About External Hard Drives For Mac

  1. About External Hard Drives For Mac Laptops
  2. Apple External Drive
  3. External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable
  4. About External Hard Drives For Mac Desktop
(Image credit: Western Digital)

Jul 08, 2021 Best External Hard Drives for MacBook in 2021. Although choosing an external hard drive is a complicated process but we have made a list of the 10 best external hard drives for Mac that you should consider before your final decision. Moreover, we have mentioned SSDs as well for those who want higher data transfer speed.

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Filling up the hard drive on your macOS machine isn't particularly difficult, which is where the best external hard drives for Mac come in: these plug-in drives add gigabytes of extra storage in an instant, giving you plenty of room for your photos, videos, music, podcasts and anything else you want to store. That's a fact.

You've got a huge amount of choice to pick from as well – from small and portable drives you can fit in your pocket, to hefty units that take up a substantial amount of desk space and can stream files to any computer on your local network.

You'll see two types of technology mentioned below – first HDD (Hard Disk Drive), which is the conventional, slower, mechanical technology. These can't compete on transfer speeds but do give you lots of capacity for not much money. Then there's SSD (Solid State Drive), faster storage technology with no moving parts for those who don't mind paying extra.

As we note in T3's best SSDs buying guide, these drives offer order of magnitude faster speeds than conventional HDDs, as found in many of the best external hard drives. Insane speed isn't everything though in extended storage, capacity is often the most important thing, so it's very much what product works best for a user's needs.

With so many makes and models out there, finding the best external hard drive for Mac can be tricky. Everyone's needs are different and the right drive for you depends on how you're going to use it, what you're going to store on it, how much you're willing to spend and several other factors.

Don't panic though because our buying guide will tell you everything you need to know: we've picked out the very best external hard drives for Mac machines that money can buy, and explained what makes each one so good.

The best external hard drives for Mac

The best external hard drive for Mac for most people

Specifications
Max read speed: 120MB/s
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

External hard drives don't have to be complicated at all, as the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD proves. It simply and efficiently gives you stacks of extra storage for your Mac, and at a very affordable price too. Here we've featured the cheaper, slower HDD version, but if you want to pay extra then a faster SSD model is available as well.

For most people, HDDs still offer the best value for money, even if you're going to have to wait a few extra seconds when you're copying large files over. Whether you go for the HDD or the SSD model, these drives are fully portable, so all you need is the drive and the USB3.0 cable (it has a USB-A connector but there is a USB-C adapter in the box).

A word too on the design of these drives, because they're some of the most stylish that we've come across. Whether you pick the white or the black finish, the woven fabric adds a touch of elegance to your Mac setup. As an added bonus, you get a 4-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography thrown in for free.

The best premium external hard drive for Mac

Specifications
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

About External Hard Drives For Mac Laptops

It's hard to go wrong with a LaCie drive – the premium brand has been putting out external hard drives for years and years at this point, and while they might often cost more in terms of price-per-gigabyte than other models, the extra investment is usually worth it. Which brings us nicely to one of their latest drives, the LaCie Portable SSD.

The name says just about everything you need to know about this external hard drive for Mac: it has super-fast SSD technology (with read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s), it's made by Lacie, and it's portable, so you can take it anywhere you like without a separate power brick. It's also pretty stylish in our opinion.

With the SSD technology installed here and the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface (a USB-C cable is included in the box), you can, for example, transfer around an hour of high-resolution video footage in under a minute. It's ideal if you're regularly shifting large amounts of data around on your computer(s).

The best external hard drive for Mac for storage capacity

Specifications
Max read speed: Not listed
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

The WD My Cloud Home Duo is certainly bulky, and it needs a separate power supply, but it's undoubtedly one of the best external hard drives for Mac in terms of overall storage capacity: depending on the disks you get installed inside the unit (and there are two bays), you can configure this to have up to 20TB of room.

That gives you the capacity for a lot of data, though you're going to have to pay accordingly. We're impressed by just how many configurations you can get this drive in – the capacities start at 4TB, so you really can choose a storage and price point to suit your needs and your budget, while getting all the usual Western Digital quality.

Besides storing your files, the Home Duo plugs directly into your router, which means it's instantly accessible from all the Macs in your home. It can work seamlessly with backup programs such as Time Machine, and the on-board software even lets you set up different slots of storage space for different users.

