hand holding Seagate external hard drive in dark room

Best External Hard Drives for Graphic Designers

2020 — if you don’t want to pay monthly for cloud storage you’re probably in the market for a new hard drive. Prices have plummeted over the past 7 years as manufacture squeeze more GB and TB into these little devices. We’re big fans of USB-C since that is faster than USB-C and supported on most new laptops.

1. Seagate Backup Plus Hub

Features

  • High storage capacity
  • Good transfer speeds for large folders
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows and Mac compatibility
  • Adobe Creative Cloud Photography membership

Seagate makes some of the biggest external hard drives. If you’re a graphic designer and you need huge storage capacity at home or at the office, you can get up to 10TB of storage space with the Seagate Backup Plus Hub.

This external HDD comes with two USB 3.0 ports, which is great for multitasking. It will allow you to transfer files for safekeeping from two devices simultaneously like thumb drives, cameras, your personal computer, you name it.

What’s also great is that this HDD is fully compatible with both Windows and Mac systems. However, you will have to manually install a Mac NTFS driver first. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to use the device with a Windows system.

That said, getting up to 10TB of storage is pretty much the main highlight for some users. That’s more than enough for everything from sketches to animations and 4K videos. Everything you may have to work on or save in a safe environment.

The Backup Plus Hub offers impressive transfer speeds too. It’s pretty much the leader in moving large folders and files upwards of 20GB. However, does it have the best read/write speeds overall? Not exactly.

One of the most interesting features is that each HDD comes with a two-months membership for the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. This will give you access to a large suite of Adobe photo editing software. Of course, it’s not a lifetime membership but two months for free is a pretty good deal to find out whether it’s for you.

Just in case you’re not familiar, here’s what this Adobe plan offers. It comes with Photoshop and the Lightroom photo service. The former needs no introduction with graphic designers but the latter, an online photo organizer, might come in handy.

It’s a service you can use to store, share, and edit your photos remotely. Among other smaller apps, you will also get access to Adobe Spark. If you’re creating customized graphics, making short videos, and creating web pages, this is a software package you might eventually need, now that you have a large external hard drive.

It’s also cool that you can use the hard drive as a power bank for your smartphone and charge it when you have no other free ports available.

However, you should also know that this isn’t the most convenient external HDD to carry with you. It measures 4.65” x 1.61” x 7.8” and around 2.34 pounds. It’s not exceedingly big or heavy but enough that it’s not anywhere close to the last word in portability. With the external 18W power supply, it’s a device best kept in one place, whether it’s the office or home.

The Seagate Dashboard backup software works smoothly and offers three options: Social, PC Backup, and Mobile Backup. The interface is intuitive and each backup option is clearly explained, if not already evident.

So, who is this external hard drive not for? Well, since it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac, it’s hard to find a wrong user base. However, if you’re shopping on a tight budget, this may not be the best option for you.

While some may consider it a bit overpriced, it’s worth pointing out that this is an all-inclusive “hub” and one of the few external hard drives that won’t drop significantly in performance when used with an older USB port.

It’s also good to have multiple dedicated backup options, especially one that doesn’t just deal with local files and can take care of your social media content. It may not be as fast as an SSD, but some graphic designers do need storage capacity and stable performance above all else.

Pros

Cons

  • Bulky and on the heavy side
  • Slightly pricier than other models

2. WD My Passport Black

Features

  • 3-year warranty
  • Your choice of capacity
  • WD Discovery software
  • USB 3.0
  • Hardware encryption

First and foremost, the WD My Passport external hard drive has one of the best prices per gigabyte on the market. It comes in four sizes from 1TB up to 4TB and has been designed for fast read/write speeds and transfer rates of smaller individual files and batches.

Like with any good piece of WD hardware, the hard drive benefits from the dedicated WD Discovery software. This is a software suite that can help you to manage automatic backups. You can do this for selected files as well as to establish the time of day and frequency of the updates.

