External Hard Drive/Flash Drive Suggestions

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    Morgan Giesbrecht


    After I shot my first wedding last month, as I was preparing to download the pictures from my camera to my computer, I made the wonderful discovery that my hard was too full to download the pictures. (@jamesstaddon, you have thoroughly convinced me that deleting unnecessary photos is absolutely necessary…it took a year for me to realize it, but you were right, 20 photos of one sunset are simply not necessary. I’ll definitely be working on this from now on!)

    So what I was wondering was if any of you photographers out there had any particular external hard drives/flash drives you recommend using for photo storage. (I’m looking in the 500GB to 1TB range.)

    I’m not the most technological person so any advise is welcome! 🙂

    Thank you!

    Logan Lamar

    @morganwriter1gmail-com You’re right, 20 pictures is simply not necessary! You need at least 300 to get somewhere! (and I rarely delete anything, unfortunately!).

    I use a 2TB Seagate Expansion to store my photos and videos. For redundancy, I cloned it (with a program called Carbon Copy Cloner) to another 2TB Western Digital Elements hard drive.
    This setup is working for me currently.

    You said you wanted 500GBs to 1TB… I’d recommend going with a 2TB drive, as it doubles your space for only an extra $10-20. Entirely your choice.

    Being a research snob and having looked into this before, I’ll give you three options for an external storage setup:

    The Get-My-Computer-Hard-Drive-Freed-Up-Now option:
    Get a single 2TB Western Digital Elements Hard Drive. You won’t run out of space for a while, and the price per gig is pretty good (about $0.03/GB).
    Price per gig: $0.03
    Total Price: approximately $70

    I did this for a while, but after my dad’s external hard drive failed, it scared me into option 2:

    The Get-My-Computer-Freed-Up-and-give-me-peace-of-mind option (what I use currently):
    I’d recommend two 2TB Western Digital Elements Hard Drives. I say this because my dad had an external hard drive fail on him. To get the data recovered by a company was going to be more money than he was willing to spend, so we lost the data. I wouldn’t want to see that happen to my photos, so I have this setup currently. A year’s worth of unculled RAW files for me is pushing about 300 GBs, so yes, I’d still recommend the 2TB drives (though you could do this with any pair of matching sizes).
    You can either manually put a copy of your photos on both drives, our you can use a program like Carbon Copy Cloner to keep everything synced automatically (https://sites.fastspring.com/bombich/product/ccc5).
    This is more pricey, but I like having that extra peace of mind knowing that if one hard drive fails, I have another copy. Also, if I accidentally delete an important photo, I have a backup! If you want real peace of mind, you could go with a cloud backup in addition to your backup drive, but this is getting into monthly subscriptions, and it’s probably more than you wanted (I don’t have a cloud backup… so if my house burned down, I’d lose everything, but I’m counting on that not happening, and if it does, God didn’t need those photos and apparently I didn’t either).
    Price per gig: $0.09
    Total Price (hard drives plus Carbon Copy Cloner): about $180

    If you want to shave forty bucks off, you could just make sure you sync manually by dragging your photos from one drive to the other.

    The Give-me-some-Speed-cause-I-want-only-the-best option (what I don’t have, but I’m toying with the idea):
    I edit my photos straight off my external drive, which I’ve heard of others doing before without problems. For me, it feels a little sluggish, but I think that’s really due to my editor (I use Luminar 3, which is still very young and has some problems still). If you want the overkill best possible performance, what I’d suggest (don’t know I’d recommend if you’re mostly just storing photos like me) is getting one what’s called a solid state external hard drive, and then back it up with one of the Western Digital Elements Hard Drives.
    The thing is, external SSDs are very expensive… you’d probably get a 500GB ssd, and it’d run you about $100. Add the backup hard drive and the clone program, you’re looking at… actually around $190 (but not nearly as much space!).
    Price per gig:
    $0.38 (yikes!).
    Total Price:

    I don’t know this option is worth the cost.

    I’d personally recommend option 2. If you really want a faster editing experience, edit them off your internal hard drive (which would probably actually be comparable if not faster than option 3), and then migrate them over to the external hard drives when you’re done. Whether or not you decide you need a backup drive is your choice, but I would highly, highly, highly recommend it.
    (All prices are in US dollars, by the way).
    Hope this is useful!


    • This reply was modified 50 years, 9 months ago by .
    Ezra Morley

    You said you wanted 500GBs to 1TB… I’d recommend going with a 2TB drive, as it doubles your space for only an extra $10-20. Entirely your choice.

    I agree. You’re much better off with a little extra space, than with a little lack of space. 🙂 And I definitely second the motion for more than one drive, with one cloning the other for redundancy.

