Western Digital My Passport and My Passport Studio
The sleek and contoured Western Digital My Passport Essential Colors line appeals to the digital fashion sense. The drive's light weight (6.4 ounces) and ability to work with just a single USB connection for both data and power make it a good choice for your mobile kit. Choose from among ten glossy colors, available across three capacities: 160GB, 350GB, and 320GB. Each model includes WD's file-synchronization and 128-bit encryption software (for Windows only), and comes loaded with Google Desktop Search and the Google Picasa photo organizer.
Although the My Passport drive will work on a PC or a Mac, WD also offers the My Passport Studio, specifically for Mac users. This silver drive has a built-in capacity gauge, and comes preformatted in the Mac OS X's HFS+ format, so it will work out of the box with Apple's Time Machine. The inclusion of FireWire 800/400 increases the drive's thickness; but even so, this model--available in 400GB and 500GB capacities--weighs less than seven ounces. Latest prices
CMS V2 ABS Rugged
CMS Products' long-standing ABSplus backup system for laptops remains a winner in our book for its smooth integration of a portable backup drive with CMS's BounceBack Professional backup and recovery software. (BounceBack uniquely makes it easy to create a bootable, native-file backup of your system's hard drive.) The 5400-rpm drives are now available in capacities up to 320GB, and CMS is one of the few drive makers to offer 7200-rpm versions, too (80GB and 160GB).
The company's latest (pictured here) takes that concept and toughens it up, creating the V2 ABS Rugged. According to the listed specs, this model is designed to withstand 300 Gs of operating shock and over 1000 Gs of nonoperating shock. At least some of the ruggedness comes from the bumper surrounding the otherwise sleek drive.
This drive includes BounceBack Enterprise, with AES 256-bit encryption and real-time continuous data protection. Latest prices
SimpleTech Signature Mini Portable
An array of yummy-sounding colors, along with stylish design touches by Italian icon Pininfarina, characterize Fabrik's SimpleTech Signature Mini Portable line. Your color options (one fewer than Western Digital offers) will vary depending on the capacity of the drive: The 500GB model comes in Espresso, the 320GB comes in Black Cherry, the 250GB now comes in Cayenne Red and Ice Blue (in addition to previous colors Bubblegum, Kiwi, Cool Mint, and Marshmallow), and the 160GB comes in Blueberry. All models spin at 5400 rpm, and are easy to grip thanks to the surface's not-quite-rubber, not-quite-velvet texture.
The Signature Mini comes with a dual-head USB cable, as typically you'll need two USB ports, one for data and one for the drive to draw power. It also comes with Fabrik Ultimate Backup (for PC), which includes both local and online backup components; the first 2GB of storage online is free, and you can get unlimited storage for $5 per month. Latest prices
Seagate FreeAgent Go
Seagate differentiates itself from the pack by providing a unique docking-station option. And now the FreeAgent Go finally gets color: The drive comes in four hues, available across three capacities: 250GB (in black or silver), 320GB (in black, silver, blue, or red), and 500GB (in black or silver). The drive measures just a half-inch thick and weighs 5.6 ounces. Software comes preloaded: The Seagate Manager suite offers scheduled backups and file synchronization, while Seagate DrivePass provides password protection for the drive (the software has 256-bit AES software encryption, too).
The docking station is a $30 option that also includes a black leatherette travel case for the FreeAgent Go. The drive sits upright in the dock, which connects via USB.
Weighing 7.8 ounces and measuring 0.7 inch, the Mac version of the FreeAgent Go is a little heavier and thicker than its PC sibling. It comes in 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB capacities; features FireWire 800/400 interfaces; and is preformatted in the Apple Time Machine-compatible HFS+ format. The Mac version costs more than the PC version, but it also includes the docking station and travel case. Unfortunately, the docking station requires FireWire 800; and, as on a PC, if you run the drive off of USB, you'll need two USB cables. Latest prices
Seagate Maxtor Black Armor
Need to safeguard your data against prying eyes? Seagate's aptly named Maxtor BlackArmor is one of a handful of drives to offer AES government-grade hardware encryption protection. The drive, available in 160GB and 320GB flavors, performs real-time file encryption transparently; just save your files as you would with any other hard drive.
