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The best rugged hard drives and SSDs in 2021

Keep your data safe, whatever you're doing and wherever you are in the world!

For a lot of people, the data they have is more important that the hardware it is contained on. You can replace hardware, but unless you have a backup of the data, that data can be gone on the blink of an eye.

This is especially true for photographers and videographers and drone pilots, people who might have their equipment out in the field, exposed to dust, water, and bad weather. One wrong move and irreplaceable footage can be gone -- forever.

These are the sorts of people who need rugged hard drives and SSDs.

These are small, lightweight, highly portable, and tough. These feel more like big key fobs than external hard drives, but they stand up to extreme abuse.

Tech specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Speed: Up to 1050MB/s read and up to 1000MB/s write speeds
  • Security: 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • Ruggedness rating: 2-meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance

Need a lot of capacity, but also the speed and convenience of SSDs? It'll cost you! But the G-Drive ArmorLock is a drive that you can trust in harsh conditions.

Tech specs

  • Capacity: 4TB
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Speed: Up to 1000MB/s read, 1000MB/s write
  • Security: 256-bit AES-XTS hardware encryption and NIST P-256 elliptic curve-based key management and auto Unlock feature to quickly gain access to your SSD with a pre-authorized device
  • Ruggedness rating: 3-meter drop protection, 1,000-pound crush resistance, and IP67 dust and water resistance.

This tiny drive packs a lot of storage space in a tough aluminum shell. The only downside to this drive is there's no built-in encryption.

Tech specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Speed: Read/write speeds up to 2,000MB/s
  • Security: None
  • Ruggedness rating: IP55-rating to withstand water and dust

This is a lot of HDD storage in a rugged shell. While I much prefer SSDs because they don't have any moving parts to damage, this is a great drive for those looking for more storage at a very good price.

Tech specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Connectivity: USB-C and USB 3
  • Speed: Read speeds up to 140MB/s and write speeds up to 130MB/s
  • Security: None
  • Ruggedness rating: IP54 rain/dust rating, and crush resistance up to 1000lbs

How were these products chosen?

As a part time pro/am photographer, videographer, and drone pilot, I'm someone who has had to keep my data safe in conditions that really wanted me to lose my data -- high winds, blasting rainstorms, thunder and lightning, or sand everywhere, I have -- up to the time of writing -- never lost any footage.

All the products recommended have been field tested under terrible conditions. These are products that I trust to protect my data and bring it back home safe.


Given the lack of moving parts, and lower energy consumption, I much prefer SSDs. The problem is that SSDs are more expensive and if you need a LOT of storage, then that's where HDDs shine.

How many backups do I need?

I operate by the principle of "two is one, and one is none," which means that I like to have a couple of copies of everything. There are two ways to do this.

  • Don't delete your storage cards (so that's one copy), and then make a second copy to your external drive. Modern SD/microSD cards are incredibly robust …as long as you don't lose them!
  • If you need to delete your storage cards, then I make two copies, and keep them separately (as much as possible).

Do you trust your gear to be waterproof?

To a point, but I still store drives in a waterproof bag or box because I'm not one to take chances with my data.

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