External Hard Disk Drive for Chromebook

Depending on how you use your Chromebook, an external Hard Disk Drive should not really be necessary. Please have a look at this page first instead:-

How to back up a Chromebook or Chromebox

It’s certainly a good idea not to burden the SSD of a Chromebook or Chromebox with lots of files. If you download music, video, PDF files etc. it’s better to remove them and store them elsewhere.

This is where you might think an external hard disk drive would come in handy. But my suggested route would be to routinely save downloaded files to a USB memory thumb drive and then transfer them to another computer (if you have one). Once there, the files could be backed up to an external  hard disk drive as part of a normal backup routine. By doing things this way, your precious files are not only stored elsewhere but backed up too.

If you don’t have another computer, and just want somewhere to move downloaded files to from your Chromebook, the answer may be to buy a USB external hard disk drive. The only problem here is that the files would only be stored in one location with no backup.  Always better to have a backup in case something goes wrong… especially so with anything that’s irreplaceable. Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid about this, but hard disks do occasionally fail – it’s happened to me twice.

So if you don’t have another computer and want a handy size external hard disk for your Chromebook, the best thing to do would be to buy as reliable a make as possible.

I’ve looked into this and the general consensus on the web is that the most reliable brand to go for is Western Digital. I came across quite a few tales of woe about Seagate drives for instance, so that’s probably one to avoid.

Reliability is probably the first priority for everyone but after that, perhaps one with a 500GB or 1TB capacity would be good. Other factors to consider include compact size, cost and maybe even style and colour. Another thing to bear in mind is that it would be better to have an external hard disk drive that does not need an external power source (or a second USB port for power as some do).

After looking around on the net, one that seems to fit the bill well is:-

Western Digital Portable Hard Disc for Chromebook

Western Digital My Passport 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive

It ticks all the boxes above, is USB 3.0/USB2.0 compliant and even comes in a choice of black, blue, red, silver or white.


  1. Perhaps another thing to consider is than the Chromebook does not recognize either thumb drives nor external hard drives. The only external storage thing I find it to recognize is a SD card. Please explain how use these with Chromebooks as you state. Perhaps there is a method of formatting a thumb drive or external hard drive so it works with a Chromebook. But then would we be able to get it to work with anything else. Or perhaps you have an interest (for some reason) to get people to purchase thumb drives and expensive external hard drives that they will than not be able to use for their intended use. I suppose if I had an interest in getting people to buy puppies, I could tell people to buy puppies as a storage source to.

    • Thank you for your enquiry and I’m sorry about the delay in replying. I’ve used thumb drives with both my original Samsung Series 5 Chromebook and more recently with my Samsung Series 5 550. Both with no problems and I’m wondering what I can do to help you.

      The thumb drives I’ve used have not been formatted in any special way and I’ve used probably about 3 or 4 different makes. Right now I’ve plugged in a HP thumb drive to my PC, copied a couple of JPEG photos to it, removed it and inserted it into my Chromebook and the files show up just fine. Did the same thing to transfer photos that I had downloaded to the Chromebook and moved them to the thumb drive and then to my PC. Again with no problems.

      What sort of files are you trying to copy or move? Is it some unusual file type? I could do a video for you giving a demo of what I have descriped above if that would be of any help.

  2. I agreed with howie, totally, until September 2013, the date of your (Harry) reply. Until then, and until an apparent software update USB drives were not recognized. Now, they are, and soorner or later (actually, maybe today) will get an external HD (my old one ended its life a year ago) and see if it is regognized now also.

    • Thank you for your input Charles. It’s interesting that you have had the same experience as Howie. The only possible explanation I can offer is that perhaps the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook fitted with the Exynos 5250 (ARM) processor rather than the Intel processors used in the previous models is/was the culprit. Good to hear that it now seems to have been solved though. Please bear in mind that this is a “one man” site and that my experience is limited to the original Samsung Series 5 and the later Series 5 550 models. They were both bought with my own money and nobody gives me models to try out or evaluate. This site was started by me with the intention of trying to spread the word about how good Chromebooks are as they tended to get quite a bad press at first. Having said that, I really need to try to spend some time on it as it now needs updated.