    From what I can see, Carbon Copy Cloner is for Apple products (Macs) only. What about those of us who use Windows machines? 🙂 I personally just recently started using FreeFileSync for backups of my photos and documents to external drives. [This just reminded me that I hadn’t run a backup for several weeks, so I went and did it right now while I’m thinking about it…] Once you get FFS set up properly, it’s just a matter of running the job once in a while, and it automatically updates everything.

    I currently do all my editing from my laptop’s internal SSD for better performance. Then after a few weeks have passed, and it is not likely I’ll need quick access to those pictures any longer, I’ll archive them to my main “Photos” folder on an external HDD. I just drag and drop them from WITHIN Lightroom so that Lightroom doesn’t lose track of them. Then I use FreeFileSync to sync that external drive to another one so that I have more than one copy. (That 2nd backup drive is kept in a fire-proof safe whenever I’m not using it)

    The most important things to remember about backups are these:

    1. NEVER only have 1 copy of your data
    2. Run backups OFTEN
    3. Don’t store your backup in the same location as your laptop or “main” drive.

    We learned the hard way when our house burned that backups are useless if they get burned up along with everything else. Thankfully, the Lord was merciful and our backup drive was recoverable and still functional!! Needless to say, we do try to be a little more careful with our data now…

    Morgan Giesbrecht


    Haha, yes, at least 300! I remember the topic of deleting photos came up at ACTION last year and I wasn’t quite convinced, but after having too many full hard drive problems, I’m willing to adjust my perspective. 😂

    Thank you very much for your insight and your very thorough explanations! You have a good point about the few dollar price difference for double the space…so I think I’ll go the 2TB route for peace of mind and so I don’t have to worry about upgrading, since my unculled photo file is pretty close to yours.

    I was shopping around for the Western Digital Elements Hard Drives, and they were hard to find (small town problems!) but I found them online through a local store that deals with electronics. I’ll take your advice for Option #2 and keep two copies. I’ve looked at cloud options before and can’t get over how expensive they are for how much space I’d need, so I’ll stick to physical hard drives. 🙂 Fire could potentially be a problem, but like you said if something did happen, God didn’t need the photos and apparently we didn’t either.

    My current setup includes editing all my photos off my internal hard drive and then every month or so (or whenever I’m dealing with bigger projects I don’t want to lose), I back up my computer to a 2TB back-up hard drive. So that’s also an extra peace of mind.

    Anyways, thanks again for your help and breaking everything down the way you did; it made it super easy for me to understand! 🙂


    Morgan Giesbrecht


    Thank you for your insight as well, Ezra! I haven’t tried that technique in Lightroom yet…I’ll have to look into it. 🙂

    I’m sorry to hear about the fire, but praise the Lord it was recoverable; that’s incredible!!

    Thanks again!

    Josiah Waldner

    Yes, having multiple copies can seem overkill… till you have a drive fail. Believe me, it’s a nasty feeling! Another thing not mentioned yet is the possibility of viruses and malware corrupting a drive. It’s a good idea to disconnect your backup drive for that reason.

    Logan Lamar

    @morganwriter1gmail-com I have a similar backup strategy. I have my Mac running time machine on a 4TB drive, and then I have my “extra space” drives backing up to each other.
    Did you decide to go with Carbon Copy Cloner, or did you decide to back up manually? From what I remember, you were using a Mac… (but I could be wrong). Carbon Copy Cloner is great, because I have it set up so whenever I have both drives plugged in, it runs my backup for me and I don’t have to think about it too much.

    • This reply was modified 50 years, 9 months ago by .
    Morgan Giesbrecht


    Thanks so much for your comment! Great point about disconnecting the back up drive; that’s something I make sure I do.

    Morgan Giesbrecht


    I haven’t decided about Carbon Copy Cloner yet… Since it’s a program download, I’m not sure if it’s worth downloading it now, since I’m going to have to wipe the computer hard drive after I “rescue” my photos with the new hard drives. If it could be downloaded more than once, I’d probably consider it. But I’m not sure if it works like that…? It certainly sounds worth it from what you’re saying, and yes, I am using a Mac. 🙂

    Logan Lamar

    I think you should be fine. I think most programs you download over the internet these days need a license key (which you get emailed to you) for it to work. If for whatever reason you lose your copy of the software, I’m pretty sure you can redownload and reregister with your same license (https://bombich.com/kb/ccc4/how-do-i-use-one-license-ccc-on-multiple-macs-in-my-household). Don’t take my word for it, and do your own research, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the system works (at least for that software).

    But if you need to do what you’re describing (wiping your macs internal hard drive), you’re right, it makes more sense to do that first before downloading anything new.

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