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Best external hard drive brands

By Adam Marshall

To help you buy the best external hard drive, we reveal the hard drive brands that have a brilliant reputation for reliability, plus the hard drive brands that lost customers' personal data.

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External hard drives store so much more than faceless little files. They're where you save photos of precious life events, huge music collections that can take years to build up and documents you'd be lost without.

That's a lot to trust to one little box, so you want to know that the external hard drive you buy will keep your files safe. As you'll see from the table below, hard drive faults are shockingly common – even among some of the best-known brand names.

To see which specific hard drive models impressed in our lab test, check out our selection of Best Buy hard drives.

Best and worst external hard drive brands

An external hard drive won't be the most expensive purchase you ever make, but it could prove a costly one if the drive you choose loses your data.

To find out which brands you should trust we surveyed 1,926 members of the public in 2013 and asked them about the hard disk drives that they owned (we didn't cover SSD drives).

We found that a massive 50% of owners of one manufacturer in our survey reported a fault, while the best brand's drives only cause problems for 1-in-10.

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Hard drive brand Fault rate Most common fault Data lost when faults developed Verdict
Apple
Buffalo
Hitachi
Samsung
Seagate
Sony
Toshiba
Verbatim
Western Digital
Table notes
Fault rate is the percentage of hard drives that developed any faults, ranging from making an increased noise over time to complete failure.

Key

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External hard drive reliability

On average across the nine brands that we included in our survey, 22% of respondents experienced a fault with their external hard drive. And of those that developed a fault, a shocking 47% did so within the first year.

The most common hard drive fault reported by our survey respondents was the computer being unable to recognise the device. This leaves your digital files potentially stranded on the hard drive, and it happened in a third of cases of faults reported. Worryingly, of those who experienced a fault, one-in-four found that their device completely failed. A further 27% found that their hard drive began freezing. This problem isn’t quite as severe as others but it will hinder day-to-day usage.

For those who only suffer more minor problems, hard drive faults may not necessarily result in data being lost. But our survey revealed that more serious faults do occur with disturbing regularity, and half of people who experienced any faults on their hard drive lost their data entirely.

Alternatively, you could store you data in the cloud. Find out the best providers with our Best Buy cloud storage tool reviews.

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