Hard drives are great for storing your important information. But, when you need to store your data for longer periods of time you have think of its affordability as the primary concern and its durability as well.
External hard drives come in many shapes, sizes and specs. You can find large 3.5″ HDD as well as much smaller NVMe SSDs. However, the right choice for long term storage is generally not based on whether a disk is high performance or not, instead it mainly depends upon GB/dollar cost.
Of course, if your data is critical you need to consider getting a drive that’s got a sturdy construction which will make it even more resistant to the daily mishaps that may occur.
In the following text we will review some of the best external hard drives for long term storage.
Comparison of Top External Hard Drives for Long Term Storage
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List of Best External Hard Drives for Long Term Storage in 2021
These are some of the best options when you’re looking for external hard drives with long term storage in mind.
- WD My Book – Recommended External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage
- WD Essentials– Affordable 2.5″ Portable External Hard Drive
- Silicon Power A60 – Rugged Portable External Hard Drive
- Seagate Backup Plus – Portable External Hard Drive with Backup
- LaCie Mobile Drive – With USB Type C Connection
1. WD My Book – Recommended External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage
If you long for an affordable long terms storage solution, then this is one of the best external drives that we can recommend.
This is a large form factor external drive that requires and external power source to operate. This is essentially called a desktop external hard disk and it harbors a larger 3.5″ drive inside.
In terms of performance, this is a reasonable drive to have. It will not break any speed records, but that is okay since drives intended for data storage do not need to be fast.
It most likely that you will fill the drive up with your important data just so that you can stow it away for good.
Hence, in situations like this, a drive that provides you with the best GB/dollar value is highly recommended.
In short, if you are looking for an inexpensive way to store you data, then this is the best external hard drive for long term storage.
The drive connects via USB 3.0 and you can find storage options ranging from 3TB all the way to 14 TB.
2. WD Essentials – Affordable 2.5″ Portable External Hard Drive
A good old highly affordable and reliable HDD. Does not come with shock proof or water resistance capacity, but offers a great value.
Unlike the hard disk above, this is a smaller 2.5″ form factor hard drive that does not require an external power source to operate. It is powered and transfers data through the USB connection.
The reason we have selected this portable hard drive is because of its affordability. If the option above is too large for your taste and you are looking for something much smaller, then this is the best external hard drive for long term storage.
You can tell the popularity of this drive by the sheer number of customer reviews it has garnered. Very rarely will you find a product on a huge market place like Amazon.com have hundreds of thousands of satisfied customer reviews.
It should be noted though, that this model is a basic hard drive with hardly any protection against shock or an IP rating for water resistance. So while this is portable, you will have to be careful against external hazards.
A drive doesn’t need to have premium features to be the best external hard drive for long term storage for your needs. If it has a good-enough storage capacity, comes from a reliable brand and has the relevant features then you can use it for your important files without having to worry too much.
With such a drive, you get the comfort of saving some extra money by not indulging in a costlier external hard drive. However, for the compromise of not having any shock or water protection, the burden of ensuring your drive survives long falls on you as the user.
This drive connects via USB 3.0 and comes with storage options ranging from 1TB to 5TB.
3. Silicon Power A60 – Rugged Portable External Hard Drive
The Silicon Power A60 is one of the best external hard drive for long term storage due to its sturdy construction and ruggedized exterior. You can get one quite affordably and because it has protection againts water and shock damage, it can come in quite handy for your critical data.
With the Power A60, you can get storage capacities of up to 5TB which is great for large HD video files and large pictures.
Besides the fact that the device can accommodate large amounts of data, it will also keep your files somewhat safe from water damage. The IP X4 water resistance rating it comes with means that any splashes from any direction can be withstood and a little seepage is allowed without too much damage.
The body’s construction is rubber and plastic which give it great shock absorption while the texture of the material reduces sliding and enhances grip when you’re carrying it around.
The hard drive is quite popular for users who want something strong and durable for all their files.
The best part about the drive is that despite having a durable construction, it has a fairly competitive price tag and does not seem to charge much of a premium.
In short, if you travel or you want physical protection for your drive, then this is the best external hard drive for long term storage.
4. Seagate Backup Plus – Portable External Hard Drive with Backup
A reasonably priced portable HDD with great backup and data recovery service.
