Last updated December 28, 2020.
Here’s something we can all agree on:
When it comes to content creation – whether you’re editing 4k video, building CPU-intensive motion graphics, 3D rendering, or creating complex graphic designs…
Performance and reliability matter. A lot.
And that’s why choosing the right external hard drive for your work is so important.
Our goal with this buyers guide is to help you find the best external hard drive for video editing in 2021.
SSD vs HDD for Video Editing: Pros and Cons of Solid State Drives
While a traditional hard drive will almost certainly get the job done…
If you’re wanting the best performance and reliability from your storage, it’s worth considering upgrading to a solid state drive.
As SSDs have become more popular, their cost has started to come down.
That being said, what are the benefits of a solid state drive (SSD) vs a traditional hard drive (HDD)?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of solid state drives:
PROS of Solid State Drives (SSDs)
- Performance, SSDs have much faster transfer rates than HDDs
- Reliability, SSDs have no moving parts, which means less things can go wrong… and they don’t wear out over time
- Portability, SSDs typically weigh much less than equivalent HDDs, making them more portable solutions for mobile users
- Consumption, SSDs require less power to operate, which also results in less heat output
- Noise, SSDs are virtually silent
CONS of Solid State Drives (SSDs)
- Cost, SSDs price per GB is considerably higher than HDDs, although the gap is shrinking
- Available Capacities, although this is becoming less of an issue as Solid State Drives become more popular
Now, this doesn’t mean that we’re done with traditional hard drives forever. In fact, mostly due to cost, my own inventory is probably about 90% HDD, and 10% SSD.
However, now that we understand the pros and cons of SSDs vs HDDs…
Check out our recommendations below for the best external hard drives for video editing, photo editing, and design in 2021:
Our choice for the best external SSD:
SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable External SSD – USB-C, USB 3.1
Be warned: This little external SSD by SanDisk is fast.
It has a shock-resistant solid state core for greater durability. It’s water/dust resistant, and a great choice for PC and Mac users… the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD has high-speed transfers of up to 550MB/s.
Consequently, this is my work horse external hard drive of choice. Typically, I’ll work off this baby for all my current projects, then transfer them to one of my USB 3.0 drive’s for archiving/backup.
While not the fastest portable SSD on this list, we chose this the SanDisk Extreme because of it’s cost vs value, and it’s portability/design.
Samsung T5 Portable SSD – 2TB – USB 3.1 External SSD
The Samsung T5 Portable SSD has no moving parts, a shock-resistant metal body that withstands drops of up to 6.5 feet, and built-in AES 256-bit hardware encryption…
RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro – 1TB – USB 3.1 External SSD
Need to go even more portable?
The 1TB RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro is protected by a solid, shockproof metal case, and works with any USB Type-C phones, tablets, laptops, and computers.
It’s a minimal and simplistic, beautifully crafted design… and offers optional ATA lock technology and AES 256 bit hardware encryption – meaning you, and only you, can read and write data to the SSD.
It also comes with USB Type C to C, and USB Type C to A cables.
We think you’ll be very impressed by this SSD’s performance and and quality.
G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE Mobile Durable Portable External SSD
G-Technology got serious with their G-DRIVE mobile Portable SSD.
A durable design with IP67 water/dust resistance, and 1000 lb crush resistance! It features the latest generation USB-C connectivity (USBG 3.1 Gen 2). Plus, super-fast transfer rates up to 560MB/s.
Additionally, it comes with an industry-leading 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.
Samsung X5 Portable SSD – 1TB – Thunderbolt 3 External SSD
Need something even faster?
The Samsung X5 Portable SSD has sequential read and write performance levels of up to 2,800MB/s and 2,300MB/s, respectively.
It features a full metal body with glossy top, and a non-slip bottom mat. It’s shock-resistant internal frame means the X5 can withstand drops of up to 2 meters (however, we don’t recommend trying…).
That said, it’s a little pricier than the SanDisk 2TB Extreme, or Samsung’s own T5 portable SSD.