For optimal storage, the 4TB WD My Passport Black is the best recommendation. This offers enough storage capacity for tons of artwork, presentations, animations, videos, and even personal files.

Through the WD Security software, you can also turn this into your workplace storage device. You can make use of the software’s 256-bit AES encryption, which is enough to protect against common intrusions aimed at unauthorized access to your private files.

The hard drive comes standalone or with your option of a carry case or hard drive enclosure. The carry case is perhaps the best option if you’re always on the move. It doesn’t exactly offer high-end impact protection, nor is it built to, but it’s to prevent dust buildups, scratches, the occasional accidental splashes.

Although there are several colors to choose from, the black model will look the most professional by far, in combination with the overall elegant and subtle appearance. There are also plenty of bright and bold color options to suit anyone’s personality.

Another convenient aspect is that the WD Discovery software suite is already on the drive. So, you won’t have to worry about downloading anything or not having an optic drive on your laptop or computer. The setup is as easy as plugging the WD My Passport into an open USB 3.0 port and allowing the automatic setup wizard to run its course.

It’s also worth pointing out that this hard drive is best used with Windows systems. Mac users may have a hard time enjoying its fast connectivity to the fullest. Not to mention that the WD software suite has not been optimized for Mac.

The three-year warranty is nice, but it’s doubtful that the hard drive would outlive its warranty sooner anyway in most cases.

The largest version, the 4TB model, measures 4.33” x 3.21” x 0.85” and an almost negligible .54 pounds. Although there are more portable models out there, this is definitely not the kind of weight that you can’t carry around daily.

Furthermore, the standard model in the WD My Passport series already set the bar high enough a number of years back. Newer models in the series may be slightly faster and may even have cross-platform compatibility. However, unless you’re a loyal Mac user, the price per gigabyte and performance is just right for most graphic designers.

Pros

  • Ample storage capacity
  • Hardware password protection
  • Good read/write speeds
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not suitable for Mac users
  • Limited automatic backup customization

3. Seagate STGX2000400 External Hard Drive

Features

  • Available in various sizes
  • Windows and Mac compatibility
  • Long USB 3.0 cable included
  • Portability
  • Stylish design

From the outside, this Seagate Portable External Hard Drive may not seem like much. It may seem simple, perhaps even light in terms of storage, but it’s nothing if not a powerhouse for graphic designers who are shopping on a tight budget.

The prices are more than affordable, even if you’re eyeing a 2TB or a 4TB external hard drive. It’s also worth pointing out that the device itself is slim compared to most in its class. This may make it somewhat less durable in the long run, but it helps to keep the drive quiet and cool enough even under heavy load.

If you’re looking for a budget option but you work on both Windows and Mac systems, there aren’t too many options. With the Seagate STGX2000400, you can effectively back up all your devices. You can also go anywhere with your presentations stored away somewhere on your person, hook the Seagate up to any laptop and start wowing your clients with your work.

Seagate promised a rather fast portable hard drive that wouldn’t exceed 7oz in weight and delivered in spades. It also delivered on the promise of making the unit small and look more like an SSD than a hard drive. Its dimensions are 4.6” x 3.15” x 0.58”. This clearly puts it in the slim category and will help a lot if you need to travel with your backup files.

The overall durability of the device is not particularly impressive though. The build feels cheaper than higher-priced alternatives but it doesn’t mean that it can’t handle a few bumps too. This unit can hold its own, although it’s recommended that you take good care of it.

It definitely doesn’t have the durability of a full metal SSD or an encased external hard drive. It’s also worth pointing out that you can order this with a dedicated carry case or hardcover. This means that the bare drive will likely be more exposed than your other drives.

With a USB 3.0 port and a long 18” cable that comes with it, the hard drive will allow you to use any Windows and Mac system to access or store your files. The initial software setup on both systems is done automatically and very fast.

