What’s The Best External Hard Drive for TV Recording?

You might have noticed that your new TV has a feature called USB Recording. What this feature does is allow you to record live programs to an external hard drive. With a proper hard drive, your TV can even pause and rewind programs. It makes it very convenient to save a TV show for later.

The good news is you probably already have a TV with this feature. The problem is you need a relatively fast hard drive that can write and read data fast enough to keep up with your TV.

Here are the best external hard drives for TV recording:

Best External Hard Drives for TVs (Samsung, LG, Sony, etc):

Keep in mind, these portable hard drives can be used with gaming consoles, computers, Macs, and other devices. Although we focus on the TV USB feature, you can use them for many other purposes. We’ll talk a bit more about how to use and buy a portable hard drive later on.

1 – Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable External Hard Drive

Key Selling Point: Budget-Friendly

Toshiba is a Japanese electronics company that’s well known for creating hard drives. The Toshiba Canvio Basic is a sleek, standard, USB 3.0 hard drive.

This hard drive weighs 150 grams and has a storage size of 1,000 GB (1 TB) and it uses HDD technology. These hard drives can also support up to 4 TB of data.

Most importantly, this hard drive uses USB 3.0 which has a max recorded transfer speed of 5.0 Gbps a second, more than enough to record TV shows. It’s also backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports, although the speed will be a little slower.

Overall all, if you’re looking for a basic, reliable, and “good enough” hard drive, then I recommend checking out the Toshiba Canvio Basic portable hard drive.

2 – Seagate Portable, 2 TB Hard Drive HDD

Notable Feature: 2TB of Storage, Compact Shell

Seagate is well known for creating portable hard drives. If you’re looking for an external hard drive that has a good storage capacity, the Seagate 2 TB external portable hard drive is a good choice. It comes with a nice and compact dark-grey shell.

Need more storage? Choose from the capacity selection, starting from 1 TB all the way to 5TB. You can also choose a portable SSD if you need a quick read and write speed. The Seagate Portable 2 TB HDD supports USB 3.0 and has a read speed of 120 MB a second.

Weighing only 190 grams, it’s extremely portable, and you can carry it with you almost anywhere. Not to mention it’s Plug and Play, and compatible with almost every device, including TVs, consoles, and Macs.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with Seagate hard drives.

3 – WD 1TB Elements Portable Hard Drive

Best Feature: Lightweight (130 Grams)

The WD Elements portable hard drive is another good choice for TVs. You can choose from a wide range of sizes, all the way up to 5 TB. This particular model has a nice black case with a small white LED notification light, so you can tell when the hard drive is in use.

The hard drive is incredibly light, weighing only 130 grams. The case is black with a sleek plastic finish and the company’s logo on one side. As usual, it uses USB 3.0 which is also backward compatible with USB 2.0.

To summarize, it’s a very nice, budget-friendly, portable hard drive.

4 – Transcend 1 TB Slim StoreJet 25M3S

What We Liked Most: One Touch Auto Backup

Transcend is another well-known electronics brand, it’s up there with Seagate. Transcend 1 TB Storejet 23M3S portable hard drive is one of the rugged series, ideal for outdoor adventures.

One notable feature is the casing is not the usual plastic, but anti-shock rubber. It offers complete protection, making this particular hard drive extremely durable.

The specifications are similar to the other portable hard drives, except this drive uses USB 3.1 instead of the standard 3.0. The upgrade offers slightly faster transfer speeds.

Another cool feature (requires the Transcend software) is the One Touch Auto-Backup button. When you press the physical button, the hard drive will automatically backup your data. Very convenient.

5 – LaCie Rugged Mini 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive

What Customers Love: Crush, Water, Drop, and Dust-proof Shell

Are you a travel blogger, photographer, or adventurer? Most portable hard drives are fragile and can easily break if dropped. The last thing that you want is the hard drive that contains all your precious travel pictures and videos to die on you.

The LaCie Rugged Mini portable hard drive solves that problem by encasing their hard drives in an extremely secure shell. The shell is resistant to drops, crushes, shocks, dust, and even water. One interesting feature is it can withstand 1000 KGs of pressure.

Besides the durable case, the hard drive uses a standard USB 3.0 connection, and there are options for other connector types, such as Thunderbolt, and USB-C. You can also choose from a variety of storage sizes, ranging from 500 GB to 5 TB.

“The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain Portable Drive has extremely fast Thunderbolt performance, innovative casing design, and also supports USB 3.0.” – CNET

What to Look for In a Hard Drive:

The upside to external hard drives is they’re cheaper than PVRS, but PVR boxes have many more features. Some PVR boxes also add more slots to expand external storage such as; SD CARD, USB, and even LAN.

External Hard Drive Won’t Work with my TV

Not every USB external hard drive will work with your TV or set-top box. In most cases, the reason an external hard drive won’t work with your TV is it’s using a file format that is not compatible with the TV.

Most plug and play external hard drives use either FAT32 or NTFS, both of which are readable by most PCs and devices. The problem is not every TV can read these formats. In fact, most TVs read-only FAT(12, 16, 32) and exFAT. To find out what file format your TV or set-top box can read you will have to look up the specific product model’s manual.

The solution to this would be to format the hard drive to a file format that is readable, a process that can take some time. Some TVs will allow you to format directly from their UI, while others will require the use of a separate device, such as a PC, to reformat the external hard drive.

Can You Use a USB Stick for TV Recordings?