  3. My question is: will an external DVD/CD drive work with a Chromebook? My teenaged daughter got an HP Chromebook 14 for Christmas. She knew ahead of time that it didn’t have a DVD/CD drive, but she would like to watch some of our family’s DVDs on her Chromebook. Do you know if DVD/CD drives are recognized by the Chromebook? If so, are there any brands that are “more compatible” than others? Thanks for any experience or info. you can share.

    • Hi Sandi,

      Thank you for your question and I’ll do my best to assist. Before I do, can I just say that this is a “one-man” hobby type site and I do not claim to be an expert. That said, here are my findings and a suggestion that I think will help:-

      I tried connecting my external LG DVD drive to my Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook and inserted a movie DVD (The Bourne Identitiy). The Drive was recognised okay and I could see all the various files contained on the DVD. I then tried double clicking on a few of the files but the Chromebook did not recognise the file types. So that would seem to be a dead-end… but please read on for a solution that you may want to adopt.

      Next thing I tried was using an inexpensive ($9.95)and easy to use software program. This worked a treat and enabled me to convert and copy the entire DVD movie from my PC to a little USB Thumb Drive. I then inserted the USB Thumb Drive into my Chromebook, accessed the file on the Chromebook File Manager and voila – it worked just fine and enabled me to watch the movie on my Chromebook.

      There’s a demo of how to use the software at http://www.copydvdtoipad.com. I know this is primarily intended for an iPad but both the iPad and Chromebook have the same 4:3 screen aspect ratio. In fact the process for the Chromebook is easier as there’s no need to have to move the converted file via iTunes as shown in the demo video. It’s just a case of using a PC to convert the file to a USB Thumb Drive and then plug it into the Chromebook!

      I have personally just tried it out and the movie appears great on my Chromebook screen.

      Hope that helps and let me know if you have any problems as I know this works.


  4. Gerry Davis says:

    I would like to hold confidential data on a password protected text file. The file to cover login names and passwords for things such as financial services. I would also like to keep such a file on my own devices and not share such a file with any cloud service whether Google or Microsoft. Can this be done using a Chromebook and if so, do you know how this would be done?

    Chromebooks are walled off against malware and therefore good for use with Internet financial services. The ability to use, without sharing, a protected file of login names and passwords would be helpful for such a purpose.


    Gerry Davis

    • Hi Gerry,

      Very good question and I don’t have a very good answer I’m afraid… but read on:-

      I save my user names, passwords etc on my desktop PC in the form of a password protected Excel file. As an experiment, I saved that Excel file to a SD card and then inserted the SD card into my Chromebook. I then opened the Chromebook File Manager (Ctrl + O) after logging in as usual) and selected the SD card and tried to open the file. A message then appeared on the screen saying:-

      “This file is password protected. We do not support protected files today, but we are working on it”

      This is what I was expecting to happen but it’s encouraging to note that Google seem to be working on it. So, as I said, not a great answer to your question but as a workaround how about simply saving your (unprotected) text file to a SD card (or USB Thumb Drive) and only insert it into your Chromebook when it’s needed?



  5. Hey I was wondering if I converted the chromebook to Linux and then use an external hard drive and put iTunes in it. Do you think it might work?

    • I’m sorry, I wish I could help but have no personal experience of what you are thinking of doing and I simply don’t know if it would work or not.



  6. Thanks for publishing this awesome article. I’m a long time reader but
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  7. I believe everything wrote made a bunch of sense. However, think on this, suppose you added a little information? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how
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    • Fair point. I started off this site about five years ago with an almost evangelical attitude towards Chromebooks . I didn’t think Chromebooks were getting a fair press and people just didn’t understand what a great idea they were. Hence the site.

      I think the penny has dropped now with lots of people and I’m not really very excited about updating things.

      Thanks for your input though and if I take the urge to re-vitalise the site I’ll try to take your points on board.


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