Best Encrypted External Hard Drives – 2020 Reviews

Standard external hard drives feature portable designs, excellent performance, and large storage space at an incredibly reasonable price. However, if you’re planning on storing personal and confidential data on your hard drive, then safety should be your top priority. 

Although expensive, encrypted hard drives offer additional security that keeps your data safe and private even if the hard drive gets lost or stolen. The most secure drives usually use both hardware and software encryption to prevent other people from accessing your data. To ensure your data is protected, this guide includes reviews of some of the best models available today, their uses, and the features to look out for before buying one.

Comparison Chart of the Best Encrypted External Hard Drives

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Apricorn Aegis (A25-3PL256-2000)

  • Uses military-grade Validated Encryption Algorithm
  • Simple-to-use pin access
  • Sealed from physical attacks
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Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress (A25-3PL256-2000F)

  • Combines high level of security with fast interface
  • Easy-to-use keypad and no software installation
  • Data, pins, and encryption keys are always encrypted
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Apricorn Aegis Padlock (ADT-3PL256-4000)

  • Offers separate admin and user modes
  • Comes in a variety of storage capacities
  • Encryption chip and circuitry protected by epoxy compound
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SiForce Lockbox Slim

  • Includes compact hard shell case
  • No idle time-out
  • Secured with military-grade encryption
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What is an Encrypted External Hard Drive Best Used For?

Data privacy is crucial for every single person. Now that most data is stored in digital form encrypting sensitive information has become a must. Along with saving you from the hassle that comes with losing your hard drive, some other uses of an encrypted external hard drive include:

Protecting Your Data

Designed to protect every form of data from virtual intruders, these encrypted drives connect to your computer through USB ports. Using mathematical formulas, they encrypt all stored data, making it impossible for others to read without the password or encryption key. Whether you’ve stored sensitive business data or family pictures on your hard drive, it’s advisable to keep it encrypted.

Netac K390

Storing Your Data

Similar to other kinds of hard drives, the primary function of an external hard drive is to store data. Desktop-class drives can be used to store several terabytes of data, making them ideal for movie buffs and video or photo editors. Larger desktop drives are further designed for professional use in surveillance control rooms, editing studios, etc.

Creating an Effective Backup Strategy 

Your data is only as secure as your backup. Encrypted external hard drives can also be used as repositories for backups of a computer’s hard drive. You can create this backup by using a third-party backup utility or the drive’s software itself.

What Makes These Hard Drives Stand Out

With such a wide range of models available today, choosing a drive that best suits your needs can be extremely challenging. To ensure you don’t end up wasting your money, here are some features you should look out for:

Operating System

Make sure that the encrypted external hard drive you choose is compatible with the operating system you’re using. Most high-quality models are compatible with both Windows and Mac. However, make sure you check the compatibility before you finalize your purchase.

Data Transfer Speed

Transfer speed can be simply defined as how fast a hard drive can transmit data and is usually measured in MBps or megabytes per second. Most quality models feature USB 3.0, which enables them to transfer data at a speed of 640MBps. Compared to USB 2.0, which transfers data at 60MBps, USB 3.0 is almost 10 times faster. Therefore, if you’re planning on transferring large files, it’s better to avoid USB 2.0.

FIPS Compliance

If you’re looking for a model with a decent protection level, then it’s better to purchase a FIPS-compliant encrypted drive. These models adhere to strict security guidelines and regulations, ensuring the best protection for all data stored on the drive.

Quick Take - Best Encrypted Hard Drives

Review of the Best Encrypted Hard Drives

With so many different models and encryption methods, choosing a high-quality encrypted external drive can be a very time consuming and technical task. To help narrow down your options, the following are detailed reviews of some of the best units available today:

Apricorn Aegis Padlock 2 TB USB 3.0 256-Bit AES XTS Hardware Encrypted Portable External Hard Drive (A25-3PL256-2000),Black

PROS

  • Pin access is incredibly easy to use
  • Software free design does not require any admin rights
  • Tough epoxy coating protects the unit from physical attacks
  • USB 3.0 connection provides data transfer speeds that are 10x faster than USB 2.0
  • Uses military-grade FIPS PUB 197 encryption algorithm and hardware encryption to protect stored data

