One of the many reasons Linux is popular is that most if not all its desktop distributions are opensource. This means that users do not need to pay for a license to use, or even modify it.
With Linux, you get a lightweight OS that can run everything from basic tasks like document editing to some enterprise-grade software.
You will benefit from having one of the best external hard drives for Linux as you will be able to back up your files or you can run the full OS from the external hard drive.
List of Best External Hard Drives for Linux in 2020
The following external hard drives are compatible and an excellent choice of Linux users.
- Silicon Power Armor A60 – Rugged, affordable and water-resistant
- WD My Passport Portable – Large storage capacity, 130MB/s HDD
- Transcend StoreJet TS2TSJ25H3B – USB 3.1, Anti-shock protection
- LaCie Rugged STHR500800 – 950MB/s, USB 3.0 Drop-resistant SSD
- WD Black (WDBA3P0080HBKNESN) – 7200RPM hard drive 250MB/s speed
1. Silicon Power Armor A60 – Rugged, Affordable and Water-Resistant – Recommended External Hard Drive for Linux
The Silicon Power Armor A60 is the best external hard drive for Linux users who value high durability with good performance at a comfortable price.
This drive has a rugged case that offers users much-needed protection against shocks. This helps keep the drive’s internals safe while giving you peace of mind if you decide to carry the drive when visiting places.
The drive offers a good price with purchase which may be attractive to Linux users who are on a budget.
It provides a great solution for backing up your files since it comes with large storage capacity options for users who need the space.
Besides being shockproof, the hard drive also has an IPX4 rating for water resistance. This means that water splashes will not have a huge impact on the drive, however, submersion may cause damage.
The drive comes formatted in NTFS meaning that you can just plug it into your Linux computer and get to work. It has a USB3.1 interface that provides great performance. Add that to the durability and the price tag and you get a great drive.
2. WD My Passport Portable – Large Storage Capacity, 130MB/s HDD
If all you need is a basic hard drive that has large storage capacities then this will be the best external hard drive for Linux.
It comes with storage options that go up to 5TB and this is great for Linux users who need to store or archive large volumes of files.
Additionally, you get decent performance out of this. With speeds of 130MB/s, you can expect to transfer small files effortlessly while significantly large files may take more time.
The drive is fit for file storage and while you can boot Linux from an external hard drive, the speed may be a limiting factor for some intensive tasks so just file storage is enough for this.
The drive supports password protection and automatic backups. However, you may need to check if your Linux distro does support this as well.
Nevertheless, the USB 2.0 support will come in handy when connecting to computers, and formatting it for Linux should be simple.
3. Transcend StoreJet TS2TSJ25H3B – USB 3.1, Anti-Shock Protection
This hard drive was designed with portability and durability in mind. Users get to have a device that comes with a rugged exterior that can absorb shocks and mild impacts.
The Transcend StoreJet has a shock-absorbing silicone case and also comes with a suspension damper and a reinforced hard plastic case. These three systems work in tandem to protect the drive against drops and shocks.
It comes with a USB 3.1 Gen1 connector that provides high transfer speeds between the device and your computer hence offsetting any bottlenecks that may occur during data transit.
Storage capacities go up to 4TB meaning you can store very many files before you need to get a new drive or delete old files.
As a bonus, the drive comes with a one-touch backup feature that’s activated by the push of a button.
The drive supports Windows Mac and Linux from kernel version 2.6.31 so ensure you check your OS.
4. LaCie Rugged STHR500800 – 950MB/s, USB 3.0 Drop-resistant SSD
If you want a hard drive that is very fast and you can even boot your OS from effortlessly then this should be the one you consider.
This SSD offers better performance than a regular SATA SSD since it’s an NVMe drive. As such, you get phenomenal speeds of up to 950MB/s.
Because of this, the drive is fast enough, you can load the OS into it and use it as an external boot device.
In addition to being a great performer, the drive has an IP67 rating that gives it better water resistance than the other hard drives seen here.
The drive has a rugged case that makes it extremely durable, able to survive crushing force, and drops from up to 3m.
With large storage capacities, this drive can be great for transferring files between computers s well as program installations.
When it comes to speed, this is the best external hard drive for Linux. There’s also a feature that lets users encrypt their files, therefore protecting them from unauthorized users. It’s a premium drive, hence it’s expensive.
5. WD Black (WDBA3P0080HBKNESN) – 7200RPM Hard Drive 250MB/s speed
The WD Black is a high-performance hard drive that delivers fast speeds and is the best external hard drive for Linux when you want a balance between storage space and performance.
