What to Know About Traveling with an External Hard Drive

Whether flying for business or pleasure, electronic devices and accessories now seem to be essential ‘bring along’ and this includes external hard drives. But, in today’s travel environment, airports seem to have constantly changing security regulations and prohibited items, so you’re probably wondering, ‘Can I take an external hard drive on a plane?’. 

And booking a family vacation wouldn’t be complete without extra storage for all those photos right?

Understandably so, in an age where data storage and accessibility are paramount, these compact yet powerful gadgets have become indispensable for photographers, content creators, business travelers, and even the average tech-savvy globetrotter. 

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External hard drive on top of a Black mat
External hard drives are indispensable items for many travelers. But, can I take an external hard drive on a plane?

Portable hard drives serve as safe storage for cherished memories, critical work files, or entertainment to pass the time during long flights and delayed flights.

So taking them with you when you travel is essential.

But don’t worry, this post will cover any questions you may have about traveling by plane with an external hard drive. 

Including how best to travel with external hard drives, the best options for durable and reliable hard drives for travelers, and how to handle airport baggage check-in and scanners.

But first, let’s address if it is even possible to fly with an external hard drive in your carry-on or checked luggage.

Can I take an external hard drive on a plane?

Yes, external hard drives are allowed on planes, both in carry-on and checked luggage. 

If you are flying domestically in the US, the TSA has clarified that external hard drives are allowed on flights.

Generally, international and domestic airlines will allow you to travel with an external hard drive without problems. 

The best way to ensure your external hard drive is safe during your journey is to put it in a carry-on or personal bag.

As a travel junkie and after trying dozens or hundreds of luggage over the years, I got to say I just love the ‘Road Runner Carry-on’ bag by Level8. Check out my full review of my favorite carry-on bag

Just be aware if you are planning on traveling with your external hard drive in your checked luggage, be aware that it is more likely to be handled roughly.

 a guy sitting next to a backpack and using his laptop inside an airport
Taking your external hard drive with you in a carry-on and checked bags when flying is OK, as pointed out by TSA (Transportation Security Administration)

Later on in this post are suggested essential accessories for traveling with your external hard drive to ensure that it is safe from damage as well as protected from water, dirt, dust, and heat.

But for now, be assured that you will be fine to take your external hard drive with you when you travel by plane whether in carry-on or checked baggage.

Can External Hard Drives Go Through Airport Scanners?

Based on my years of experience flying with an external hard drive in my carry-on luggage, there should not be any problem with your external hard drive going through airport scanners.

Airport x-ray scanners do not have any magnetic properties so you do not have to worry about damaging your drive or losing data due to a magnetic field from an airport scanner.

So, airport X-ray machines, or any kind of X-rays for that matter won’t damage your hard drive at all.

How do you transport a hard drive on a plane?

Flying with an external hard drive requires some precautions to keep it safe and protect your valuable data. 

Below are some helpful tips for traveling with an external hard drive. Some of these recommended actions should be done before you even set off on your journey to the airport.

The tips below are divided into actions you should do before you leave for the airport and also during your trip.

Follow these tips and you are sure to keep your data safe while traveling.

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Tips for Traveling with Your Storage: Before You Take the Flight

1. Backup your data

Before you travel, make sure to create a backup of all the data on your external hard drive. This ensures that even if the drive gets damaged or lost, your data remains safe. You can back up your data to a cloud storage service, an external hard drive, or even a USB drive.

2. Turn it off

Before packing your external hard drive, make sure it’s powered off and disconnected from your computer. This minimizes the risk of any electrical damage during transportation.

3. Carry the original packaging 

If you have the original packaging or a hard drive-specific protective case, use it for added protection. These cases are designed to safeguard the driver during transportation.

4. Use a password and encryption

If your external hard drive contains sensitive or confidential data, add a strong password and enable encryption to prevent unauthorized access in case it’s lost or stolen.

The word password written using letter blocks on top of an orange table
It’s safer to password-protect your data when traveling with your external hard drive in case it is lost or stolen, and making a backup beforehand is a good practice too.

5. Label and identify

Label your external hard drive with your contact information, including your name, phone number, and email address. This can help recover it if it’s misplaced or lost.

6. Use a sturdy, shockproof case 

Invest in a high-quality, shockproof carrying case or protective sleeve for your external hard drive. Look for cases with padded interiors to absorb shocks and protect the drive from physical damage.

Later in this article, we suggest two excellent options for protective cases for your hard drive.

7. Pack in your carry-on luggage

This is the best way to ensure that your hard drive is safe and that you will have access to it at all times.

Whenever possible, avoid checking your external hard drive with your luggage. Instead, carry it with you in your carry-on bag. This way, you can keep a closer eye on it and prevent rough handling during baggage handling.

