.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 150 and 430

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Average read speed (Mbps)
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Connected with USB 3.0, real-time throughput are averaged over multiple runs of transferring data sets (large and small files) to and from each drive. For the Buffalo DriveStation Velocity HD-LXU3 the figures used are without using the included TurboCopy software (which averaged slightly slower figures for both read and write in our testing).

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 0

Average write speed (Mbps)
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Connected with USB 3.0, real-time throughput are averaged over multiple runs of transferring data sets (large and small files) to and from each drive. For the Buffalo DriveStation Velocity HD-LXU3 this figure doesn't include results for TurboCopy software (which averaged slightly slower figures for both read and write in our testing).

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 0

Image backup software
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Creates a full snapshot "image" of the entire drive including all software and files. Most drives will include backup software that will back up all files, but it may not create a full disk image for easy restoration of the entire drive and all contents.

Hardware encryption
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Some makers provide hardware-based encryption to protect your data from prying eyes. Hardware encryption is generally considered to be superior to software-based encryption but beware that in either case an up-to-date backup is vital as a hardware failure can prevent access to all your data. Likewise, loss of the password can prevent future access.

Test results

Ease of use score
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We assess the time to get set up, how easy it is to install the software and use it to set a back-up regime, and how easy it is to restore a particular version of a backed up file. Ease of use makes up 25% of the overall score.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 0

Performance score
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Performance makes up 50% of the overall score. We transfer sets of 5GB of data to and from each drive multiple times, and note both the read and write speeds to measure the drive's performance.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 0

Software versatility score
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The number of options and potential applications available in the software. Software versatility is made up of backup (50%), security (40%) and power management (10%) support. Software versatility makes up 25% of the overall score.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 0

Costs

Annual energy cost
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Calculated at 28c/kWh.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 4.94 and 7.6

Included in this review

Members-only access
  • Recommended
  • Overall score
  • Performance score
  • Ease of use score
  • Software versatility score
  • Average read speed (Mbps)
  • Average write speed (Mbps)
  • Weight inc power supply (kg)
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Price
  • TB capacity
  • Cost per GB
  • Annual energy cost
  • Size DxWxH (mm)
  • Default file format
  • Power switch
  • Positioning
  • Power management software
  • Hardware encryption
  • Software encryption
  • Lock slot
  • File backup software
  • Image backup software
  • Mac reformatting instructions
  • Cloud storage
  • USB 3 connector type
  • Warranty (yrs)
  • Website
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