The best external desktop hard drive


A close up of our pick for the best external desktop hard drive sitting on a desk next to a laptop and a houseplant.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Our choice

Western Digital’s 4TB My Book is the best desktop hard drive for most people because it’s reliable and offers the best balance between speed and price. It was about as fast as the competition in all of our tests, it’s the cheapest drive we’ve tested to date, and it has a longer warranty (three years) than other contenders.

While no hard drive is immune to failure, the WD My Book has a proven track record. We found only 21 reported failures out of 358 Amazon reviews of the 4TB model, or 6%. Backblaze Report 2017 Note that WD’s 4TB drives had a low annualized failure rate of 2.2%. None of these research methods are a perfect indicator of My Book’s reliability, but they are the best we have.

A graph showing Blu-ray read and write speeds for four hard drives tested in this review.
We tested how quickly our 4TB and 5TB desktop hard drive contenders could transfer a Blu-ray movie. They all performed the same, although the Toshiba Canvio was a bit faster than the competition. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

Most of the drives we tested performed similarly, with the 4TB WD My Book having a slight advantage in most of our tests. In our Blu-ray transfer test, all of the 4TB drives we tested were within range of error of each other, but the Toshiba Canvio 5TB was about 30 seconds faster than the competition. (This drive, however, costs significantly more.)

A graph showing the performance of four of the external hard drives tested for this exam.
The 4TB WD My Book performed slightly better than the 4TB competition in the HD Tune read and write tests. The Toshiba Canvio was the fastest (and most expensive) drive we tested. Longer bars indicate better performance.
A graph showing the time it took for four different models of external hard drives to produce a Time Machine backup.
The 4TB WD My Book was the fastest drive we tested to create a backup with Time Machine, although all of the drives we tested were pretty fast. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

In HD Tune testing, the 4TB WD My Book had a read speed of 143.8 megabytes per second and a write speed of 138.4MB / s, running a little faster than most of the competition. And it had the fastest Time Machine backup score of any 4TB drives we tested. Most of the drives performed the same in these tests, with the exception of the 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Hub, which was significantly slower.

The 4TB My Book is the most cost-effective drive we’ve found at the time of our research and writing. While hard drive prices fluctuate frequently, our pick was the cheapest in its competitive arena: at the time, it cost around $ 96, or $ 24 per terabyte, while the majority of drives we tested cost more. of $ 100. However, since all of the drives we tested are good, we recommend purchasing the cheapest option available if prices change.

WD backs the 4TB My Book with a three-year warranty, longer coverage than the competition. The drive did not heat up during our testing, and although this My Book occasionally made a low hum as we moved files, we don’t think this is of concern; all the discs we have tested make noise.

Using the included WD Discovery app, you can import your data from cloud storage or a social network account to your drive. You can also use WD Drive Utilities to check for possible drive failures, major performance issues, and bad sectors on the My Book. (Additionally, you can use it to permanently erase all data on your drive.) You can enable 256-AES encryption by downloading WD security software, enabling it, and setting a password.

Long-term test scores

Wirecutter staff members have used the WD My Book in different ways over the years. Wirecutter video producer Hunter Boone owns 4 TB My Book; he says it was also very reliable for syncing and backing up. “When I’m done with video projects that aren’t that important to me, but want to keep the original videos so that I can eventually add them to my reel, this is a great tool to free up space on. my mounting thunderbolt disks. “

Wirecutter editor-in-chief Nathan Edwards has owned the 6TB version of the drive for over a year, and he says, “It’s quieter than my old backup drive and relatively good looking. I don’t mind it and I don’t mind, and my computer is backed up, so it looks good. “

Wirecutter’s Senior Software Engineer Justin Yost told us his wife had the 4TB version of our top pick; she uses it as a spare, and has been fine for about a year. A Wirecutter staff member was unable to figure out how to format their drive. If this is a problem you are also facing, check out our instructions on how to do it.

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