The Best External Hard Drives of 2018

What Can You Do With a NAS?

The Best NAS (Network Attached Storage) Devices of 2018
Some include SD card readers to offload footage from a camera or drone in the field, while others have built-in Wi-Fi and can double as an all-in-one home media server. Not for power users. Welcome to our list of the best NAS devices of This introduces the other side of the 2big's personality, that of a dock. However, it's only a few pounds or dollars more, and that also gets you the higher-end look and feel of the aluminium top plate. We also had issues with any 4K video using the DTS audio codec, in which no sound would play.

NAS drive features to look for

The Best NAS for Most Home Users

Read our best NAS drives feature for more. Desktop-style hard drives may not seem that appealing when relatively high-capacity ones that fit in a pocket are affordable. However, there's still a real appeal to them particularly if they are never, or rarely, going to leave the office. The Seagate Backup Plus Hub is a classic 3. It is available in sizes up to 10TB, and we're using this ultra-high capacity version. There's no difference in physical size between these variants, though.

It's mm deep, mm tall and 41mm deep, so not much larger than the 3. The sides are glossy black, the top, bottom and back a heat-dispersing honeycomb that looks fairly good. There are a few practical unique selling points too.

Place the drive intelligently in your setup and these could become the most convenient ports in your office. Just run the Mac user file pre-loaded on the drive and it'll install a driver that lets you write to the drive using OS X.

You can read a Windows-formatted drive with a Mac, but not normally write files to it. It only takes a minute. This is a relatively long-standing model in the Seagate line-up, so it doesn't have a connection designed for Thunderbolt or USB-C 3. There's a Seagate Barracuda Pro drive inside, which costs more than this drive when bought alone.

Makes no sense, right? This is far better than the speed of a rival 2. Hard drives are not easy to make rugged. And as they use moving elements, spinning platters, they can easily be damaged by impact force. LaCie makes the most recognisable rugged hard drive around. The LaCie Rugged Secure has a tough aluminium drive enclosure and an outer orange rubber buffer that soaks up the force of any drops. You'll often see these marketed as drives for creative professionals who work out in the field, but they're just as useful for anyone after a drive that is both portable and tough.

Don't want the bulk of the rubber outer? Most online images don't make this clear but you can actually take this part off. It leaves you with a slim, severe-looking 2. LaCie makes a handful of different drives in this rugged line, but the Secure is one of the most accessible.

It isn't too expensive and has a simple USB-C port. One is not included in the box, though, and the USB-C cable you do get is very short, roughly 30cm. It makes sense for a largely portable model, but is worth considering if you'll primarily use the LaCie Rugged in a home office. LaCie likely envisions these drives spending a lot of time in rucksacks and flight cases. So how rugged are they? There's more to it than just the impact protection of the rubber outer.

The thick, rectangular housing inside is designed to withstand being rolled over by a 1-ton car, like a Nissan Micra.

Unlike some of the bigger models in the range, the Rugged Mini does not have an IP-rating, the industry standard for water and dust resistance. However, LaCie does say it can handle rain. This suggests that, like phones, the USB-C port on the rear is reasonably water-resistant by design.

When the drive is seeking you'll see an LED light up through the orange rubber by this socket. The drive performs exactly as expected, matching the speeds you'll get from other 2.

Transferring a 2GB video files takes 16 seconds. We're miles off even entry-level SSD speed here, but even with a premium rugged design the cost-per-gigabyte is far lower than any SSD. We're looking at the Secure version of the Rugged, which comes with software that lets you encrypt the entire drive with a password, mirror folders on another drive and recover files easily from backups. You also get two years of Seagate's data recovery service, which is effectively an advanced warranty in case anything goes wrong.

Happy with a more basic rugged drive? There are cheaper versions without these extras. Most portable hard drives are made for Windows. It shouldn't put off any but the most technophobic Mac owners, but the Toshiba Canvio Premium for Mac is a true plug and play drive.

This means it is already formatted to the Mac OS Extended file system. You can start dragging and dropping files right away. Its top is anodised aluminium, with just a slightly less fine finish than a MacBook keyboard surround. You're not going to convince anyone this is an Apple product, though.

The Toshiba logo is embossed into the top, and the silvery sides and black underside are plastic, not metal. Both the 1TB and 2TB versions are an ultra-slim However, the Toshiba Canvio Premium for Mac does have a touch of class missing from the all-plastic drives common in this price band.

