The Best External Hard Drive for Video Editing – 2021 Buyers Guide

Last updated December 28, 2020.

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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.

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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 for video editing:

SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable External SSD – USB-C, USB 3.1

SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable External SSD – Up to 550MB/s – USB-C, USB 3.1 – SDSSDE60-2T00-G25
  • High-speed transfers with up to 550MB/s read speeds let you move Hi-Res photos and videos faster (Based on internal testing; performance may be lower depending on drive capacity, host device, OS and application.)
  • Ruggedized, water- and dust-resistant (IP55-rated) (IEC 60529 IP55: Tested to withstand water flow (30 kPa) at 3 Minch; limited dust contact does not interfere with the operation. Must be clean and dry before use.)
  • Shock-resistant solid state core for greater durability (Shock-resistant (up to 1500G) and vibration-resistant (5g RMS, 10-2000 HZ), Non-Operating Temperature (from ‐20°C to 70°C), operating temperature (from 0°C to 45°C))
  • Compact and pocket-sized
  • For PC and Mac users

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

Samsung T5 Portable SSD – 2TB – USB 3.1 External SSD

SAMSUNG T5 Portable SSD 2TB – Up to 540MB/s – USB 3.1 External Solid State Drive, Black (MU-PA2T0B/AM)
  • Superfast read-write speeds of up to 540 MB/s
  • Top to bottom metal design that fits in the palm of your hand
  • Optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption
  • Includes USB type C to C and USB type C to A cables. Shock resistance

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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…

Plus, it fits the palm of your hand.

The Samsung T5 has read/write speeds of up to 540MB/s, and is available in 4 capacities: 2TB1TB500 GB, and 250 GB.

Additionally, it comes with USB Type C to C, and USB Type C to A cables, and a 3-year warranty.  

Samsung T5 Portable SSD - 500 GB - USB 3.1 External SSD

G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE Mobile Durable Portable External SSD

G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD Durable Portable External Storage – USB-C (USB 3.1), Up to 560 MB/s – 0G06054-1, black
  • A durable design with IP67 water/dust resistance, 3M drop tested, and 1000 pounds crush resistance
  • Super fast transfer rates up to 560MB/s
  • Latest generation USB C connectivity (USB 3.1 Gen 2)
  • Shock and vibration resistant solid state drive
  • With capacities up to 2TB in a small, light package (As used for storage capacity, 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes and 1 terabyte (TB) = 1 trillion bytes; Total accessible capacity varies depending on operating environment.)

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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

SAMSUNG X5 Portable SSD - 500GB - Thunderbolt 3 External SSD (MU-PB500B/AM) Gray/Red
704 Reviews
SAMSUNG X5 Portable SSD – 500GB – Thunderbolt 3 External SSD (MU-PB500B/AM) Gray/Red
  • THUNDERBOLT 3 AND NVMe POWER: First ever NVMe-based portable SSD from Samsung featuring Thunderbolt 3 technology, the X5 delivers up to 40Gb/s data transfer speeds
  • LIGHTNING FAST READ WRITE SPEEDS: Sequential read and write performance levels of up to 2,800 MB/sec seq. read and 2,100 MB/sec seq. write
  • DURABLE DESIGN: Full metal body with glossy top and non-slip bottom mat withstands drops of up to 2 meters; Shock resistant internal design features Dynamic Thermal Guard technology to help maintain optimal performance and temperature
  • SECURE ENCRYPTION: Optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption keeps your personal and private data more secure
  • Only compatible with Macs and Windows PCs with Thunderbolt 3 ports, Mac OS X Sierra, High Sierra (10.12 or higher) Windows 10 64bit RS 2 or higher. Not compatible with PCs with only USB interface.

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

We’re featuring the 1TB version here, but it’s also available as 2TB or 500GB.

Glyph Atom SSD 2TB Silver (External USB-C, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3)

Glyph Production Technologies Atom Portable SSD (2TB, Black)
  • Patterned, high quality.
  • Simple fashionable
  • Compatible with Galaxy S5.
  • This lightweight case perfectly shows off your individual style.
  • For Samsung Galaxy S5

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.  

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:

WD 4TB Black My Passport Portable External Hard Drive – USB 3.0

WD 2TB Black My Passport Portable External Hard Drive – USB 3.0 – WDBS4B0020BBK-WESN
  • Auto backup with Included WD Backup Software
  • Password Protection with hardware encryption
  • Trusted drive built with WD reliability
  • USB 3.0 port; USB 2.0 compatible; System Compatibility: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7; Requires reformatting for Mac OS X operating system
  • 3 year manufacturer’s limited warranty

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Western Digital is arguably the most popular external hard drive manufacturer in the world, and they have a solid reputation for quality and reliability.

They also have the widest range of styles and capacities on the market.

The WD My Passport Portable USB 3.0 External Hard Drive has password protection and auto backup capabilities.  It has available capacities of 1TB2TB3TB, 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.

WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drives (Color Variety)

LaCie Rugged Mini 4TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive

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LaCie Rugged Mini 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 Compatible, Drop/Shock/Dust/Rain Resistant Shuttle Drive for Mac and PC
  • Shock, drops up to 4 feet, dust and water resistant for all-terrain use
  • For Mac compatibility this Hard Drive requires reformatting. Refer to Application Guide for more details
  • Password protection built in. Maximum speed is 130 mb per second
  • Uses USB 3.0 which is up to 4 times faster than USB 2.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
  • Includes 1-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan. Must redeem by January 31, 2020

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.  

We’re featuring the 4TB drive here, but this model is also available with capacities of 500 GB1TB, and 2TB.

Transcend Military Drop Tested 2TB USB 3.0 H3 External Hard Drive

Transcend 2TB USB 3.1 Gen 1 StoreJet 25H3B SJ25H3B Rugged External Hard Drive TS2TSJ25H3B
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface
  • Up to 4TB storage capacity
  • Three-stage shock protection system
  • One-touch auto backup button
  • Offers Transcend Elite data management software and RecoveRx data recovery software

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 1TB2TB, 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

SP Silicon Power 2TB Rugged Portable External Hard Drive Armor A60 Shockproof USB 3.1 Gen1 for PC Mac Xbox and PS4 Black
  • PS4 / XBOX COMPATIBLE: Ideal for gaming enthusiasts Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim (PS4 System Software version 4.50 or higher)
  • ALL-ROUND DATA PROTECTION: Military-grade shockproof and IPX4 water-resistant protection,
  • NO MORE MISSING CABLES: Cable-carry design for easy cable storage, Supported OS: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP, Mac OS 10.5.x, Linux 2.6.x,
  • For Windows User: The A60 is pre-formatted as NTFS, so you could use it directly on Windows .
  • [For Mac Users] Reformatting will be required for Mac operating systems]

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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

BUFFALO 2TB MiniStation PGF Portable External Hard Drive HDD Shock Resistant, USB 3.0 (3.2 Gen 1×1) for PC, Mac
  • DURABLE DESIGN – Shock-resistant from drops up to 2 feet (average desk height)
  • EASY TO USE – Secure and easy storage/backup of your photos, media, files, etc.
  • SECURE DATA PROTECTION – Lock and Go feature password-protects the drive to protect your data.
  • PORTABILITY – Safely carry and store important data with you anywhere.
  • FAST CONNECTION – USB 3.2 (Gen 1) connections that are over 4 times faster than USB 2.0 (backwards compatible with USB 2.0)

Last update on 2024-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

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