CONS

  • Small cache size can reduce data transfer rate
  • Restarting the computer will lock the drive, and will need a PIN to unlock it

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers loved this unit and said that it worked as advertised. They found the unit easy to program, the transfer speeds to be good, and the case to be tough. While most users experienced no performance loss due to encryption, some stated that they were unable to transfer more than 400 MB of data. Some customers also felt that the cable could be longer. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Designed with an AES-XTS 256-bit encryption algorithm, this model efficiently protects all data on the drive. If an intruder hooks up to your disk directly, the drive’s tough epoxy coating prevents any physical attack. It further boasts an auto-lock feature, enabling users to preset the time of automatic shut-off.

Who Will Use This Most

With a compact and rugged design, this model is perfect for those who want to take their data on the road. It’s completely cross-compatible and will work with every USB enable operating system. Since it allows 1 admin password and up to 5 unique user passwords, it’s ideal for corporate use.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for something that will ensure safe storage for all your important data, then this unit is the one for you! The AES XTS 256-bit hardware encryption, coupled with the large storage capacity, makes this drive truly an excellent data storage and backup choice.

Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress FIPS 140-2 Level 2 Validated 256-bit Encrypted USB 3.0 Hard Drive with PIN Access, black, 2 TB - A25-3PL256-2000F

PROS

  • Comes with a self destruct pin and an auto-lock feature 
  • Does not require software installation for operation or setup 
  • USB 3.0 data transfer rates allow you to transfer large files within seconds
  • AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption seamlessly encrypts data in real-time 
  • Integrated cable eliminates the hassle of taking cords with you while traveling 

CONS

  • Bit expensive than other models
  • Keypad requires some effort to register the input

What Recent Buyers Report

The majority of the buyers were satisfied with their purchase and said that it worked great. They stated that it was secure, easy to set up, and faster than they expected. One user even stated that they were able to transfer an 894GB drive at a speed of 113MB/sec. However, some customers reported that the unit stopped working after a few months, while some stated that it kept disconnecting from their computer.  

Why it Stands Out to Us

Until the correct password is entered, all the data on this unit will remain completely invisible. Along with being FIPS 140-2 validated, it boasts an unattended auto-lock feature and a programmable brute force protection mode. To make all stored data even safer, this model is both water and dust resistant. Lastly, it features a software-free authentication process, making it incredibly convenient to use as well. 

Who Will Use This Most

Designed with US military specifications in mind, this unit is mostly used by government contractors who need to maintain security. Because it’s FIPS 140-2 validated, this unit is also used by industries with sensitive data, including healthcare, finance, and legal sectors. 

Bottom Line

A high-capacity model with a permanently connected USB cable, this model provides the highest level of data security. With a fast USB 3.0 interface and a FIPS 140-2 Level 2 encryption, it delivers exceptional performance and uncompromising security. However, the keypad could be improved.

Apricorn Aegis Padlock 4 TB DT 256-bit Encryption USB 3 Hard Drive (ADT-3PL256-4000)

PROS

  • Available in several different storage capacities
  • Software-free design makes it incredibly easy and simple to use
  • AES XTS 256-bit hardware encryption provides unparalleled security
  • Drive reset feature clears all data and PINs, and creates a new encryption key, allowing the unit to be redeployed 
  • Tough epoxy compound protects the circuitry and encryption key, making them impossible to remove without damaging the electronics

CONS

  • Requires connection through a power adapter
  • Heavy weight makes carrying it around a bit inconvenient 

What Recent Buyers Report

Most users were happy with the unit’s performance and recommended it to other potential buyers as well. They loved the security it provided, the clear instructions, and the compact design. While some users found it to be a great backup solution, some stated that their unit failed multiple times after a few months of use. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit is designed with a cache memory of 8MB and a 7200 RPM spindle rotation speed. It supports USB 3.0 interface and can reach read/write speeds of up to 170 Mbps. Boasting a minimum response time of 12 seconds, it enables users to quickly copy files, saving their precious time.

Who Will Use This Most

A high-capacity encrypted hard drive, this model is perfect for those who want to keep all their data at hand. It’s compatible with every USB-enable operating system and is the ideal device for storing your collection of movies in full HD resolution.