Glyph Atom SSD 2TB Silver (External USB-C, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3)
This sleek design by Glyph only comes with a 2TB capacity, but is also available in Black or Gray.
The Glyph Atom SSD 2TB is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 & USB-C 3.1/Gen 2, and fits right in your pocket… allowing you to take your important documents, photos, videos, and other files with you on the go.
It has an all aluminum enclosure and rugged bumper protection.
And if you love Glyph’s design, but the transfer speeds of 560MB/s or the 2TB of space isn’t enough for you…
Check out the Glyph Atom RAID SSD options… which are available in Silver, Gold, Black, and Grey, and have capacities up to 4TB!
Faster than the standard, these portable bus-powered external SSDs have lightning fast data transfer speeds up to 950 MB/s.
The Best External HDDs for Video Editing
Let’s talk about traditional hard drives (HDDs).
They are vastly more popular than SSDs, mostly due to their lower price points. There are also many more options to choose from.
Check out our list of the best traditional hard drives for video editing, photo editing, and design in 2019:
Our choice for the best external USB 3.0 hard drive:
The WD My Passport Portable USB 3.0 External Hard Drive has password protection and auto backup capabilities. It has available capacities of 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB, and comes in a variety of colors.
Additionally, it comes with a 3-year manufacturer’s limited warranty.
Plus, there’s the My Passport Ultra version, which comes USB-C ready (also USB 3.0 compatible), and features a refined metal cover and innovative design.
LaCie Rugged Mini 4TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive
Most people in the video world know a LaCie rugged drive when they see one.
The LaCie Rugged Mini 4TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive has a striking and memorable design. It has password protection built in, is dust/water resistant, and is shock resistant on drops from up to 4 feet.
Transcend Military Drop Tested 2TB USB 3.0 H3 External Hard Drive
I’m a big fan of Transcend when it comes to USB 3.0 drives, and have used them for years.
The Transcend Military Drop Tested USB 3.0 external hard drive is available with capacities of 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB… and is comes in Blue or Purple.
It has military-graded shock resistance, and an advanced 3-stage shock protection system. It also features a one touch auto-backup button, and is USB powered.
Silicon Power 2TB Rugged Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive Armor A60
Silicon Power, known for their rugged external drives loved by gaming enthusiasts, has a great hard drive here.
The Armor A60 External USB 3.0 Hard Drive incorporates ultra-rugged rubber casing and is military-grade shockproof. It’s also IPX4 water-resistant.
Additional features include a cable-carry design, so you’ll never lose your cable again… plus, an anti-slip & anti-scratch surface!
One important thing to note, however, is that the Armor A60 comes pre-formatted as FAT32. So, if you ever plan to transfer any single file that’s larger than 4 GB, you’ll want to re-format the drive to exFAT (we highly suggest doing this!).
BUFFALO MiniStation 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive
This simple-to-use, USB 3.0 portable hard drive by BUFFALO is a great choice… and while it’s not a military-grade shockproof design, what you’re getting with this is reliability.
The MiniStation 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive is compatible with PC and Mac computers, and it’s plug-and-play setup provides easy to use storage and backup.
It’s also available in a 1TB capacity.
When it comes to choosing the best hard drive in 2021, there are a ton of choices.
With this post, hopefully we helped narrow down your search for the best external hard drive for video editing, photo editing, and motion/graphics design.
Always remember to double check that your computer/workstation has the correct ports, and is compatible with whichever external hard drive you choose.
Additionally, it’s important to note that we’re dealing with technology. Sometimes things go wrong.
It’s good practice to always have more than one backup of important files.
How about you?
Do you have a favorite SSD or USB 3.0 hard drive that we didn’t mention? Let us know your favorites in the comments!
Joel Simser is a creative writer, entrepreneur, and all around video maestro. He’s produced original music for commercials and television, lent his voice to various promos and presentations, and edited thousands of non-award winning videos (including a few actual award shows).
As founder of AwesomeContentCreator.com, he authors in-depth guides that teach fellow content creators ways to grow and develop in their industries.