You can use a USB stick for TV recordings but it should have a storage capacity of 64 GB or more. A USB stick is a cheaper alternative than buying a portable hard drive. Read this article, for more information on what’s the best size USB stick for TV recordings. 

How to Playback TV Recordings on PC

Before we continue, it’s important to clear up an issue. You’re probably thinking that you can record programmes from your TV, to an external HDD, and then later playback those recordings on a PC. As it turns out, that’s actually a lot more difficult than you think.

The reason for that is TV recordings are encrypted by the TV and are only playable on that specific TV. Most TV manufacturers encrypt recordings due to copyright issues. One possible way to bypass that roadblock is to use a video capture device connected to an HDMI splitter that can remove HDCP.

It’s a bit complicated, not to mention expensive, and there’s no guarantee it will work. To keep it simple (and legal), you should only watch the media on the same TV that recorded it.

How to Format USB Hard Drives for TV:

The process will vary depending on your TV manufacturer and model. I recommend looking up your specific TV’s model before you continue. Remember, formatting a hard drive removes all the data, and it may become unreadable on other devices too. The easiest way to do this is on a Windows 10 computer.

Before we continue, it’s important to clear up one point. While most TVs can support a variety of file formats, what you need to know is the only format that can support files larger than 4 GB is exFAT. Most TV recordings will be larger than 4GB. The max file size for exFAT is 16TB. For reference, 4GB can hold about 70 minutes of 1080P video.

  1. Connect the external HDD to a computer via USB
  2. In “My Computer” right-click on the external hard drive folder and select “Format”
  3. Under the “File System” drop-down, select exFAT
  4. Hit start and wait for the process to complete
  5. Remove USB, and plug it into your TV’s USB port
  6. You should be able to record from your TV to the hard drive now

Note: once again, the process and supported file format will vary depending on your TV. Sony TVs generally use either exFAT or FAT32 for external USB recordings. For large recordings, exFAT is required, but for smaller (up to 4GB) recording you can use FAT32.

Another point is some TVs have a minimum storage capacity. For example, USB storage devices that have a capacity of under 32GB are usually not compatible with TVs.

Watching Media from Portable HDD on a TV:

Most TVs that have a USB port will allow you to plug in a portable HDD to view media such as audio, movies, and images. The problem is most TVs do not support nearly as many file formats as Windows 10 and other devices.

If your TV can’t locate the media you want to watch on your USB hard drive, chances are it’s using an unreadable format. Generally, the most common file formats are readable on TVs, such as .MPEG, ,MP3, and .JPEG. For more information, take a look at Sony’s supported file formats. Supported formats on USB devices will vary depending on the TV manufacturer. You will have to convert the video file to one that’s supported on the TV for playback.

External Hard Drives vs PVR Boxes

External hard drives allow you to save recordings from a TV to bulk storage, but they don’t include any other features. A PVR (Personal Video Recorder) allows you to record more than one channel at the same time (depending on the number of tuners) to storage, rewind TV, recording HDMI input, and other great features.


You might have heard about SSD drives, they’re many times faster than normal mechanical drives because they use a different technology with no mechanical parts. Nowadays, most computers come with at least one SSD drive to handle important tasks, such as the operating system.

SSD Pros:

  • Very fast. Average read rate of 550 MBs a second (vs. 7200 RPM 120 Mb/s)
  • Durable, No Spinning Parts, Cooler

SSD Cons:

  • More Expensive than HDDs

SSDs are highly recommended for computers, but if you just need something portable, then a portable HDD is more than enough. SSDs also tend to be more expensive than mechanical hard drives. We don’t recommend an SSD for recording TV.


How Many Hours of Video Can I Fit Into 1 Terabyte HDD?

In most cases, you can fit about 500 hours of 1080P videos on a 1 terabyte HDD. There are many factors that can affect the size of the video file, such as resolution, sound quality, frame rate, format, compression, and many others.

Is a Portable SSD Worth It?

In my opinion, since portable hard drives won’t be in use most of the time, and mainly they’re used for storage, there’s no point in buying a portable SSD. An HDD will meet your requirements, and they’re much cheaper too.

How Long Do Portable Hard Drives Last?

There are many factors that can affect a portable hard drive’s lifespan, so it’s impossible to provide an exact answer. However, most portable hard drives can be used non-stop for at least three years before you might run into issues.

Do I Need to Format a Portable Hard Drive?

In most cases, portable hard drives will arrive in a plug-and-play condition. But many customers choose to manually format the hard drive just to make sure there’s no malware on them. You don’t need to format a portable hard drive, but some people prefer to do it.

How Much Space Do I Need?

That depends on what you plan to use the hard drive for. Content such as games and videos will take up much more space than family pictures. Generally, we recommend buying a portable hard drive that has at least 1 TB of space.

Is It Okay to Leave a Portable Hard Drive Plugged in 24/7?

Even when plugged in, most portable hard drives will go into standby mode when not in use. It’s totally fine to leave a portable hard drive plugged in. It won’t damage the components. As a matter of fact, hard drives are meant to always be plugged in.

Photo by Mishaal Zahed on Unsplash

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About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and blogger with over 10 years of experience, currently serving as Blue Cine Tech's AV Editor. Specialising in gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology, my work has been featured in top technology blogs. I'm dedicated to breaking down the complexities of the latest tech trends, from explaining the intricacies of Dolby Vision to optimising your streaming experience. This blog serves as a platform for my ongoing exploration of the ever-evolving tech landscape. If you see me at industry events like CES or IFA, feel free to say hello.

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