Which external storage devices are dependable?

Home Forums Photography Q&A Which external storage devices are dependable?

This topic contains 9 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  James Staddon 1 year ago.

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    Hannah Espineda

    I’m looking into external hard drives for storing photos.

    What brands have you found to be dependable? (less likely to crash, etc.)
    What brands would you stay away from?

    Would you feel safe with anything that’s not solid state?

    Thanks for your suggestions!


    Ryan Madaris

    @hannahe, I don’t currently use a hard drive, but I do use flash drives, and I’ve found the brand GorillaDrive to be very dependable. You can currently get a 64 gigabyte one for about $30 or so. The main thing I like about that brand is that it’s very durable (water resistant and shock resistant). I’ve had one accidentally go through the wash and it worked great afterward.

    Hope that helps a little!


    James Staddon

    Good question! When it comes to external hard drives, the only one that has crashed on their own was an iOmega, so I don’t recommend those.

    Ever since then, I’ve only purchased Western Digital and Seagate. I believe these are the two most reliable. (I also have a Vantec, but I bought it a long time ago; I forget, someone may have even given it to me.)

    A Western Digital crashed on me once because I rested my elbow directly on it accidentally when taking a picture, but that was my fault. (Remember at the Sacramento Photography Team that one year?)

    Oh, and that reminds me. Another Western Digital crashed once, during a Big Sandy Photography Team a few years ago. I wasn’t using it, but someone else was, so I don’t know why it crashed. But it did! So I moved to 125GB thumbdrives for Photography Teams after that. They’re good and portable, especially for when you’re on the road.

    If you can afford solid state, that’s the way to go! I bought a 1TB for my computer and it’s amazing. That’s the only solid state I have.


    Ezra Morley

    I have never actually had an external HDD crash on me. We had some that came close, but we just backed them up and quit using them so we don’t know for sure if they ever actually did crash. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We had a couple of Western Digital external drives survive our house fire, and they are still working over a year later! Obviously we backed them up immediately, in case they should fail from the heat/water/shock damage…

    I would definitely stick with major brands like Seagate or Western Digital, don’t go for any old cheap Chinese unit. (Same goes for USB drives and memory cards).

    I would not recommend an SSD for an external drive unless there are compelling reasons to need it; they’re quite pricey, and you’ll not likely see a huge benefit over a regular HDD unless you have an internal SSD in your computer as well. (I do highly recommend an internal SSD for your computer, but that’s an entirely different subject. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    A “regular” price is $70-$75 for a 2 TB external HDD. I would buy from a reputable dealer like B&H or Adorama. My advice would be to get a “portable” drive rather than a “desktop” drive (that way you don’t have to worry about power cords for it). We had a “desktop” external HDD that got knocked off the desk several times when someone tripped on the power cord… ๐Ÿ™ “Desktop” drives are generally a lot larger. Check the description, and if it says “portable” or “bus powered” then that’s the kind you want.


    Logan Lamar

    After my dad’s 1TB Seagate drive crashed… I don’t trust any external drive by itself. I have a 2TB Seagate, but after my dad’s went down, I bought a a 2TB Westen Digital drive (which are supposedly more reliable than the Seagate: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/what-hard-drive-should-i-buy/) and Carbon Copy Cloner ($39, student discount available, https://bombich.com). I have it backup my Seagate 2TB external drive to the Western Digitial whenever they are both plugged in at the same timeโ€”it works, and I’m glad for the extra peace of mind (and extra storage space!).


    David Frazer

    Someone once said, “Only three things in this life are sure: death, taxes, and loss of data.” Although I would disagree with the saying, there is no sure way of not loosing files. The best idea is to have everything in at least 2 different devices in 2 different location. Most people will say 3 or 4 is better, but how much do you really want to spend? Having said that, I know a lot of professional photographers have 3 copies: one on the computer or or an external hard drive, a second on another external hardrive and a third on another hard drive at a seperate location (friend’s house, bank vault, etc.)

    HDD vs SSD: HDD is technically longer-lasting than SSD and is a lot less expensive. SSD’s are great for running the computer faster, according to an article by a data recovery company (which I didn’t manage to find) SSD’s are slightly more likely to fail, unless there is a lot of physical movement. The data also “fades” somewhat faster, as it is electrical charges rather than magnetic force.

    My family and I have had a few hard drives fail (we have had a couple of dozen computers since the 1980’s) and multiple SSD flash drives and although you normally do get an idea ahead of time in the case of an HDD that things aren’t quite right, that is not always the case, and even less so with SSD’s.

    My philosophy is that you should just assume that your data storage devices will fail, have multiple backups of anything important, and hope that your devices don’t all fail at the same time.


    Your question was, “Which external storage devices are dependable?”. The answer is, “none”.
    The only safe backup is redundancy, meaning you have multiple copies.
    I have have had fantastic customer service with Western Digital. Unfortunately, the only reason I know that, is that I have had at least four WD drives fail on me. (some explicably, such as an impact, others for no apparent reason) For me, however, since my drives are part of a redundant backup system, (NOW!) RMA service is to me more important than the actual reliability of the drive. Losing one drive out of three is no big deal if it costs me nothing.


    James Staddon

    The answer is, โ€œnoneโ€.

    Great answer ๐Ÿ™‚


    Hannah Espineda

    Thank you to everyone for sharing your experiences with the different hard drives! Guess it’s true that no hard drive is eternal ๐Ÿ˜‰ What a contrast to the word of God that never “goes bad” or fails!

    I ended up ordering a 2 TB Seagate from Adorama: https://www.adorama.com/setea2000400.html
    (The WD was $10 more.) I had Adorama reward points that had to be used before they expired, so my total price was less than $30 โ˜บ We’ll see how it works! And I guess I should be on the look out for a second as backup ๐Ÿ˜€


    James Staddon

    What a contrast to the word of God that never โ€œgoes badโ€ or fails!

    Well said!

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