If you are looking for a long term storage drive with automatic backup feature, then this among the most recommended options.
This too is a compact and a portable 2.5″ hard drive, however, its main highlight are two services that make it a worthy competitor against the rest.
For starters, it features automatic daily, weekly or monthly backups for both Windows as well as for Apple. It is compatible with Apple Time machine as well but may require re-formatting.
On top of that, the disk also comes with 2 years of Rescue Data Recovery Service. Therefore, if your data becomes damaged or corrupted in that time, you will have the chance to avail the recovery service.
So in short, if you need a drive capable of auto backup, then this is the best external hard drive for long term storage.
5. LaCie Mobile Drive – With USB Type C Connection
A portable 2.5″ HDD with USB Type C connection for ease of use with MAC.
If you want an external portable hard drive that can easily connect to the newer USB Type C ports, as are found mostly on Apple Devices, then this is an option you can look into.
While this is more expensive than the normal USB 3.0 portable drives mentioned above, the facility of the Type C port can save your from investing in a separate adapter particularly if you are a MAC user.
Fortunately, the drive does come with backup feature and also comes with a one free month of Adobe CC subscription.
Guide to Choosing the Right External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage
Handed a list of hard drives, what would influence your decision about which one is the best for long-term storage?
Dollar / GB Cost
Among the most critical factor for deciding the best hard drive for long term storage is its cost.
Generally, when you look into a hard disk, you look at its performance as well as its mean time between failure rate.
However, for long term solution, the performance i.e the transfer speed as well as the MTBF value takes a backseat.
This is because drives used for long term storage are rarely used too often. They are intended for backing up data only. You will mostly find them thrown in a stowage space where they permanently reside with your data for good.
Hence, for a disk, that is seldom accessed but mostly stores data, affordability matters the most.
This is contrast to drives that are always in use. For instance, your primary drive where the OS is installed will definitely benefit from a high performance. Expensive SSD drives would make sense as well.
Rugged for Critical Long Term Data and If You Travel
There’s a very good reason why some of the most compact and sturdy military electronic equipment are rugged in construction.
They need to survive even in the harshest conditions.
Taking from this, an external hard disk that’s meant to hold files for long periods, maybe as a backup needs to survive harsh conditions as well.
While you may not be on a battlefield, the day to day activities of modern life results in a lot of stress exertion on equipment.
Rugged hard drives are mostly classified as drop-proof. This means that accidental drops from let’s say a shelf, will not be as fatal.
Also Read: 7200 RPM Hard Drive vs SSD
If you want a hard drive that you can carry with you to each of your destinations, then one that’s classified as shock-proof will be a worthy gamble.
Shockproof external hard drives are by design built to withstand knocks and some falls. They are also resistant to significant amounts of vibration so if you’re always on the move and mostly on rough terrain, you will probably need long-term external storage that’s shockproof.
Water damage is one of the worst things that can happen to any electronic device and it’s usually difficult to recover data if the hard drive has been exposed to a significant amount of water or moisture.
This may be defined by the IP rating (Ingress Protection) which determines the extent to which a device’s enclosure has been sealed, thus protecting the components inside it from intrusion and damage by the elements around.
SSD vs HDD for Long Term Storage
SSDs are fast. The hard disks are nowhere in comparison to the speed which the newer SSDs can provide. The newer PCIe v4.0 can even reach 8000 MB/s transfer speeds where as the nominal speed for hard disk is only 140 MB/s.
With that said, for long term storage, SSDs make little sense since they are very expensive. As mentioned earlier, long term storage entails that the disk is used only to store data and is seldom used.
If that is case here, there will be no point investing in expensive storage. We recommend the slower but inexpensive Hard disk drives.
Also Read: NVME vs SATA vs mSATA SSD
In this article we looked at some of the best external hard drives for long term storage. We looked at budget and premium, hard disk drives and sold state drives.
If you are looking for ultimate safety, it is important take into consideration how durable the external hard drive is. You need to make sure it is ruggedized since external hard disk are more prone to damage from fall and spills.
All in all, the good news is that there plenty of valuable options out there that you can choose. If you are looking to combine durability with speed, we would recommend you choose an SSD over an HDD.
Plus generally SSDs are more reliable against failure since they do not have mechanical moving parts.