What is the best drive to backup photos?

Photos are some of our most precious data. They capture memories and moments in time that we want to treasure forever. As such, it’s absolutely critical to have a reliable backup solution for all your irreplaceable photos.

In this article, we’ll explore the best options for backing up your photo collection. We’ll look at factors like storage capacity, affordability, reliability, portability, and ease of use to determine the ideal backup drives for photos.

Quick Overview – What is the best drive for photo backup?

If you just want the short answer, here are our top recommendations for the best drives to use for photo backup:

  • Best Overall: Western Digital My Passport SSD
  • Most Affordable: Seagate Portable Drive
  • Most Capacity: WD My Book Duo
  • Most Portable: SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

However, picking the right backup drive involves looking at a number of factors closely. Read on as we dive deeper into what makes for the best photo backup drive for your needs.

Storage Capacity

The first major consideration when selecting a photo backup drive is storage capacity. How much storage do you need to back up your entire photo library now and into the future?

Raw photo and video files take up a lot of storage space compared to other types of files like documents. Just a few hundred high resolution photos and videos can easily eat up tens or hundreds of gigabytes of capacity.

So when estimating how much capacity you need, be sure to calculate for future growth. If you take thousands of photos per year with your DSLR or smartphone, you may need multiple terabytes of capacity very quickly.

Here are some ballpark photo storage capacity requirements depending on your collection size:

  • Less than 10,000 photos – 250GB to 500GB
  • 10,000 to 50,000 photos – 500GB to 2TB
  • 50,000 to 100,000 photos – 2TB to 4TB
  • 100,000+ photos – 4TB+

Going above your current needs allows room for growth. But having tons of excess unused capacity is wasteful. So aim for drives that reasonably fit your collection’s size now and projected growth in the next few years.

Recommend Capacity By Backup Drive Type

Here are some capacity recommendations based on common backup drive types:

  • External hard drives – 2TB to 8TB
  • Portable solid state drives – 500GB to 2TB
  • Desktop RAIDs – 8TB to 60TB+

Desktop external hard drives offer the best balance of value, capacity, and performance for most users. Models in the 2TB to 8TB range allow ample room for tens to hundreds of thousands of photos.

Portable solid state drives are pricier but great for users who value portability. Capacities up to 2TB can accommodate most photo collections.

For professional photographers or videographers with huge libraries, desktop RAIDs provide massive scalable capacity, but at a higher cost.


In addition to capacity, you’ll want to consider affordability when choosing a backup drive. Cost often correlates with capacity – larger drives carry higher price tags, while more budget-friendly options have less capacity.

Here are some average price ranges for photo backup drives by type and capacity:

Type Capacity Price Range
Portable HDD 1TB $55 – $80
Portable HDD 2TB $80 – $110
Portable SSD 500GB $90 – $150
Portable SSD 1TB $170 – $250
Desktop HDD 4TB $100 – $180
Desktop HDD 8TB $150 – $250

When calculating affordability, be sure to look at the per TB or per GB price, not just the total drive cost. Larger high capacity drives typically offer better value per GB.

For example, an 8TB desktop hard drive costs around $200. That’s only about $0.025 per GB. A 1TB portable hard drive costs around $60 – $0.06 per GB. So the desktop drive offers nearly 2.5X better value per GB of storage.

Solid state drives are the priciest options. But the superior speed, durability, and portability may justify the higher cost if those features are most important to you.


Reliability is one of the most critical factors for a photo backup drive. After all, you want a drive you can depend on to keep your photos safe.

Drive reliability depends largely on the underlying storage technology:

  • HDD – Hard disk drives have moving platters and heads that are prone to physical failure over time. But modern drives can last 5 years or more with proper handling.
  • SSD – Solid state drives have no moving parts, making them more resistant to shock, vibration, and general wear and tear.
  • RAID – RAID arrays use multiple drives with redundancies to protect against failures of individual drives.