The Black Armor has a secure space to handle the encryption keys. Its design allows you to access data only if you know the password--the drive won't even mount without the password. Latest prices
Buffalo MiniStation Shinobi
Of any manufacturer, Buffalo Technologies has the widest variety of portable hard drives in its lineup. The tiny Shinobi turns heads: This pocket-size wonder measures just 0.2 inch thick and weighs less than 2 ounces. Inside the shiny chassis are a 1.8-inch, 5400-rpm hard drive (choice of 30GB and 60GB capacities) and a flip-out, flat USB cable. Buffalo includes its SecureLockMobile encryption software and Memeo AutoBackup for real-time backup (on Mac or PC), as well as Memeo LifeAgent and Memeo AutoSync. The company also tosses in mobile versions of the Mozilla Firefox Web browser and Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client, so you can take your data with you. Latest prices
Buffalo MiniStation DataVault
The MiniStation DataVault's hook: It has full-disk encryption, so everything you write to the disk is encrypted. Like the Shinobi, the DataVault (160GB and 320GB capacities) offers Memeo AutoBackup Software, plus mobile versions of Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird. The drive's case has a slot to accommodate the wrap-around USB cable, and Buffalo says it suspends the drive on shock absorbers to help provide extra protection against impact. Latest prices
Buffalo LinkStation Mini
Buffalo is the only drive maker to offer a portable network-attached storage drive. The LinkStation Mini packs two 2.5-inch hard drives inside, and it measures a little more than double the size of any other portable USB product that holds a 2.5-inch drive. Available in 500GB and 1TB capacities, the LinkStation Mini has no fans and contains a DLNA-compatible media server, which makes it a great addition to an entertainment setup. The unit can also handle RAID 0 and RAID 1, and it supports Active Directory, features that boost this model's appeal to offices, as well. Latest prices
LaCie's portable hard drives are typically defined by their design--and the company's Skwarim drive upholds that heritage. Slim, square, and lightweight (3.5 ounces), the Skwarim has a textured look courtesy of designer Karim Rashid. The 60GB, 4200-rpm drive comes in two distinctive colors, sky blue and pink. Its USB connector stows in the side, for traveling convenience.
The model includes LaCie's 1-Click Backup Software for PC and Mac, and LaCie SilverKeeper Backup software for Mac. Latest prices
LaCie Little Disk
LaCie's Little Disk has an integrated USB cable that tucks away beneath a removable end cap. The USB version of this drive is now available in 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB capacities. The FireWire-and-USB version tops out at 320GB.
The model includes LaCie's 1-Click Backup Software for PC and Mac, plus LaCie SilverKeeper Backup software for Mac. The Little Disk also comes with LaCieSync synchronization and encryption software for Windows. Latest prices
Iomega eGo Leather Drive
It should come as no surprise that Iomega offers a slew of different types of portable hard drives. The eGo Leather is a stylish addition to the company's lineup, which includes the solidly made, colorful eGo drives as well as other new units such as the eGo Helium (a slim Macbook Air companion) and the ruggedized eGo Camo. Encased in brown leather, the 250GB eGo Leather Drive exudes style and luxury. Like other Iomega drives, this model ships with EMC Retrospect HD software. And Iomega rates the drive for a drop of up to 51 inches (more than some of the other drive makers, according to Iomega), thanks to its integrated DropGuard technology. Latest prices
Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive
Toshiba's Storage Device Division combines design and function in its bluntly named Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive. This drive is not the slimmest you'll find, nor is it the most stylish. But it is one of only a handful I've ever used that consistently don't seem to need additional power from a second USB port.
This model has a slick, glossy, piano-black finish, with a swirling design imprinted into the surface. The color of the swirl indicates the drive's capacity: 160GB (Gecko Green), 250GB (Hot Rod Red), 320GB (Carbon Grey), or 400GB (Electric Blue). Toshiba says the 6-ounce drive's durable design includes an internal shock sensor, plus technology to help mitigate the effects of normal wear and tear. Toshiba preloads NTI Shadow (for Windows) onto the drive for real-time file backup. Latest prices
Clickfree Portable Backup
Storage Appliance is on to something with this product. This drive is for anyone who finds backing up a chore, and wants to just plug in a device and be done with it. Okay, well, maybe Clickfree Portable Backup isn't quite that easy, but it's pretty close. Connect this $180, 320GB USB drive (also available in 120GB and 250GB capacities, in black and red, respectively) to your Windows-based PC, and it will back up your data files, including your music, movies, pictures, and e-mail. The drive supports up to 350 file types, right down to your Web browser bookmarks. You can opt to configure some basics, or just let the drive do everything--your choice. The drive can safeguard up to 20 PCs, and it does its backups incrementally (meaning that it does a full backup the first time, and then on subsequent occasions finds the new files and backs those up). Restoration is simply a matter of pressing the Restore button; the drive's built-in software will then return data to its original location. Latest prices
Memorex Ultra TravelDrive
Memorex joins the 500GB club with its handy, $300 Ultra TravelDrive model. This drive, also available in 160GB, 250GB, and 320GB capacities (each in a different color), offers a smooth, contoured design with a rubberized grip that makes it handy for toting around. The drive works with both Macs and PCs. Another benefit: The drive comes with two interchangeable face plates, so you can color-code your devices or change things up as you wish. Latest prices
Hammer Storage Morespace Portable
Every drive needs a hook. The Hammer Storage Morespace Portable has a lightweight chassis whose black plastic exterior you can customize with a skin for an additional $20 fee. Choose from a handful of stock photos, or upload your own image or logo; the skin will ship to you in a few days, and then you can apply it over the drive's case. The Morespace Portable works with both PCs and Macs, and since it is bus-powered, it shouldn't require additional power cables. The drive comes in capacities ranging from 120GB up to 500GB, with a 750GB version coming in 2009. Latest prices
Want larger hard drives? See our latest Top 10 External Drives chart.