The best portable external hard drive for Mac

Specifications
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Reasons to buy
+No power supply required+2 metres drop resistance
Reasons to avoid

If you want an external hard drive that powers itself solely from the USB port it's plugged into, then the WD Elements SE SSD is absolutely worth a look: it's fast, it's stylish, and it's affordable, and it comes in capacities of up to 2TB as well. It's perfect for sliding into a bag or even a shirt pocket (depending on the size of your shirt pockets) while you're moving between computers and locations.

Western Digital has made this too tough, with drop resistance up to 2 metres (over 6 feet) and a tough plastic shell, as well as a 3-year warranty for some additional peace of mind. It makes use of a USB 3.0 interface and you get a USB-A cable in the box (check the ports available on your Mac to work out if you'll need an adapter).

While it's not the absolute fastest external hard drive for Mac you're going to come across, your files will still speed along as you transfer them to and from the drive, thanks to the SSD (solid-state drive) technology in play here. If 2TB is out of your budget, you can get it in 480GB or 1TB capacity configurations instead.

The best external hard drive for Mac for speedy transfers

Specifications
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

For those looking to pick up one of the fastest SSDs on the market without paying over the odds, the Samsung T7 has to be on your shortlist: this incredibly compact, remarkably fast external drive is a showcase for the power and potential of SSD technology, and it's likely to become your constant external storage companion if you invest in it.

Measuring just 85 mm x 57 mm x 8 mm and weighing in at just 58 grams, this is a very small drive – it's hard to visualise just how small it is until you've actually seen it for yourself, but it'll take up less room in your pocket or your bag than your smartphone will. It's definitely worth considering if you're on the move a lot and you like to travel light, and it's protected against drops of up to 2 metres, with a cool titanium exterior.

It's the speeds that are the star of the show here though, with read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s and the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2 technology for connecting the device to your Mac. You get a USB-A cable included in the box, so you may need to pick up an adapter or another cable if you only have the newer USB-C on your Mac.

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Looking for the best Mac external hard drive? This guide will take you through the options, and help you choose the right one for your needs at the best price.

The best MacBooks and iMacs are serious image and video-editing powerhouses, capable of pretty much anything you could throw at them. But as good as these machines are, upgradability is not where they shine. If you find you need extra storage space for your files after purchase, you'll either have to fork our a monthly fee to sign up to one of the best cloud storage providers, or you'll need to add an external storage device.

• See also: Best monitors for MacBook Pro

By far the most cost-effective way to get lots of extra storage is to add an external hard drive to your Mac. These desktop-mounted hard drives are powered by a mains AC outlet and attach to your Mac via a USB or Thunderbolt connection. Capacities range from 4TB (4 terabytes, equal to 4000 gigabytes) up to 30+TB, giving you plenty of space for high-res raw files or high bit-rate 4K video.

While pretty much any hard drive can be made to work with a Mac, some hard drives come set-up for exclusively Windows compatibility out of the box and would need to be reformatted to work with a Mac. This is a simple process, but on this list we're only featuring hard drives that come pre-formatted to work with both Windows and Mac straight away - no special set-up required. However, if you want to use your drive with Apple Time Machine back-up, even a dual purpose Windows+Mac drive may still need to be reformatted to be Time Machine compatible.

The best Mac external hard drive in 2021

Simply the best Mac external hard drive

Specifications
Technology: 7200RPM hard disk drive
Speed: Up to 255MB/s
Reasons to buy
+Fast Thunderbolt connectivity+Up to 18TB of storage+Gorgeous exterior
Reasons to avoid

An external hard drive for a modern Mac really needs Thunderbolt 3 connectivity to ensure the best possible performance, and with a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, this G-Drive offering is just the ticket. The sleek matte metal enclosure also looks the part alongside Apple hardware, and it hides some serious capacity.

The Thunderbolt 3 G-Drive is available with up to a whopping 18TB of storage, though capacities down to 4TB are also available, with more accessible pricing. The G-Drive is pre-formatted to work flawlessly with Mac devices right out of the box, and it's Time Machine compatible.

If you do buy a smaller capacity and find you need additional space later on, you can use that second Thunderbolt 3 port to daisy chain an additional G-Drive, so you won't need to use up another Thunderbolt port on your Mac.