There's also a blue LED under the little circle on the top. Whether that's a positive or negative depends on whether you find HDD activity lights distracting or not. The tricky challenge for a drive like the Toshiba Canvio Premium for Mac is how to cater for both new and older Macs.

Toshiba includes a little USB-C adapter rather than bundling two cables. Full-size USB is the default. Each NAS has its own manufacturer-specific version of Linux, and some are more usable than others. If you want to share and store data on your network, you may not need a NAS. Windows, macOS, and Linux also have built-in file-sharing features that make it easy to use your computer as a file server.

But that approach takes up disk space on your computer and is more difficult to manage securely, and your computer has to be on all the time, which consumes more power than a NAS and might make the data inaccessible when your computer goes to sleep. Websites focused on enterprise network storage, such as Computer Weekly and StorageReview. Many NAS devices can also manage decent on-the-fly transcoding with their own apps, but Plex transcoding currently requires a lot of CPU power, and none of the models we tested were able to handle transcoding in Plex reliably.

You could make your own NAS with old computer hardware and free software such as FreeNAS or NAS4Free , but a dedicated NAS device uses far less power usually about as much as a couple of LED light bulbs , has a better interface and more apps, and comes with a manufacturer warranty and technical support. Back in , we surveyed 1, Wirecutter readers on what they wanted in a home NAS, and most of those requirements still hold true. When deciding which models to test, we paid attention to a number of key features that most home users needed:.

First we set up each NAS following its included install guide, if it had one. We tested ease of use by configuring user and group accounts, as well as file and folder access permissions. We ran each test nine times in each direction: To simulate drive failure, we pulled a drive from the NAS while it was running.

A NAS should beep or flash an LED to alert you that something is wrong, and the interface should show a drive-failure notification. Next we replaced the pulled drive with one of equal or greater capacity. A NAS should detect a new drive and automatically re-create the mirrored array. A good NAS has drive trays or slots that make the drives easy to remove but are sturdy enough to ensure that the drives fit tightly and securely, with no chance of getting disconnected by a random bump.

We also connected a flash drive to one of the USB ports. A NAS interface should recognize a connected drive and display its make, model, and file system. All our NAS picks have some sort of energy-saving feature. We used a Kill A Watt EZ to test the power consumption on each NAS when it was performing a task such as a file copy , when it was idle, and with its energy-saving options enabled.

The playing field was much more level when we tested using our folder containing two large files: Btrfs also features near-instant server-side copying, data integrity checks, and metadata mirroring, which supposedly helps with data recovery in the case of hard-drive damage. The interface in DiskStation Manager offers an overlay for system health as well as easy access to all the settings you need.

You can quickly find and install new applications in Package Center. In our tests, file transfer in encrypted folders was around 60 percent of the speed of transfer in nonencrypted folders. DSM has a toolbar on the top where you can access the main menu, notifications, and login options, search for files, and check on system health. Below that toolbar, you have a desktop where you can access Package Center a store of sorts filled with add-on software , the file browser, the control panel which includes all your settings , and a support area offering video tutorials, FAQs, and more.

You can also customize the dashboard to include storage, connected users, and more. DSM has an optional cloud service called Cloud Station Server that allows you to access your files remotely. You can set those backups to happen on a schedule and optionally encrypt them before you upload them to another service.

You also have the option of setting up a Seagate Access account that allows you to stream files remotely over the internet when you're away from home but watch out for those mobile data charges when you're travelling. You can also use the Media app to connect to other cloud services, such as Dropbox, and if you get caught on the road without the required apps or devices then you can log into your Seagate Access account via a web browser on any computer or device that has internet access.

Macs and PCs have their own app for backups, called Dashboard. This works with Time Machine for automatic backups, but also provides additional options that might be handy for office users, such as the ability to schedule backups for specific times - perhaps at the end of the day after you've finished work. There's a 'continuous backup' option, which watches for changes to any files while you're working and automatically makes backups on the spot whenever you edit or delete any files on your Mac.

You can also plug a memory stick or hard drive into the USB port on the back of the Personal Cloud and back up files from those external devices too. As well as Macs, PCs, and mobile devices, the Personal Cloud is compatible with an impressively wide range of other devices too. Only minor complaint is that all these features are spread across a variety of apps that might be a little confusing when you're first getting started, and Seagate's online manual has an annoying habit of simply listing features without always making it clear where you can find them or how to use them.

