External hard drives have become incredibly affordable and arguably necessary peripherals, offering an easy option for both backup and storage extension, especially for bulging photo collections and music libraries. Filtering through all those options can be difficult, so we've created a short buyer's checklist for choosing the latest in external hard drive storage, alongside model options to supplement your desktop or laptop all for under $100.
Things to consider when choosing an external hard drive:
1. Size & Use: Most external hard drives on the market today are tiny and light - some are literally smaller than your wallet. Size probably won't be a big concern, but consider whether you'll be keeping a model deskside or throwing it into a laptop bag regularly.
2. Capacity: You do want to consider what you'll be storing on your drive and how much space you need. Smaller portable hard drives generally range from 500 gigabytes up to several terabytes (1000GB = 1TB). 1 terabyte would equal 1 million photos (at 1 MB each), 250,000 songs, or 300 hours of high-quality video. Portable drives under $100 fall normally between 500GB-1TB, but occasionally sales will bring 2TB models under the mark (as noted below).
3. Compatibility: You'll also want to be sure that the hard drive you get is compatible with your computer's hardware and operating system. Most hard drives will state clearly what kind of port/connection speed they'll plug into on your computer and what operating systems you can use them with. Don't just assume - double check!
4. Drive Speed: almost all sub-$100 external drives are rated at 5,400 rpm. But if you can find one for faster (or even better, a solid state drive, without moving parts), it might be worth the extra investment for improved transfer rates.
5. Design: Additionally, portable external hard drives have evolved from yawn-inducing brick shaped to fashionable peripherals available in a variety of shapes and colors, from Porsche designed minimalism to bright vibrant hued cases. The design is not going to make file transfer any faster, but if you plan to leave your drive out on the desk, it doesn't hurt to coordinate the design and color to your existing home office/desk setup.
And now, let's take a look at some affordable hard drive options with 500GB-2TB storage capacity for under the $100 mark:
- G-Drive Slim ($89.99, 500GB)
- Toshiba Canvio ($59.99, 500GB)
- Seagate Slim ($79.99, 500GB)
- LaCie 500GB USB 3.0 Porsche Design Slim Drive ($79.99, 500GB)
- HP USB Pocket Media Drive ($99.98, 500GB)
- Samsung M3 2.5" Portable External Hard Drive ($96.00, 1TB)
- Buffalo MiniStation ($89.99, 1TB)
- Western Digital My Passport ($68.98, 1TB)
- LaCie Rikki ($99.99, 1TB)
- Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive ($99.99, 2TB)
(Images: as linked above)