The fastest external hard drive for an M1 iMac or MacBook

Specifications
Technology: NVMe SSD
Speed: Up to 2000MB/s
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Needs an M1 Mac to really shine-Only 2TB max capacity

If you're rocking one of the latest M1 MacBooks or iMacs, you're able to connect a hard drive using the latest Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 interface. Sadly, buying a hard drive that can utilise this tech is currently almost impossible, but this SanDisk drive is the next best thing. Although strictly speaking a portable hard drive rather than a device that lives on your desk, there's no reason why it can't be used in place of a bigger external desktop hard drive.

And while most external drives use older, slower mechanical hard disk drives to store your data, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2 is based around a blazing fast NVMe SSD. This is linked to your Mac via the short-lived USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 connection - the USB generation that directly preceded the current USB 4 standard - but the USB 4 ports on an M1 Mac are backward compatible with USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. That means this SSD can still unleash its maximum speed potential of up to 2000MB/s, really putting the 'extreme' in Extreme Pro!

Capacities range from 500GB to 2TB, which isn't all that much by today's standards, but the payoff is that this is one of the very fastest external hard drives for an M1 Mac. If you're using an older Intel-powered Mac, then we'd recommend the cheaper SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 (non 'Pro') as a portable option. It's slower on paper, but will operate at similar speeds to the Extreme Pro when connected to a USB 3.2 port.

Also bear in mind that both these drives will be pre-formatted to work with both Windows and Mac. However, if you want to use them with Time Machine, they'll need to be reformatted, but it's a simple procedure.

The best value Mac external hard drive

Mac
Specifications
Technology: Hard disk drive
Speed: Not stated
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you're just after a serious storage upgrade for your Mac without spending a fortune, this external hard drive from one of the biggest brands in the business is ideal. The Elements Desktop is based around a conventional hard drive rather than a speedy SSD, so don't expect it to set any speed records. But the upside is you pay far less per gigabyte of capacity, and you'll still find transfer speeds plenty quick enough for transferring high res images and HD video without too much waiting.

The drive does require a separate power source, but this is the case for most external desktop hard drives. Capacities range from 4TB to a humongous 18TB, and all are well priced for the capacity you get, but we reckon the 8TB version is a decent price/capacity compromise.

A Mac external hard drive, plus much more!

Specifications
Technology: Hard disk drive
Speed: Up to 440MB/s
Reasons to buy
+Safety of dual hard drives+Built-in card reader & USB hub+Lots of capacity options
Reasons to avoid

LaCie's '2big' external desktop drives each contain not one but two hard drives, with the idea being that your data is automatically copied onto both drives within, so should one drive fail, you'll still have a copy of your data on the other one - it's a technology called RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks.

The 2big Dock goes a step further by also including SD and CompactFlash card slots, so you can upload images and video directly to the 2big, or import them to editing software without the need for a separate card reader. There's also a USB 3.1 port for even greater data transfer versatility, while the dual Thunderbolt 3 ports allow for super-fast transfer speeds up to 440MB/s, as well as DisplayPort compatibility for supplementing your Mac's monitor with an additional 1080p or 4K display.

Capacities range from 8TB up to a huge 36TB, and all are backed by an impressive 5-year warranty.

An external hard drive with internet connectivity, and lots more besides

Specifications
Technology: Hard disk drive or SSD

Apple External Drive

Speed: Depends on installed drives
Reasons to buy
+Accessible via local network and internet+Media streaming features+Not the fastest USB connection
Reasons to avoid
-Hard disks are extra, adding cost-Some learning required
Hard

External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable

A NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive is essentially an external hard drive on steroids. It allows your entire photo and video collection to be stored in one physical location in your home or studio, just like a conventional external hard drive. But unlike a normal external hard drive, a NAS drive adds a network connection, so it can be linked via your internet router to your home network and the web. NAS drives are also loaded with a simple computer operating system, allowing you to browse their file contents, view photos and videos, all from a remote location.

Synology has a reputation for producing top quality NAS devices, and the DiskStation DS218play is a great option for amateur photographers. While offering typical NAS options, it's also a versatile home media hub that's able to stream images and video to computers and mobile devices, as well as Apple TV. The versatile built-in multimedia players - Video Station, Photo Station, and Audio Station, each of which having a companion mobile app - make it effortlessly easy to access and view your media files.

Just bear in mind that, unlike a conventional external hard drive, NAS drives are generally supplied without hard disks inside, so you'll also need to factor in the extra cost of two hard disks to make the DS218play operational.

About External Hard Drives For Mac Desktop

Read more: The best NAS drives

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