That slightly untidy approach means that it might take a little while to get the Personal Cloud set up just the way you want it, and more experienced users might prefer a NAS drive with accessible drive bays that provide greater upgrade potential. But if you're looking for a versatile NAS drive that offers plenty of storage at a competitive price, the Personal Cloud is hard to beat. Netgear's ReadyNAS has been around for a while, and it's showing its age a little, but its combination of strong data protection and good Mac support ensure that it will appeal to both home and small business users alike.

The hardware design is a little old-fashioned, consisting of a simple black box with two drive bays for adding storage. Along with the drives that you choose to install, the ReadyNAS provides some useful features for adding extra storage and enhancing performance. There are no less than three USB 3. Installing the internal drives is a little fiddly, though.

The trays that hold the two drives pop out of the front of the unit easily enough when you press down on a small latch, but the next step is a little confusing as it involves slotting the hard disk drives into a flimsy plastic bracket that then has to be lined up in just the right position before you can push the trays back into the enclosure.

It took us a couple of attempts to get it right but, thankfully, once that's done Netgear's ReadyCloud software takes over and setting up the drive on your network proves to be very straightforward. Once you've connected the ReadyNAS to mains power and then to your router, you simply launch your web browser and go to the web page for Netgear's ReadyCloud service. This web page automatically detects the ReadyNAS on your network, and can also check for any problems if the drive isn't working properly.

There are two options for getting started, with simple 'offline' installation allowing you to quickly connect the ReadyNAS to your network and start backing up your files - including using the drive for Time Machine backups on your Macs.

The other option is to create a ReadyCloud account, which provides remote access over the internet as well, so that you can connect to the ReadyNAS and retrieve files even when you're away from home. You also use your web browser to manage the ReadyNAS, but we were pleased to see that the various settings are well organised and easy to use. All the key features are organised under simple headings, such as Shares for creating individual user accounts, or Cloud for setting up remote access or syncing with other cloud services such as Dropbox or Microsoft Azure for business users.

There's good support for Mac technologies too, with options for 'shared' Time Machine backups, which store the backups for multiple Macs in one folder on the ReadyNAS, or 'private' backups for individual users that are all kept separate.

You can even specify the amount of storage space that is allocated to individual Time Machine backups so that no one person can hog all the storage for themselves. It can handle a spot of video transcoding, too; this is limited to p HD video, reflecting the age of the RN, but that should still be fine for most people.

And, of course, there's a ReadyCloud app for iOS devices too, which allows you to back up photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad, as well as streaming files that are stored on the drive. Synology is best known for its high-end network and storage systems for business users, but it does have a 'value' range for home users and small businesses.

The DS makes a good first impression. It's sold 'unpopulated', which means it is up to you to buy and install the drives you want, but Synology makes it easy to get started.

There are no nuts, bolts or screws to worry about, as the empty drive bays include two trays that pop out with the press of a button. We were able to insert our drives into the trays with no trouble at all, and get started in a matter of minutes. There's one Gigabit Ethernet port on the back for connecting the DS to your router, and three USB ports - one on the front, and two on the back - that can be used to plug in a memory stick, camera or external hard drive so you can transfer files on to the DS The USB port on the front even has a 'Copy' button just beneath, which can be used to automatically back up any files on your storage devices on to the DS The only oddity here is that the front port is USB 2.

Once you've inserted the hard drives and connected the DS to your router, you can simply type find. But this is where things start to get a bit more complicated. There's also a QuickConnect option that allows you to connect to the DS over the internet when you're away from home. The DS works well as a media server too, with a powerful 1. There's an iTunes Server option that lets you store a central iTunes library on the DS, and it can stream music to AirPlay speakers too.

The only problem here is that the web browser interface used by the DSM software to control all these features on the Mac is pretty complicated. Different sets of features, such as those for working with music or video are handled by a collection of 'packages', which are like mini-apps that you need to install from within the DSM browser interface.

It's a Great Time to Go for a Drive

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Dec 19,  · With an excellent user interface, a vast amount of features, and stellar performance, the Synology DS+ is the best choice for now if you want a four-bay network storage device for your home or small office. Most NAS drives are 'Mac-compatible' - but not all of them are what we might call 'Mac-friendly'. For instance, not all NAS drives will allow you to use Time Machine to make backups over the network, so support for Time Machine is a key feature that you should check on when thinking about buying a NAS drive for use with one or more Macs. A network-attached storage (NAS) device is ideal for giving multiple users remote access to large amounts of data. We've tested the top products to tell you which one will work best for your home or small business.