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Tips for Traveling with Your Data Storage: On Your Journey

1. Be Prepared for Security Checks

When passing through security checkpoints, be ready to explain the contents of your carry-on bag. Security personnel may need to inspect your electronic devices, including external hard drives. If you have any sensitive data on your hard drive, you may want to encrypt it before you travel.

Be prepared to remove electronic devices including hard drives from your carry for security checks

2. Use a cushioning layer

Place your hard drive within your carry-on bag surrounded by soft items like clothing or a small travel pillow to add an extra layer of protection.

3. Avoid extreme temperatures

Protect your external hard drive from extreme temperatures by keeping it in your cabin luggage. Extreme heat or cold can damage the drive and affect its performance. Keep your hard drive in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing your hard drive to extreme temperatures or humidity.

4. Keep an eye on your belongings

During the flight and while waiting at the airport, keep a close watch on your carry-on bag to prevent any potential theft.

5. Use a surge protector

If you need to use your external hard drive during your trip, consider using a surge protector to protect it from potential power surges in foreign electrical systems.

6. Avoid magnetic fields

Don’t place your hard drive near magnetic fields. This includes things like speakers, magnets, and even your phone. Magnetic fields can damage the data on your hard drive.

And lastly, always remember that accidents can happen. It’s crucial to have a backup of your data and to take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of damage or loss when traveling with an external hard drive.

Recommended Hard Drives for Traveling

So when it comes to traveling with data storage, what are the best options in terms of external hard drives?

HDD or Hard Disk drives are great for storing a lot of data but they can be bulky. Especially when your laptop bag and carry-on luggage are already crowded with other travel essentials. 

A better, but more expensive option is an SSD or Solid State Drive. An SSD is probably the best external hard drive for traveling. An SSD is less bulky, making it easy to carry. It also provides high-performance and fast transfers for users.

Below are the best SSDs for traveling. 

1. Samsung T5 or T7 Portable SSD

a guy holding a Samsung portable ssd t5 box
Samsung external hard drives are a good overall option and come in a decent shape and size.

The Samsung T7 Portable SSD can store up to 2TB. 

Light and pocket-sized, the Samsung Portable SSD T7 delivers fast speeds with easy and reliable data storage for transferring large files in a flash.

Also, the Portable SSD T7 has no moving parts so it’s more resistant to shock

2. Lacie Rugged Mini

Lacie has been around since 2005, and since then they have sold over 6,000,000 portable data storage units.

We highly recommend the Lacie Rugged Mini due to its durability.

woman using a pc while a Lacie rugged mini portable SSD is connected
The Lacie Rugged Mini stands out with its bright orange durable and shock-resistant sleeve.

The Rugged Mini is available in 1TB up to 4TB storage. This SSD provides connectivity for fast transfer speeds of up to 130 MB/s with USB 3.0. The design is both compact and portable, making it easy to take on the go.

3. SanDisk Portable SSD

Another highly recommended option is the SanDisk Portable SSD as a reliable and tight compact device that is easy to carry.

a sandisk portable SSD next to its box on top of a pc desk
The SanDisk portable SSD is the most travel-friendly option on the market, it’s easy to attach to your backpack or anything and the material is good.

SanDisk offers options running in storage from 500GB up to 4TB, enough to back up your whole computer hard drive.

Data Storage Protective Cases

When it comes to extra protection for your external hard drive data storage, consider investing in one of the top-quality options below.

1. Case Logic Portable Portable EVA Hard Drive Case

The Case Logic protective casing includes a  semi-rigid, ribbed exterior to protect your hard drive from the other items in your bag and a slimline design to easily fit in your carry-on or laptop bag.

Your drive slides securely underneath the elastic band with its cords organized in the mesh slim pocket.

a close photo of a Case Logic Portable case for portable SSD
A good option that gets the job done, the zipper is good and the material is great, the hard shelf will keep the hard drive safe in most instances.

2. ORICO Hard Drive Case

The ORICO case offers excellent protection for your data storage and is waterproof, shockproof, and dust-proof with built-in elastic straps, mesh netting, durable nylon molded, and ribbed exterior.

a photo of the ORICO Hard Drive Case for external SSD
Another great option that gets the job done, the material is nylon which is made of mesh netting.

Can I Take an External Hard Drive on a Plane? Wrap Up

Anyone can travel by plane with their important files and pictures on an external hard drive without problems. 

If you comply with their security requirements, international and domestic flights will not have a problem with your external hard drive. 

An SSD is a recommended option, though it may be more costly than a HDD, it is well worth it for the faster transfer speeds, durability, and lightweight properties.

It’s also essential to ensure your hard drive remains in good condition while traveling. 

And we have provided in this post, 13 essential travel tips for when you take your data storage device on planes that will ensure you have a smooth journey knowing your data is safe and secure.

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards.

Last Updated on November 4, 2023

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