As your photo collection grows, the storage and protection of your images becomes ever more important. Jon Stapley round up six of the best portable hard drives on the market

Western Digital My Passport

Price: from £54.99
Website: www.wdc.com

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0

Read: 1GB 9secs
Write: 1GB 9secs

The My Passport from Western Digital offers up to a 2TB capacity (£129.99), which is impressive considering its compact build. Also available are 500GB (£54.99) and 1TB (£79.99) versions, which are even more lightweight, although the extra bulk of the 2TB model is minor considering the enormous gain in terms of space. The My Passport package includes automatic back-up software, and the drive is compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0.

Using its USB 3.0 connection, the My Passport achieved a write speed of 107MB/s and a read speed of 108MB/s, each action taking roughly 9secs. This is an excellent speed for USB and, combined with the large storage capacity and compact design, makes this hard drive probably the best choice for storing large amounts of data.

Score: 5 out of 5 stars – Best in test

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LaCie Rugged USB 3.0

Thunderbolt Series (1TB)Western Digital My Passport

Price: £204.99
Website: www.lacie.com

Read: 1GB 10secs
Write: 1GB 10secs

The main feature of the LaCie Rugged hard drive is its durability. It is designed to be as accident-resistant as possible – with a removable shock-absorbing rubber sleeve and aluminium shell casing. This makes it by far the toughest drive on test, and ideal for rough travel.

Over a USB 3.0 connection, the Rugged achieved a write speed of 94.4MB/s and a read speed of 99MB/s, both taking 10secs to transfer 1GB of data. When testing the Thunderbolt connection on a MacBook Air, we found the gains in speed were actually not that significant, with write and read speeds of 98MB/s and 106MB/s respectively, which pales in comparison to the Buffalo MiniStation (right).

Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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Verbatim Store 'n' Go USMVerbatim Store ‘n’ Go USM

Price: from £69.99
Website: www.verbatim-europe.co.uk

Read: 1GB 11secs
Write: 1GB 12secs

Verbatim’s Store ‘n’ Go has both USB 3.0 and SATA connectivity, so it can interface with both PCs/Macs and SATA-compatible consumer electronics. It is the slimmest model on test at 14.5mm wide, and comes with back-up software included.

Over its USB 3.0 connection on a Dell XPS 12 laptop, the Store ‘n’ Go achieved a write speed of 83.4MB/s and a read speed of 92.9MB/s, writing 1GB of data in 12secs and reading it in 11secs. This is a decent speed, but slower than the other products on test. The versatile connectivity means this is a good choice for storing photos to display on a TV. The Store ‘n’ Go is available in 500GB (£69.99) and 1TB (£99.99) versions.

Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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Seagate Backup PlusSeagate Backup Plus

Price: from £47
Website: www.seagate.com

Read: 1GB 9secs
Write: 1GB 10secs

The Seagate Backup Plus portable hard drive’s sharing function links directly to the user’s Facebook, Flickr or YouTube accounts, meaning it could be useful for promoting your photos as well as storing them. It’s debatable whether these options are any more convenient than sharing from a Mac or PC, but it’s a decent extra feature.

The drive as packaged connects with USB 3.0, and add-on adapters can be bought for Thunderbolt or FireWire. With its USB 3.0 connection, the Backup Plus managed a write speed of 100MB/s in 10secs and a read speed of 110MB/s in 9secs. Available in 500GB (£47), 750GB (£75) and 1TB (£66) versions, the drive’s solid results ensure that it is a good choice for social-network users.

Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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Buffalo MiniStation ThunderbolBuffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt Portable SSD

Price: from £205
Website: ww.buffalo-technology.com

Read: 1GB 3.5secs
Write: 1GB 4secs

Buffalo’s MiniStation Thunderbolt Portable is a solid-state drive with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connection. As Thunderbolt is configured for Mac, we tested it on a MacBook Air, where it achieved a write speed of 263MB/s and a read speed of 289MB/s. Over USB 3.0 on a PC, it achieved a write of 191MB/s and a read of 158MB/s.

The solid-state drive differs from regular hard drives in that it has no internal moving parts, making it resilient to impact damage. This improves system performance, which, combined with the Thunderbolt connection, explains the blistering speeds. Two versions – 128GB (£205) and 256GB (£327) – are available. This is a pricy option for a low-capacity drive, with speed being the priority here.

Score: 5 out of 5 stars

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Toshiba STOR.E CanvioToshiba STOR.E Canvio

Price: from £65
Website: www.toshiba.co.uk

Read: 1GB 10secs
Write: 1GB 10secs

Weighing just 180g, the Toshiba STOR.E Canvio is the lightest drive on test, and combined with its modest 63mm length it has the edge in terms of portability. The 1TB model (£75) is on test here, but there are also 500GB (£65) and 1.5TB (£120) versions, so most storage needs are catered for. The drive features back-up software and is backwards compatible with USB 2.0.

Over USB 3.0, the Canvio achieved a write speed of 99.6MB/s and a read speed of 97.2MB/s, both reading and writing 1GB of data in 10secs. This makes the Canvio a good all-round option, so long as the speed of a Thunderbolt connection or the protection of the LaCie Rugged are not required.

Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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