Of course, at this price range, there are some minor drawbacks too. You won’t be able to benefit from the ultrafast Thunderbolt 3 connection. You will also notice the absence of an HDMI port. That said, it has been designed for backup storage and content creators and not for streaming movies to your smart TV.

The overall read/write speeds are not super impressive. But the drive is more reliable than the much faster low-end SSDs that many graphic designers favor. If not anything else, this hard drive is worth a buy just for the reliability and the consistency even when used absentmindedly day in and day out.

It may not be the best option if you want to work directly on it and use your creation/editing software suite locally. That said, if you’re strapped for cash, you can hardly do any better.

Pros

  • Works on Windows and Mac systems
  • Simple setup
  • Good for automatic file backups
  • Portable
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Slower than many alternatives
  • Limited storage capacity

4. Samsung T5 Portable SSD

Features

  • Superfast
  • Slim and light
  • Sturdy metal design
  • USB Type-C compatible
  • Hardware encryption

Sometimes an external SSD drive is the best option for a graphic designer. Unless you have very large files to store, chances are a 500GB SSD will be more than enough for whatever you’re currently working on. The advantages of an SSD are many, most prominently performance and convenience.

For one, you can get speeds that no HDD will come close to match. In the case of the Samsung T5, you can reach up to 540 MB/s, which is a lot. This device also happens to be compatible with Windows, Mac, and Android devices too. As long as they’re not very old.

It’s recommended that you at least use a Mac OS X 10.9, Android 4.4, or Windows 7 system. Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem these days.

What’s also nice is that the SSD comes with two cables. It features a standard Type-C cable and a Type-C to Type-A USB cable. Therefore, you can connect your SSD to whatever device you’re using for your artwork.

Furthermore, the device is very durable. The T5 SSD comes in a full metal case, as well it should, and it’s no bigger than the average person’s palm. It’s something you can keep in your pocket when not in use and thus eliminate the risk of someone trying to access your files.

And let’s talk about portability. You would be hard-pressed to find a faster and smaller external drive. If you often find yourself on the move, this could be your best fit.

In terms of access protection, the SSD offers hardware encryption. You can password-protect the device using a standard but reliable AES 256-bit encryption. This should help to protect your files a little better while also putting your mind at ease that people would have a hard time trying to steal your work.

The SSD has four color options. However, you can never go wrong with the gray or black version in general.

If you’re wondering about other storage sizes, you can get up to 2TB of storage with the same read/write speeds. However, unlike most external SSDs, the cost per gigabyte is expensive. So, you’ll want to consider whether you need a lot of storage capacity to begin with or just a faster external storage drive. If it’s the latter, then the 500GB model might be enough for you without breaking the bank.

It’s also worth mentioning that the SSD is compatible with USB 3.1 Gen2 technology. Therefore, you can get quite a lot out of it, especially on more modern platforms. But, unlike its more expensive alternative, it doesn’t have a Thunderbolt 3 interface. This is not a major drawback except for a select group of users.

Are there cheaper SSDs on the market? Yes. Are there faster SSDs? Sure. But as a graphics designer, you don’t actually need the fastest read/write speeds to get the job done. Over 500 MB/s will be more than enough, even if you prefer working directly on the SSD rather than just using it as a backup.

Samsung’s SSD disk management software is perhaps not the most intuitive. But at the end of the day, it can easily schedule periodic backups and even delete older backups if prompted. And, unlike most HDDs, you should also benefit from accurate read and write for the extended lifespan of the device with nary any drops in performance.

Pros

  • Very fast read/write speeds
  • Full metal construction
  • 2x USB cables included
  • 2x USB ports
  • Samsung SSD management software

Cons

  • Expensive even among other SSDs
  • Limited storage capacity

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Staff Writer DLC

Daily Logo Challenge staff writers focus on creating in-depth guides focusing on mastery of design and development. Let us know what you think in the comments section above.