It’s disk runs at 7200RPM which is faster than that of basic hard drives that do 5400RPM. The result is a 250MB/s transfer speed that’s impressive for an HDD.
The disk comes with a wide variety of storage options for users with varying needs and being a desktop hard drive means you shouldn’t expect much portability from it.
Nevertheless, with storage capacities of up to 8TB, space will not be an issue, and read/write speeds are good for day to day use.
With a USB 3.0 interface, the drive will be easily compatible with most computers and it also offers support for USB 2.0 support for those running Linux on an older computer.
The device has a sturdy construction that gives it a lot of tolerance to shocks and drops. This keeps the drive safe from damaging impacts.
It comes formatted with NTFS so you can use it as is or reformat it to work solely with the Linux OS.
How to Buy the Right Hard Drive for Linux?
Different Operating Systems have their way of reading disks and handling files. The Linux filesystem is quite different from what you will find on other systems like Windows or Mac.
Linux uses the ext filesystem with the popular flavor being ext4. While the OS does support some others including xfs, zfs, and btrfs, you don’t have to worry much about this when formatting your external hard drive.
Things to Consider
Whether or not a hard drive works on a computer will depend on many factors. However, any hard drive can be formatted to work with Linux.
Nevertheless, before settling for a hard drive that will be used on Linux, you may need to consider a few things like:
Bus Type and Driver Support
Linux has support for popular USB drives including some of the latest ones. These usually get added.
You can get some third-party drivers that are ports of the main drivers your hard drive comes with to allow seamless integration.
Availability of Support for Certain Features
Some hard drives come equipped with proprietary software that provides users with extra functionality like automatic backups, file recovery, and even wireless media streaming.
These may work well with Operating Systems like Windows and Mac but the support may be missing for Linux.
When getting a hard drive for your Linux computer, it is best to first ensure that the features you’re looking for are available with your OS.
You may be purchasing your hard drive to use on a Linux machine but you also want to access the files on other computers that run a different Operating System like Windows.
Unfortunately, the ext filesystem is only accessible to Linux so those files won’t be read on any other OS.
You could format your drive to use FAT32. This will allow you to access it from different operating systems.
Sadly, FAT32 comes with limitations such as the maximum size of an individual file cannot surpass 4GB. This will make it impossible to copy files that are larger than this to the drive even if you have space.
NTFS (New Technology File System)
If you intend to share your drive’s files with other computers, NTFS is a safe bet. Linux has support for it and it works with Windows out of the box. On a Mac, you’ll be able to read but will need tweaks to perform writes.
What To Look for in an External Hard Drive Generally?
There is a small list of specs that you can choose to review when buying the hard drive be it for Linux or for any purpose. We will talk about it below:
HDD vs SSD
This is the most important consideration when choosing any external hard drive. Do you want a hard drive that offers a high capacity but slower speeds for archiving or do you need a blazingly fast hard drive and are okay with paying a pretty penny for it?
So in short, if you want performance per dollar value, go for SSD. If you want capacity per dollar value, go for HDD.
It should be noted that not all HDD and SSD are equal. For instance a 7200 RPM HDD is faster than a 5400 RPM HDD. Similarly, a SATA SSD would not be as fast as an NVME SSD.
On top of that you need to realize the when using over a USB port, you are limited by the speed of the SATA 3 protocol. Therefore, even though NVME can handle PCIe speeds, it will be bottlenecked to SATA 3 speeds when used over USB port.
Enclosure and Portability
There are many types of enclosures for hard drives.
A 3.5″ hard drive, aka desktop external hard drive, has a large case, it is not portable and requires an external power source to operate. These have the best dollar per capacity value.
Next you have the 2.5″ enclosures for slim HDD as well as for SATA SSDs. These are portable and do not require an external power source. The 2.5″ HDD are naturally cheaper than the 2.5″ SSD external hard drives.
Finally we have the M.2 external SSDs. These, as the name suggests, have an M.2 enclosure. They are generally SATA M.2 external SSDs.
Also Read: Best Hard Drives for External Enclosures
In this article, we reviewed some of the best external hard drives for Linux. All of the drives mentioned above are not just highly valued by their customers but are also completely compatible with the Linux operating system.
It should be noted, however, that certain software such as a data recovery, data archiving that come built in with certain hard drives may seize to function with Linux as they are mostly compatible with Windows or MAC OS.
Nevertheless, when it comes to pure storage purposes, the above mentioned hard drives can be used without any limitations.