Bottom Line

A beautiful combination of big data transfer rate and a high-capacity, this encrypted drive is the perfect option for both home and corporate use. Its tough epoxy compound protects the encryption key from physical attacks, while the AES XTS hardware encryption ensures unparalleled security. However, it’s not portable, which might be unsuitable for some.

SiForce Lockbox Slim 2TB Encrypted USB Drive + SiForce Portable External Hard Drive Case

PROS

  • Forensically pre-wiped internal drives enhance security and reliability 
  • Comes with a compact hardshell case to make transport and storage easy 
  • Extra security measures protect your data from brute force password cracking
  • Allows users to directly edit their files without worrying about losing their progress
  • Hardware encryption technology and USB 3.0 connection instantaneously encrypt data

CONS

  • Bit costly than other models

What Recent Buyers Report

Almost everyone who invested in this unit was extremely happy with their purchase and stated that they experienced no issues. Users loved the large storage space and found the setup process to be incredibly easy. However, some customers felt that the passkey should be longer, while some found the instructions to be unclear. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit stands out to us for several different reasons. Firstly, it uses military-grade 256-bit AES hardware encryption to ensure reliable operation. Secondly, it delivers speeds of around 5GB/s, which allows secure and rapid file exchanges and backup. Lastly, it comes with a water-resistant coating, a No Idle Time Out feature, and an OLED display.

Who Will Use This Most

This model is compatible with both Mac and Windows. Designed with security and performance in mind, it’s ideal for individuals who want a large capacity to store, transfer, back up, or edit important documents, photos, videos, music, or any other sensitive data.

Bottom Line

To put it simply, this model certainly deserves a place on our list of top picks. Its military-grade hardware encryption technology instantly encrypts data, while its water-resistant coating ensures durability and reliability. However, its high price might make it unsuitable for some. 

Netac Password Encrypted External Hard Drive K390 1TB USB 3.0 Secure Keypad Lock Portable HDD Disk 256-bit AES Physical Hardware Encryption Security Data Storage Device

PROS

  • Provides excellent value for money 
  • High-end 32-bit controller chip speeds up the encryption process
  • USB 3.0 interface provides maximum read speeds of up to 110mb/s
  • Anti-hack function will automatically erase all data is the wrong password is entered ten times
  • Military-grade AES 256-bit hardware encryption eliminates all possibilities of physical force cracking 

CONS

  • Instructions are inaccurate 
  • Read and write speeds are a bit unimpressive 
  • Might disconnect several times during data transfer

What Recent Buyers Report

This unit has mixed reviews. Some users stated that it connected easily, delivered an adequate performance, and kept their data safe. One buyer even said that they experienced no problems after several months of regular use. However, some people said that it dismounted on its own and kept locking up after every few minutes. They were also disappointed with Netac’s customer support. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Offering countless amazing features at an incredibly affordable price, this unit stands out to us because of its value for money. Firstly, it’s designed with military standard AES XTS 256-bit encryption protocol. Secondly, it boasts a high-end 32-bit controller chip, enabling it to match the fast USB 3.0 transfer rate. Lastly, this unit is capable of encrypting a 1GB file in almost 9 seconds, while it would take an average HDD at least 12.

Who Will Use This Most

If you’re looking for an affordable encrypted external hard drive, then this unit is the one for you! It supports Mac, Android, Windows, and Linux, and is able to transfer data between different operating systems.

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a well-balanced product and one of the best models you’ll find in this price range. With military-grade hardware encryption and an anti-hack feature, it will keep your data safe without causing any inconveniences along the way. However, the instructions included could be more clearly explained.

Pros and Cons of Encrypted External Hard Drives

When it comes to storing, encrypting, and retrieving data, encrypted external hard drives have truly been revolutionary. To help you better understand their function, here are some of their pros and cons:

Pros

Along with being an effective and easy way of backing up files, some other advantages of an encrypted external hard drive include:

Portability and Compatibility 

Since external hard drives have a common USB interface, they’re extremely portable. They can be quickly connected to any laptop or desktop computer, and can even be connected to certain smartphones and mobile devices. This portability and quick connectivity ensure you always have access to your data, even if the primary host system gets lost or breaks down.

