The best external hard drive for your Chromebook reviewed.

Best External Hard Drives for Chromebooks – Buyer’s Guide for 2017

Let’s face it. You’ve got things to save and things to do.

 

You don’t have a lot of time to be shopping around for a measly external hard drive for your Chromebook. You just need something that requires no setup and works right out-of-the-box.

If you’re like me, you like to save a ton of stuff. That “stuff” can be anything. I tend to download PDFs, books, infographics, images, videos, and anything else I find interesting online. I save it to my Downloads folder and over time it gets too full.

Sure, you can delete stuff to make more space, but if you’re a hoarder so that doesn’t really work for you (and me).

Now, on a Chromebook, that’s a big issue. Most models only have 16 gigs of space, which really isn’t much nowadays. Your typical Windows laptop has 500GB to 1TB of storage for the mid-range laptops. This is a pain point for Google’s laptop, as it leaves many users needing more space.

Google’s take on it is that keeping the local storage small will reduce the cost, and make you use their online cloud service- Google Drive.

That’s also probably why they push the free storage freebie for Drive upon a purchase of a new Chromebook.

But…what if you need more space to save your stuff?

Don’t get me wrong. The Chromebook is made to be a cloud-powered device that you can take anywhere with you and keep working. That’s great and all, but some of us don’t trust the cloud and don’t want to put our information, images, and other files there. Some of us are old-fashioned and want to keep our data locally, whether that be on the local drive or an external drive.

So, that begs the question, “which external hard drives work with my Chromebook and how do I connect them?”

This is a two-part question and I’ll address both questions right now.

 

Choosing the best external hard drive that’s compatible with your Chromebook

First, let’s go over which drives you may want to look at.

Personally, I’ve tried a few different external storage options and there are two that I stick with. When you’re browsing the web for a drive, you’ll come across three options:

  • A traditional external hard drive (HDD)
  • A solid state external hard drive (SSD)
  • A thumb drive/flash drive

What you choose really depends on what you need. Are you looking something that you can travel with along with your Chromebook? Try the thumb drive. Are you looking for something to just place in your work area with a huge capacity? Use the tried-and-true HDD. Are you looking for a fast drive that has blazing speeds? Use a newer SSD.

Let’s go over each of the drive types.

 

External hard drive (HDD)

External hard drives for Chromebooks.
External hard drives are the most common backup solution- they just work.

These are the most popular type of external hard drive on the market. You can get a massive capacity for the cheapest price possible if you think of it at price per gigabyte. These drives range from smaller volumes like 50GB all the way up to 8TB. You have the freedom of choosing exactly how much storage you need. You also get the best price possible with HDDs compared to thumb drives and SSDs because they’re often made in bulk to meet consumer demand, so manufacturers have looked for ways to get competitive with pricing. If you really want to save even more money, get the biggest capacity you can afford. Pricing drops, even more, when you buy a larger size.

HDDs are basically the same hard drives in any typical computer with a platter and head that reads it. An external hard drive is basically this HDD enclosed in a protective layer to protect it and make it portable- in some builds.

Pros:

  • Offers a huge variety of drive capacities
  • Cheapest solution on the market
  • Reliable and fast
  • Many different features (traditional, rugged, wireless, waterproof, small form factor, large form factor, LED lights, etc.)
  • Most newer models work with Chromebooks

Cons:

  • Bigger size than thumb drives
  • Not as fast as an SSD
  • Usually big in size, but smaller sizes available

If you’re looking for one of the best external hard drives for Chromebooks, I’d say none other than the Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive. It’s what I use and it sits on my table. I plug it into my Chromebook when I need to transfer files and it just works. No fuss. It also comes in a variety of sizes (I have the 2TB) to suit your needs. It hasn’t given me any issues so far. It’s fast, reliable, and just works. Done. You’ll have to do some extra steps compared to a Windows laptop, but it’s easy and I have a guide for that below.

You can check it out on amazon here. Look at the reviews and see for yourself.

 

Solid state drive (SSD)

SSD drives can be used for speed and reliability.
SSDs are very fast and reliable drives. The only issue? Price.

