The best portable hard drive

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The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim earns the top spot for its reliability.

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full portable hard drive guide here.

After 18 hours of new research and testing, we found that the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is still the best portable hard drive for most people. It’s reliable, it’s one of the lightest, thinnest hard drives we tested, and it was faster than the competition in our backup and file-transfer tests.

The Slim has been one of our top picks for the past four years, and it’s the only portable hard drive that we’ve tested that doesn’t sacrifice size, speed, or reliability. Every other 2 TB portable hard drive is significantly larger, performs slower in our tests, or has a failure rate that’s too high to recommend. The Slim has an acceptable 9-percent reported failure rate among nearly 2,701 user reviews. We recommend the 2 TB model because it’s a great value. Seagate includes handy backup software, too.

If you want more storage and don’t mind a larger, heavier drive, we continue to recommend the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable, which costs less per terabyte than the 2 TB Backup Plus Slim. It was faster at sequential reading in our HD Tune test, but it was slower in our other testing. It’s twice as thick as our top pick and almost twice as heavy, too. (Make sure not to buy the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast by mistake—that’s a different drive that we do not recommend.)

Why you should trust us
Wirecutter has researched and recommended hard drives since early 2012, and our PC team has over eight years of combined experience testing hard drives and solid-state drives. I’ve spent the last two years reviewing hard drives and SSDs. We’ve collectively spent nearly 200 hours researching and testing portable hard drives in just the past four years.

Who this is for

If you’re not backing up the important documents and photos on your computer, you should start. Your computer’s internal drive will stop working someday, and unless your data is backed up, it’ll be gone forever. Fortunately, backing up your data is easy and getting started takes only a few minutes: Read our advice and set up a system that will back up your files automatically both to an external hard drive and the cloud. Just backing up to one or the other isn’t enough; having both onsite and cloud backups ensures that your data stays safe from localized threats such as fire, theft, or natural disaster, as well as Internet outages or disruptions to the cloud backup provider. A portable hard drive is a great local backup for a computer you take from your house to the coffee shop, on business trips, or on vacations.

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