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Portable hard drive reviews

Last updated: 04 June 2014

Portable hard drives, now with up to 4TB of storage space, have finally broken the capacity barrier that previously made them the poor cousins to desktop drives. We lab test and review the latest models to help you find the best portable hard drive for you. Our buying guide explains their features.

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Our test covers portable hard disk drives ranging from 1TB to 4TB (terabytes) of space. Our expert testers give every storage drive a thorough workout to help find the models that:

  • have the fastest interface speed
  • are the easiest to set up
  • have the best back-up, security and power management support. 

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which drives are ruggedised and which offer encryption security. Our Recommended list will help you see quickly which models come out on top.

# All hard drives include USB 3.0

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List of brands we tested in this review.

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TB capacity (terabyte)
Cost per GB

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Thunderbolt port
Ruggedised
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Ruggedised drives are designed to more easily take the knocks and bumps of everyday use while on the go.

Test results

Ease of use score
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Ease of use comprises an assessment of hardware installation (40%), design advantages/disadvantages (20%), overall style (20%) and software installation (20%).

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Overall score
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The overall score is made up of performance (70%) and ease of use (30%). (A) Connected with Thunderbolt / with USB 3.0 – Thunderbolt score used in overall calculation. (B) With TurboPC EX / without TurboPC EX – TurboPC EX score used in overall calculation. (C) Connected with USB 3.0 / FireWire 800 - USB 3.0 score used in overall calculation.

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Software versatility score
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Software versatility is made up of backup (50%), security (40%) and power management (10%) support. However, software versatility is for comparison only and does not contribute to the overall score. (D) Preformatted to HFS+ (MAC) - can be used with Time Machine, included in OS X 10.  

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Included in this review

Members-only access
  • CHOICE Buy
  • Overall score
  • Performance score
  • Ease of use score
  • Software versatility score
  • Average write speed (Mbit per sec)
  • Average read speed (Mbit per sec)
  • Average write time (5GB sec)
  • Average read time (5GB sec)
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Price
  • Brand
  • Model
  • TB capacity (terabyte)
  • Cost per GB
  • Default file format
  • Thunderbolt port
  • FireWire 800 port
  • Ruggedised
  • Security
  • Supplied back-up software
  • Online storage
  • Size DxWxH (mm)
  • Weight without cable (g)
  • Warranty (yrs)
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