Best Portable Hard Drives for the Holidays

From stylish to rugged, these portable hard drives pack a lot of storage into a compact form.

The New Face of Portable Hard Drives

In the world of portable hard drives, it's all about size--the greatest amount of storage capacity in the smallest design. And since most of these drives are 2.5-inch models, they make it easy for you to have access to your data on the go. Increasingly, manufacturers are using USB 3.0 technology, which translates into faster file transfer rates. Though most PCs aren't equipped with USB 3.0 ports yet, it's likely to become the standard port for future PCs, so making the transition now is something to consider. Take a look at our lineup of new, innovative portable hard drives, perfect for the holiday season.

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Apricorn Aegis Portable

If you're looking for a secure hard drive, the Apricorn Aegis Portable is a serious candidate. This 2.5-inch drive has a storage capacity range of 250GB to 750GB, includes an integrated USB 2.0 or FireWire cable, and incorporates a 16-point omnidirectional shock mounting system. It comes equipped with data protection software, too, including Microsoft Sync Toy and Apricorn Smart-ER software to detect problems with the hard drive's functionality.

Color: silver

Available capacities: 250GB ($69), 320GB ($79), 500GB ($89), 640GB ($109), and 750GB ($149)

Buffalo JustStore Portable HD-PVU2

Measuring 5.0 by 3.4 inches, the slim Buffalo JustStore Portable HD-PVU2 is a preformatted plug-and-play portable hard drive that doesn't require an external power supply. Though it uses USB 2.0, it comes with Buffalo's TurboUSB software, which claims to increase USB transfer speeds by up to 20 percent in comparison to other USB 2.0 drives of the same size. The drive's automatic power-down feature conserves energy when your computer is shut off.

Color: black

Available capacities: 250GB ($60), 320GB ($65), 500GB ($80), and 640GB ($90)

CMS Products ABSplus Backup and Instant Recovery Drive

Looking for a hard drive with drive-mirroring software? Consider the ABSplus Laptop Backup and Instant Recovery Drive from CMS Products. We like the ABSplus for its BounceBack Professional Software, which lets you boot from the drive if your main drive fails. Unfortunately, it's compatible with USB 2.0 only (no USB 3.0 or FireWire). The drive has a sturdy case and comes in a wide range of capacities, from 160GB to 1TB.

Color: silver

Available capacities: 160GB ($135), 250GB ($140), 320GB ($145), 500GB ($169), 640GB ($179), and 1TB ($230)

Hitachi LifeStudio Mobile Plus

The sleek Hitachi LifeStudio Mobile Plus portable hard drive has several unique features. Its software organizes your data into a wall-like 3D display to make seeing your content easier, and provides easy photo uploads to Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa. The drive also has a 4GB USB key for auto-syncing. The LifeStudio Mobile Plus has yet made the jump to USB 3.0, so it won't be as fast as some of the other drives we've seen, but it does have preloaded local and online backup software for extra protection.

Available colors: graphite and platinum

Available capacities: 320GB ($100) and 500GB ($120)

HP SimpleSave Portable Hard Drive

The HP SimpleSave Portable Hard Drive promises easy backup with virtually no prompting from the user: Simply connecting this plug-and-play drive to your PC automatically initiates the backup process. The 2.5-inch drive runs off a USB 2.0 connection, and is self-powered.

Color: black

Available capacities: 320GB ($80) and 500GB ($130)

Iomega eGo Portable

The Iomega eGo Portable has always been slim and stylish, but with USB 3.0 added to the mix, this drive is a serious speedster, too. It boasts a transfer rate of up to 5 gigabits per second, and features the Drop Guard Xtreme to protect it from drops at distances of 7 feet or less. Also included is the Power Grip Band, an accessory that provides further protection.

Available colors: ruby red, midnight blue, black belt, and charcoal

Available capacities: 500GB ($110) and 1TB ($160)

LaCie Minimus USB 3.0

The 6.8-inch-long, "resistant aluminum" LaCie Minimus USB 3.0 portable hard drive is ultracompact and boasts a ton of capacity: You can choose a 1TB or a 2TB version. Thanks to its USB 3.0 interface, it has a speedy transfer rate of 5 gbps. One downside of the Minimus is that it requires an external power supply, which reduces the drive's portability despite its small size.

