ioSafe Rugged Portable review

ioSafe Rugged Portable review

Summary: The ioSafe Rugged Portable isn't the smallest, lightest, fastest or most affordable external hard drive, but it performs well enough and is extremely rugged. If you really need to protect your data on the road, look no further.



  • Extremely rugged
  • Data recovery service included
  • USB 3.0 support


  • Hard drive speed only 5,400rpm
  • Some USB 2.0 systems will require two free ports

There are plenty of portable hard drives on the market, and many claim various degrees of ruggedness. But few, if any, are as bomb-proof as the USB 3.0 Rugged Portable from specialist manufacturer ioSafe.

Available with a "full metal jacket" fashioned from a block of aluminium or even tougher titanium alloy, the Rugged Portable comes with a hard disk or an SSD inside, in capacities ranging from 500GB to 1TB (HDD), or 120GB to 600GB (SSD). We looked at an aluminium-cased model with a 500GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm.

As well as building an exceptionally tough external drive, ioSafe includes a one-year, upgradable, Data Recovery Service (DRS) with coverage for up to $5,000-worth of forensic services for the SSD model, or $2,500-worth for the hard disk model.

ioSafe Rugged Portable
The ioSafe Rugged Portable comprises a 500GB hard drive encased in a very solid aluminium case (even tougher titanium alloy is also available)

The Rugged Portable has a minimalist look, with only the logo, the USB 3.0 port and a Kensington lock slot breaking up the device's clean aluminium lines. Notably, the underside not only has the serial number on a sticker, but also etched into the aluminium chassis so that the drive will be identifiable after most misfortunes. It measures 99mm wide by 145mm deep by 25.4mm thick and weighs a reassuringly solid 454g.

ioSafe Rugged Portable
At the back is a Micro-USB 3.0 port and a Kensington lock slot; USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 (Y) cables are supplied

This military-grade (MIL-STD 810G) device looks as if it could take a battering, and the specifications are indeed impressive: crush resistance of 1,134kg (2,500lb); protection from drops of up to 3m (10ft); immersible in up to 3m (10ft) of water (fresh or salt) for up to 3 days (without any need for the USB port to be covered); immersible in up to 30.5cm (12in.) of various chemicals (diesel fuel, oils, hydraulic fluids and aircraft fuels) for up to an hour; capable of exposure to UV, blowing sand or dust, rain, salt fog, icing or freezing rain for up to 24 hours; if need be it can be taken to 9,144m (30,000ft) without endangering data, too. Models with a titanium chassis and/or an SSD are even hardier.

If you want to see how ioSafe's products, including the Rugged Portable, stand up to sustained maltreatment, check out the gallery and video of CEO Robb Moore's visit to ZDNet UK earlier this year.

Our review unit contained a 2.5in. 500GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. That's not an especially quick spin speed, and photographers or video editors, in particular, might prefer a faster 7,200rpm or 10,000rpm drive — or an even speedier SSD.

The Rugged Portable comes with a 1m USB 3.0 cable (Micro-USB 3.0 to standard USB 3.0) and, for attaching to older computers, a Y cable with two USB 2.0 connectors — one for data and the other for additional power, if required.

By default, the Rugged Portable is formatted with NTFS for Windows systems (7, Vista SP2, XP SP3), but it can easily be mounted and reformatted for Mac OS X (10.3 or higher).

The Data Recovery Service mentioned above has a standard one-year term, but after activating it you can extend this — at a price — to three or five years. After DRS activation, Windows users can download Genie Timeline Professional backup software (worth £45) for free; the drive, once correctly formatted, also works with Time Machine on the Mac. Security-conscious users can also download the free, open-source TrueCrypt AES-256 encryption software (available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux).

We tested the 500GB, 5,400rpm ioSafe Portable with the widely-used ATTO disk benchmark, connecting the NTFS-formatted drive to Eurocom's fast Monster 1.0 ultraportable via both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. ATTO reported data transfer rates of 68.2MB/s (write) and 70.1MB/s (read) with a USB 3.0 connection, and 43.9MB/s (write) and 43.2MB/s (read) with USB 2.0:

ioSafe Rugged Portable

By comparison, the Monster 1.0's internal SATA III 750GB hybrid SSD/HD drive — the HD portion of which spins at 7,200rpm — reported a write speed of 98.5MB/s and a read speed of 99.4MB/s. Another external USB 3.0 drive, the 500GB/7,200rpm Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro, delivered figures of 83.1MB/s (write) and 82.7MB/s (read) with a USB 3.0 connection, and 41.2MB/s (write) and 41.4MB/s (read) with USB 2.0.

The ioSafe Rugged Portable isn't the smallest, lightest, fastest or most affordable external hard drive, but it performs well enough and is extremely rugged. In fact, it looks capable of withstanding almost any abuse except perhaps extremely high temperature — a house fire for example. For that, you'll need ioSafe's desktop product, which we'll review shortly. If you really need to protect your data on the road, look no further than the Rugged Portable.


Dimensions (W x H x D) 9.9 x 2.54 x 14.5 cm
Manufacturer's specification
Cables included USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (Y-cable)
Device type external
Weight 0.454 kg
Networking / connectivity
Other connections 0, 0, 0, 0
Hard drive
Form factor 2.5in.
Rotation speed 5400 rpm
Interface USB 3.0
Capacity 500 GB


There are currently no prices available for this product.

Topics: Storage, Mobility, Reviews


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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1 comment
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  • Wait wait wait

    5400rpm? Why would you even bother reviewing this.