Review: ioSafe Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

Phil Morse | Read time: 4 mins
Club/Festival DJing digital music hard drives iosafe Pro
Last updated 4 March, 2019


For the digital DJ, a good external hard drive can – depending upon your laptop – be a “nice to have” or an absolute necessity.

It’s good to have to make backups of your music (obviously an essential, although there are online backup options too) or if you wish to DJ from someone else’s laptop and software (ITCH 2.0, for instance, has made this drag ‘n’ drop-simple to do). But it can also be essential if you don’t have space on your laptop for your music and so have no choice but to keep it all on an external drive.

Trouble is, external drives can be notoriously fickle. I think I’ve been through more external drives than DJ headphones, and for the life of me, I’m not sure why this should be the case. But it is; over the years, I’ve had drives refuse to be recognised, only work intermittently, just stop working for good, and generally prove more prone to damage than the vinyl records I historically used to rip to them.

So when I saw that the ioSafe Rugged Portable Hard Drive won a Best of CES award, and then saw the insane list of things they put it through in order to certify it as a true nutjob of a unit (it is crush-resistant to 5,000lbs, you can leave it 10 feet down in salt water for 3 days, and they’ve exposed it to blowing sand, freezing rain, UV…), I thought “this could be the solution I’ve been looking for”….

First impressions/setting up

On unboxing (you get a USB 3.0 micro cable, a custom USB 2.0 failsafe with two computer USB plugs on it to double the power the drive receives, just in case you can’t supply enough power through the USB 3.0 cable, the drive itself, plus instructions), it is immediately apparent that this is a well-built unit.

Similar in feel and style to the aluminium Apple MacBooks, it is carved out of aluminium (there’s a titanium option too), with a snug insert section underneath, and has four rubber feet and a single USB socket and status light at the back. Apart from a Kensington lock hole, that’s it. It screams quality, something that is reinforced by its weight. That way, it’s not as slim as some lesser-constructed portable drives.

ioSafe cable
The cable is sturdy and plugs into a micro USB socket on the unit.

The unit comes with a year’s free online backup to DRS’s service including data loss protection, so if you don’t have a service like this already and are interested, you get a decent length of time to try it out. This also comes with Genie9 Timeline Professional backup software, which is apparently like Apple’s Time Machine backup solution, but for Windows.

I’ve got the 250GB version (that’ll last me forever space-wise) but it also comes in 500Gb and 1TB versions. Why anyone would ever want a terabyte is beyond me, but there you go. It apparently comes in 5400 and 7200 RPM speeds; mine is a 5400 (I couldn’t actually find 7200 on their website).

The unit is certified to stop wind, rain, sand and diesel infiltrating the unit, even at the socket (they mention all of these things).

In use

There was no problem with my MacBook supplying power to it, and for completion’s sake I also plugged it into an ageing entry-level Sony Vaio we have here and that powered it up fine too. It’s good that they supply a “get out of jail” cable for any time when you may experience power problems.

I formatted it for the Mac using Disk Utility which took seconds, and – well, what more can you say? It works, and the question is, will it continue to work?

If it doesn’t, this review will get edited faster than the ioSafe’s blistering USB 3.0 transfer speed to indicate another #fail, but somehow I don’t think that’ll be the case. I hope so – my relatively modest-sized DJ collection is currently backing up to the unit as we speak.

Best I can say is that it inspires confidence and means I can retire my creaky old drive that’s been teetering on the edge of reliability (and capacity) for too long now. I’m looking forward to playing drag-and-drop DJ sets using this, and also using it to move raw movie files from office to home for editing in the evenings (something I am doing increasingly as Digital DJ Tips gets more video content, and that my 4GB USB stick can’t aid me with).


It looks great, especially alongside MacBooks; it feels the part; it comes in sensible sizes (250GB, 500GB and the aforementioned 1TB), and the fact that it’s USB 3.0 future-proofs it. (Note that there’s also a FireWire version available).

ioSafe drive
I tested it with Serato ITCH 2.0’s new drag and drop file functionality for moving tunes from laptop to laptop. One way to kill an hour…

It is not exactly cheap (around US$150 for the 250GB version), but it is a good value compared to some of the more flimsy alternatives.

If you’re a digital DJ who needs a rugged backup device, or you want to carry music around with you and Dropbox doesn’t suit your purposes, I can recommend this rugged little ioSafe device. Just remember to use the Kensington lock when you’re DJing with it in dodgy clubs – it’s certainly desirable and it can’t protect itself against light fingers.

Do you regularly back up your tunes? What solution do you use? Do you carry your tunes with you and play from other people’s software? Are hard drives even relevant in the Dropbox era? Please let us know your thoughts / and what solution you use in the comments.

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