Color: aluminum

Available capacities: 1TB ($130) and 2TB ($195)

Samsung HX-MTA64DA

Samsung's compact portable hard drive is now available with USB 3.0--as the Samsung S2 Portable HX-MTA64DA. Packaged in a convenient travel pouch, this compact 2.5-inch drive spins at 7200 rpm and comes with preloaded software for instant backup.

Available colors: piano black and metal gray

Available capacities: 500GB and 640GB (prices to be determined)


Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drive

The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra Portable Drive is the first 2.5-inch portable drive that can pack up to 1.5TB of storage. A newcomer to the USB 3.0 world of hard drives, it makes a great companion to other GoFlex equipment, like the GoFlex TV. Owing to the increased capacity of the drives' four platters (375GB each instead of 333GB each), the drive is thicker than other FreeAgent drives. Though it uses USB 3.0, its 5400-rpm spin speed leaves it a bit sluggish in comparison to other USB 3.0 drives.

Available colors: black, red, silver, and blue

Available capacities: 500GB ($120), 750GB ($130), 1TB ($170), and 1.5TB ($230)

Toshiba Canvio Portable Hard Drive

The lightweight, postcard-size Toshiba Canvio Portable Hard Drive comes in an array of storage sizes (from 320GB to 1TB) and colors. The drive runs off of a USB 2.0 port and features Windows-based NTI BackupNow EZ software. One extremely useful feature of this drive is its ability to back up your Windows system completely, allowing you to restore the programs and data even if the OS won't start up.

Available colors: raven black, liquid blue, komodo green, rocket red, and satin silver

Available capacities: 320GB ($65), 500GB ($90), 640GB ($100), 750GB ($110), and 1TB ($140)

Verbatim Store 'n' Go SuperSpeed USB 3.0

Verbatim joins the USB 3.0 contingent with the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go SuperSpeed USB 3.0 drive. This drive features a 5-gbps data rate--much faster than the USB 2.0 speed spec of 480 mbps. The Store 'n' Go comes bundled with Nero BackItUp & Burn software and a 5GB trial version of Norton Online Backup. If your PC doesn't have USB 3.0 ports, don't worry: The Store 'n' Go is backward-compatible with USB 2.0 ports.

Color: black

Available capacities: 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB (ships in November 2010, prices to be determined)

Western Digital My Passport Essential 3.0

A popular hard drive that gets its name from being the size of a U.S. passport, the Western Digital My Passport Essential now supports USB 3.0. This drives uses minimal PC resources while automatically backing up each time you add or alter a file. It also provides password protection and encryption. The only model that currently supports USB 3.0, however, is the 500GB version.

Available colors: midnight black, blue, and red

Capacity: 500GB ($100)

Wiebetech ToughTech Mini

The ultrarugged Wiebetech ToughTech Mini series supports multiple interfaces in a compact 2.5-inch design. You can hook up these drives to practically any computer: The ToughTech FS Mini has two FireWire 400 ports and one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port; the ToughTech Mini-Q has two FireWire 800 ports that are also 400-compatible, and a USB/eSATA combo port. Protected by a thick case and ToughMount Anti-Shock Protection, this drive wins the prize for ruggedness.

Color: silver

Available capacities: 250GB ($143) and 500GB ($164) for the ToughTech FS Mini; 250GB ($183) and 500GB ($218) for the ToughTech Mini-Q

Iomega Skin

Trendiness isn't the first thing you think of when selecting a hard drive, but Iomega is trying to change that. The company has partnered with athletic-clothing company Skin to produce three Iomega Skin-branded portable hard drives, perhaps to appeal to a younger audience. Available in three different tattoo-like patterns, the Skin weighs a light 0.4 pound and has a 500GB storage capacity. The Skin isn't USB 3.0-compatible, but its preformatted plug-and-play software makes it easy to use, and the unit is surprisingly fast for a USB 2.0 drive.

Available colors: silver (Knock Out), red (Red Hot), and black (Radical Skin)

Capacity: 500GB ($110)

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