SiForce Lockbox Slim

Fewer Hacking Concerns

As you have total control over who accesses your data, using an encrypted external hard drive significantly reduces hacking concerns. Disconnecting the hard drive when it’s not in use, or keeping it in a fireproof safe will further help protect it from prying eyes.

Avoid Encryption Errors

Manually encrypting drive data can lead to mistakes. Since encrypted external hard drives feature full automatic encryption, there are virtually no encryption errors.

Cons

However, no product is perfect. Some disadvantages of encrypted external hard drives include:

Fail Eventually 

At some point, all physical drives will fail and stop working. Most drives are mechanical devices designed with spinning platters, making them susceptible to heat and other natural elements, which can result in physical failure.

Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress (A25-3PL256-2000F)

How to Encrypt Your Hard Drive

The best program for encrypting a hard drive depends on the operating system you’re using. Operating system vendors know how valuable your data is to you, and thus, each OS has its own utility that can be used to encrypt a hard drive during installation. If you want to encrypt your hard drive, you can follow these simple steps:

Encrypting a Hard Drive in Windows 7, 8, and 10

1. Select Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Bitlocker drive encryption

2. Select ‘Turn on Bitlocker’

3. Choose a passphrase, startup key, or a PIN to decrypt the hard drive. It’s advisable to select a pin with 8-20 characters and write it until you’ve memorized it. If you’ve chosen a startup key, you can create a backup on a flash drive. 

4. Print or save the recovery key. It’s advisable to do both, so you don’t lose your data. You can also save the recovery key to a Microsoft account. 

5. Restart the computer, and the encryption process will begin.

Encrypting a Hard Drive in MacOS

Because of its strong pro-privacy stance, Apple as enabled FileVault by default since OS X Yosemite. So, if you’re running Yosemite or later, full disk encryption might already be enabled. You can check this by selecting the Apple icon > system preferences > security & privacy. If it’s not enabled, you can follow these steps:

1. Select Turn On FileVault

2. Type in an administrator username and password. If multiple user accounts exist, select the ‘Enable User’ button

3. Create a recovery key. If you’re running Yosemite or later versions, your iCloud account can be used to unlock the disk and reset the password. On Mavericks and earlier, the recovery key can be stored with Apple by giving a security question with three answers.

Encrypting a Hard Drive in Linux

There are several different Linux distributions and several different ways of encrypting a hard drive in Linux. The easiest way is to encrypt the hard drive while your chosen distribution is being installed. Most popular Linux distributions, like Fedora, Debian, openSuse, Ubuntu, and Mint offer a full disk encryption option during installation.

Alternatively, you can also use TrueCrypt to encrypt your drive. To get a better idea about how to encrypt your hard drive with this tool, be sure to watch this video below:

Conclusion

All the aforementioned products offer military-grade perfection, making them perfect for individuals who want to protect their data at an affordable price. However, make sure you go through all the reviews to find the model that best suits your needs!

People Also Ask

Although having an encrypted external hard drive is important, choosing one can be a very technical and difficult task, especially for beginners. To help clear away any confusions you might have, here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Why is Encryption Needed?

Encryption is a process that encodes data so that it remains inaccessible to or hidden from unauthorized individuals. It’s important because it protects private and sensitive information, and enhances the security of communication between servers and apps.

How Do I Encrypt my Entire Hard Drive?

To encrypt your hard drive, you need encryption tools and a CD or flash drive to store a backup. It’s also important that your recovery key is kept in a safe place because if you lose it, you’ll lose your data. You can encrypt your drive in Windows using BitLocker, DiskCryptor, or VeraCrypt. For Mac users, the OS already comes with FileVault, so you just need to enable it.

Apricorn Aegis Padlock (ADT-3PL256-4000)

Is an Encrypted External Hard Drive Worth it?

If you store confidential or sensitive data on your drive, then yes, an encrypted external hard drive is definitely worth it. The encryption will make it more difficult for intruders to access the data and will prevent any unauthorized access.

How Do I Know if my External Hard Drive is Encrypted?

To see whether your drive is encrypted or not, open BitLocker’s Drive Encryption control panel. This will be situated under ‘System and Security’ in the Control Panel’s Category view. You should see the drive, and the window will show whether BitLocker is enabled or disabled.

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