Solid state drives are newer to the market. They’re basically an improved version of HDDs because they use no moving parts so they transfer data faster. The speed is noticeable between an HDD and SSD, but so is the price. If you want a drive that’s fast and can transfer your files quickly, you may want to look into a solid state drive for your Chromebook. They’re the fastest bulk solution that has large capacities. Pricing is significantly more than an HDD, but again, if you buy a bigger size, you save more money per GB. They’re also more reliable than HDDs so if you’re paranoid about backing up your stuff, they’re the best drive you can “put your money on.”

Pros:

  • Offers a variety of capacities
  • Very reliable
  • Super-fast transfer speeds
  • Small form factor
  • Different features available (traditional, travel, waterproof, etc.)

Cons:

  • Most expensive drive type
  • Not as much freedom in capacities
  • Very expensive for large capacities

So, if you have the money, I’d suggest going for SSD over HDD. If not, then stick with the HDD. If I had to recommend you a solid state drive, I’d say go for the SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable 500GB SSD. It’s an excellent drive backed by tons of positive reviews on amazon and offers all the things you could want from an external drive. It also works with Chromebooks after you get it to connect (see guide below).

Thumb drive (flash drive)

Thumb drives for Chromebooks.
Thumb drives are an excellent choice if you need something very portable and easy to carry around.

You should only use this type of drive if you travel a lot or need the portability. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it. They’re the most expensive option out of all the external drives because they cost the most in price/GB. Sure, they’re not that expensive when you look at it, but think of how much capacity you’re getting for the price you pay. You could pay $32 for a 128GB thumb drive, or you can pay $100 for a 4TB HDD. You pay 4 times more for about 10 times the capacity. Look at how much more space you’re getting for the price you pay.

However, if you need the portability and don’t want to carry a brick around, then thumb drives make a good choice. In that case, I’d suggest going for either the SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB or the Samsung 128GB. The reason is that both these drives are extremely small and fit into the USB input on your laptop. Instead of damaging it by having it stick out, it’ll fit with a low profile. You can also choose your storage capacity depending on how much space you need to backup your stuff. Both models should work with your Chromebook simply by plugging it in and getting it to detect your drive (see below for guide).

Pros:

  • Cheapest solution per unit, but most expensive overall
  • Fast and reliable
  • Very portable

Cons:

  • Most expensive price/GB
  • Easy to misplace
  • Not practical for storing a lot of data

The most reliable option

If you want something that won’t and keeps your data secure, go for the SSDs. These drives don’t have any mechanical moving parts, that’s why they’re called solid state drives. They perform much faster than traditional external hard drives and offer more reliability to safeguard your images, videos, and files. Or whatever else you need to store safely. There are also portable options as well so you can carry it around. You can find shock-proof, waterproof, drop-tested, weather-proof, and more.

The cheapest option

If you want to get the cheapest possible external hard drive for your Chromebook, the surefire answer is a regular HDD. It has moving parts, so there’s a greater chance of failure compared to SSDs, but for the cost per gig, it’s the cheapest you can go. If you really want to save money, go for the largest capacity you can afford. At 4TB, 6TB, and even 8TB options, you save a ton of cash by buying more volume. Seagate and Western Digital are the leaders in the industry. They both have tons of quality products that are backed by tons of positive reviews. I’d recommend going with either brand as they’re both excellent choices for starters.

HDDs have portable options as well with built-in durability features.

The most portable option

Although you can get portable versions of both HDDs and SSD externals, thumb drives are the most portable. Some giant capacities, I’m talking like 128GB or 256GB, can be stored on a tiny drive that’s smaller than half your pinky. This is the lightest, most portable, and easiest storage option to carry around. As for reliability, they also don’t’ have any moving parts so you get the reliability of an SSD (assuming it’s built well for travel). As for price, it’s the most expensive option for storage.

 

Did you find the best external hard drive for your Chromebook?

Okay, so now that we’ve covered some drives, you’re probably wondering how to actually connect the drive to your Chromebook. It takes some extra work compared to a Windows computer (where it’s literally just plug and play), but it’s not that difficult.

I wrote a detailed, updated guide about how to get your Chromebook to connect to an external hard drive that you can check out. Go ahead and reference that guide. Don’t worry, it’s very easy.

If you have any questions or any other drives that you’d recommend to others, leave them in the comments. If this guide has helped you in choosing the best drive for your Chromebook and has helped you in making a good purchasing decision, drop a comment or tell a friend.

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

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