So SSDs and RAIDs generally offer better reliability than HDDs, but HDDs have proven reliable enough for most home photo backup needs.

Aside from the storage technology, here are some other factors that affect reliability:

  • Brand reputation – Stick with major brands like WD, Seagate, LaCie, Synology, etc. with proven track records.
  • Build quality – Metal enclosures and shock absorption provide extra durability.
  • Warranty – Longer warranties (3-5 years) reflect better expected reliability.
  • Reviews – Check ratings and reported failure rates from other real world users.

Following the model recommendations in this guide will steer you toward drives with excellent reliability for storing your photo backups.


If you only plan to keep the backup drive on your desk or shelved at home, portability isn’t a major concern. But it’s a very important factor if you’ll be travelling or carrying the drive back and forth to different locations.

Here are the portability characteristics to look for in a photo backup drive:

  • Physical size – Compact and lightweight devices take up less space in your bag.
  • Ruggedness – Solid state drives and shock absorbing cases withstand portable use better.
  • Single cable – Having just a single USB cable for power and connectivity makes transport simpler.
  • No external power – Drives powered just by USB avoid the need to carry a separate power adapter.

Solid state and portable hard drives are inherently designed for portability. Desktop external hard drives and RAIDs are larger and meant for stationary use. So decide based on your specific portability needs.

Ease of Use

A backup drive that’s simple and convenient to use makes it more likely you’ll actually stick to a regular backup routine. Look for drives with these ease of use factors:

  • Plug and play – No complicated installation or setup required beyond just plugging in a USB cable.
  • Compatible interfaces – Widely used interfaces like USB-A allow connection to most computers and devices.
  • Backup software – Built-in backup utilities or downloadable apps help automate the process.
  • Intuitive operation – Straightforward controls and status indicators on the drive enclosure itself.
  • Quality documentation – Clear manuals explain proper setup, care, and effective use.

Leading external hard drive brands like WD and Seagate make drives aimed at mainstream consumers that prioritize simplicity and ease of use for hassle-free photo backup.


With the key factors above in mind, here are my top recommended best drives for backing up your photo collection.

Overall Best – WD My Passport SSD

Combining speed, portability, and reliability, the WD My Passport SSD is a great overall choice for photo backup. Models are available from 500GB to 2TB. It’s around the same price as portable HDDs but with the durability and compact form factor of solid state.While you can get higher capacities for less with HDDs, the My Passport SSD hits the sweet spot for an excellent portable photo backup solution.

Most Affordable – Seagate Portable Drive

Seagate’s Portable External Hard Drive series offers an unbeatable value. It packs 1TB or 2TB into a compact drive for under $100. While not as fast or rugged as solid state, it’s reliable and incredibly affordable at just a few cents per GB. It’s the budget-minded choice for easy photo backups.

Most Capacity – WD My Book Duo

The WD My Book Duo desktop RAID drive offers massive capacity – up to a whopping 60TB with additional drive bays. With its two drives and RAID redundancy, it also offers excellent reliability to safeguard enormous photo and video libraries spanning tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of files.

Most Portable – SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

For road warriors who need supreme portability plus the durability of solid state drives, the ruggedized SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is purpose-built for travel. With up to 2TB capacity, carabiner loop, and rubberized bumper guard, it’s ready for adventures while securely storing your photo memories.


Safeguarding your precious photo collection requires a reliable backup solution. When selecting the best backup drive for your photos, carefully weigh factors like:

  • Capacity for current and future storage needs
  • Affordability balanced against total cost
  • Drive reliability based on technology and construction
  • Portability depending on your use cases
  • Ease of use for more consistent backups

The WD My Passport SSD provides the best overall combination of performance, portability, and value. But alternatives like the budget-friendly Seagate Portable Drive or high capacity WD My Book Duo may better match your specific needs and constraints.

Following these backup drive selection tips will help you confidently choose the ideal solution for protecting your precious photo memories while fitting your budget.