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.
That’s why I wrote this buyer’s guide- to make your purchasing decision a little easier.
Last updated: 3/3/23. Updated for new EHDs.
Do you have too much junk on your hard disk?
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, cool wallpapers, 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.
With Google Play apps, Chrome extensions, pics, vids, and your workload, 16GB isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need some extra storage space for all that media. Or you can grab a CB with a 128GB drive, but that’ll cost ya.
That’s also probably why they push the free storage freebie for Google Drive upon a purchase of a new Chromebook.
People who are using their Chromebook as their daily driver end up needing more storage. Even though Drive is an option, some people just don’t want their files stored online. It can even be a violation for some workplaces!
With the WFH era, storage space with quick access to your most used files is a time saver. When you have a TON of files, organizing them on a drive with quick read/write times is key. Put it on external storage, not your Chromebook!
Keeping your hard disk full of junk will make your Chromebook run slower.
Deleting unnecessary, useless junk is one of the best ways to speed up your Chromebook and make it faster.
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.
With a lot of people working at their home office now, using an external drive can save you precious space on your Chromebook to offload some data. Plus, it’s imperative to make backups of important files.
You don’t want your team to wonder where last month’s P/L went, right?
Let’s go over each of the drive types.
External hard drive (HDD)
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.
Even nowadays, you can get a 12TB drive for cheap. That’s more than enough space to store anything you could possibly need to save. At least for the typical person!
- 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
- 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)
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.”
- Offers a variety of capacities
- Very reliable
- Super-fast transfer speeds
- Small form factor
- Different features available (traditional, travel, waterproof, etc.)
- 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)
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).
- Cheapest solution per unit, but most expensive overall
- Fast and reliable
- Very portable
- 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 as 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 if you’re not sure how to do so. Go ahead and reference that guide. (Don’t worry, it’s very easy to do so and you’ll get it set up in a jiffy.)
If you have any questions or any other drives that you’d recommend to others, leave them in the comments section.
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.
6 thoughts on “Best External Hard Drives for Chromebooks (Buyer’s Guide) – 2023”
Hi Andy – is it possible to back up my Chromebook to the Photostick Omni I just purchased. If not the whole system, could I just back up my downloads to it?
is there no way to upgrade the HDD on a chromebook? or are they all pretty much “soldered on board” now….? just kinda curious. what about RAM? It’s a newer-ish (got it last year christmas for myself) and it’s a Samsung Octopus? Chromebook though that may just be Google’s codename for it…?
I am a little ole lady who like to play “Hidden Objects” games on a CD, which recommends window XP on up. PC is the culprit which means I cannot play those games on my Chromebox. I love the Chromebox on how effective it is and how fast it is. Your not worried about getting any viruses and malware on these devises. However there is no hard drive with the Chromebox. So I looked into a compatible external hard drive to use with the Chromebox. I have had no luck. I want to know if Ausus carries such a device or any company that does this for other little ole ladies like myself. Please reply, thank you
Dear Andy – I am looking for your mention of clusters and sectors compatibility for older chromebooks (e.g. samsung xe500c13-k02us). to help in choosing a compatible external solid state drive. I’ve been informed that the samsung t5 that I purchased (and returned) is not compatible and that only sd cards are recommended. Would appreciate your help.
i like the article but sd cards / flash drives are also a great option for people who just want to save a few files/pictures. My mom i just give a old 2 gb sd card and it holds more than she will ever need especially when her favorite thing to save is recipes.
Hey doc xen,
I can totally see where you’re coming from.
I’ve been the external hard drive user for decades now, but I still carry a small 8GB flash drive around just for the convenience. It’s one of those cheapo $3 drives but it’s paid itself off many times over because it’s so easy to bring with you for small files!
Flash drives and SD cards definitely have their merits and shouldn’t be completely ruled out. This is important! Thanks for your thoughts.