The Best External Hard Drive for Plex

If you are looking to store your media files on an external hard drive you may be wondering what is the best external hard drive for a Plex server.

Many people choose to build their Plex server out of spare parts. They also choose a case that is large enough to house multiple internal hard drives.

Others may add a NAS to their network, and store their media files on the NAS. They would then connect their Plex server to the NAS to read the files.

A third option is storing your media files on an external hard drive. You would then connect the hard drive to your Plex server using a USB, eSATA, or Thunderbolt port.

If you are looking at using an external hard drive to store your media files, what is the best external hard drive for your Plex server? Let's look at the external hard drive options.

The Best External Hard Drive for Plex Server

Table of contents

The best external hard drive for a Plex server
Introduction that discusses the potential for using an external hard drive with a Plex server.
Western Digital MyBook
The pros and cons of the popular Western Digital MyBook.
Western Digital Elements
The affordable, yet capable, Western Digital Elements.
Western Digital Duo
The two-bay direct attached storage solution from Western Digital - the Duo.
Seagate Expansion
Seagate's Expansion is another popular external hard drive option.

The best external hard drive for a Plex server

External hard drives are popular for backing up data, but they can also be used for storing media that is managed by your Plex server. A few reasons you may want to look into using an external hard drive are:

  1. They are generally cheaper than buying an internal hard drive. External hard drives contain 3.5" drives that can be "shucked" and used as internal hard drives if you wish.
  2. External hard drives are easy to set up. You basically connect it to your computer, initialize the drive and you are good to go. No need to open your computer to install the hard drive.

In terms of performance, streaming from Plex doesn't need a fast transfer rate. The highest quality movies on my Plex server need 20 Mbps to stream, and any external hard drive can easily transfer at that speed - even the slowest drives.

There are several popular external hard drive options that you can choose from. I am going to list some of the common options, and also the one I currently use.

Keep in mind that the options I list below are ready to use out of the box. You would just need to connect them to your computer. There are other options, such as buying an internal drive and a separate enclosure. I won't discuss those options below, though.

Western Digital MyBook

The first external hard drive is the popular Western Digital MyBook. It got its name because it used to look like books (the Elements still do). The MyBook comes in large capacities and is mainly for backups.

There is hardware encryption built into the MyBook, by when used to store media files for your Plex server, you may not want to enable that feature.

It comes formatted with exFAT, so it will work with both Windows and Mac out of the box.

It is more expensive than the Western Digital Elements, however, it does come with a 3-year warranty instead of 2 years.

A common question with the MyBook drives is regarding the type of hard drive included in the enclosure. The drive type is always unknown until it is connected and the drive identifier is read.

Western Digital Elements

The Western Digital Elements external hard drive is very similar to the MyBook, with a few differences. The first difference is the Elements still has the "book" look, while the MyBook is now more rectangular.

Another difference is that the Elements drive comes with a 2-year warranty, while the MyBook includes a 3-year warranty. Also, the Elements external hard drive does not include any built-in encryption.

The Elements drive, however, is cheaper than the MyBook, and if either the shorter warranty or the lack of encryption doesn't matter, then his would be the better choice.

Keep in mind that the Elements is NTFS formatted and will work with Windows. This means it will need to be reformatted to work with another system, such as a Mac.

Much like the MyBook, the Elements come in large capacities. Also like the MyBook, the drive that is included in the Elements enclosure is unknown.

Western Digital Duo

The Western Digital Duo gets its name from the fact that it contains two drives. It is a Direct Attached Storage device that connects to your computer using either a USB type C or USB type A port.

Similar to a NAS, the Duo supports RAID-0, RAID-1, or a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) configuration. Since it supports RAID, Western Digital includes Red drives in these devices.

Due to the fact that there are 2 drives, the Western Digital Duo comes in much larger capacities. By comparison, the Duo capacity could be double what you will find in either the MyBook or Elements drives.

I currently use a Western Digital Duo for storing my movie files and have no issues with streaming from my Duo.

Seagate Expansion

So far I have only talked about Western Digital's offerings. Not to be left out, Seagate also has the Seagate Expansion external hard drive.

It comes in large capacities and connects to a computer using a USB 3.0 connection. Much like the Western Digital competition, the Seagate Expansion is easy to find and is priced very similarly.

The drives are formatted in exFAT, which means they will work on either Windows or Mac computers.

The drives within the enclosure, however, aren't known and will require the drive to be connected and the drive ID to be determined.

Which external hard drive to use with your Plex server?

The section above listed several external hard drive options that you can choose from. The question is which one should you choose?

If you wanted to go with an external hard drive, then, in reality, it won't make a difference. It all depends on your budget, but any of the drives listed above would be able to easily stream your media from Plex.

As I stated above, I use the Western Digital Duo. I chose this because the drives are Western Digital Red drives, and I have them mirrored. This reduces the amount of space by half. If one drive were to fail (meaning it couldn't be read), I would still be able to read the second drive.

If your budget is tight, then you may want to look at one of the other options, such as the Western Digital MyBook, Elements, or the Seagate Expansion.

Regardless of which hard drive you choose, there really is no best external hard drive for a Plex server.