Best Mac Backup Drive Uk

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It wasn’t just a new number that came with Big Sur, finally turning macOS from 10.x to 11, but a new way of thinking about the difference between system files and your own data. In the past, many of us had bootable external drives, regularly updated, that we could use to start up our Macs in a pinch, such as when we had a drive failure or some kind of corruption or other problem that required wiping a disk altogether. We might boot from the drive to keep on working, or use the files on the drive to restore our Mac quickly—a fast copy instead of a system reinstallation.

But it’s a new world: Big Sur resists the ideas of a bootable external backup, though more particularly it resists easily updating an external copy of your startup volume’s system files. In this Mac 911 column, let’s start with an explanation of why that is, so you understand exactly how difficult the task has become, and then proceed to the best new strategy.

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Apple splits the startup volume into two pieces

Apple phased in the process of changing how it organizes the startup volume through a phase in of the APFS (Apple File System). APFS first became mandatory for SSD-based Macs and then for ones with a Fusion drive. APFS allowed more a sophisticated organization of aspects of macOS in the startup volume’s partition. Along the way, Apple kept adding more features to APFS.

This culminated in macOS 10.15 Catalina in splitting macOS into two pieces, which appear seamlessly as a single unit in the Finder, but which severed a long-time intermingling of files. With the concept of a volume group in APFS, Catalina organized all system files and core apps into one volume and all user-owned and user-modifiable data, third-party apps, and some Apple apps into another. The system volume is read-only and locked against modification during an active macOS session; the Data volume can be read and written, and apps on its may be launched. (The Big Sur volume isn’t even mounted directly, but as a read-only APFS snapshot, making it even harder for an attacker to find a way in.)

Big Sur took that one step further in a way that affects your ability to continue to make backups of the style you might be accustomed to, and which requires a rethink for the present and future. Big Sur picked up on the system/Data volume division of Catalina, but added another layer: when installed or upgraded, macOS’s system volume has a cryptographic wrapper around it that prevents the slighest modification without detection.

Apple calls this a Sealed System Volume, and it’s another layer of protection against both malware and other attempts to subvert your system to spy on you, corrupt your data, or exfiltrate personal information. But it’s not designed to be backed up in the way that macOS 10.14 and earlier were, and even how Shirt Pocket (SuperDuper) and Bombich Software (Carbon Copy Cloner) managed to get full Catalina backups working, too.

Essentially, a Big Sur system volume has to be installed on a freshly erased disk, because the process of making the seal is unique to each volume. Any change to even a single bit in the volume causes validation to fail (breaking the “seal”). Apple offers a bypass that Carbon Copy Cloner has managed to take advantage of, which is a low-level copying tool called asr that can in some (but not all) circumstances copy Big Sur’s system volume from an internal to an external drive and keep it in bootable shape. However, the folks at Bombich include a long list of provisos about what might go wrong during copying.

Even after making a valid bootable system copy, keeping it up to date is problematic:

  • You can’t apply changes to the system volume. You either have to erase the drive and copy everything again, or boot with the external startup volume and perform a software update within an active Big Sur session.
  • Updates to the Data volume on your internal drive when copied to the external could actually cause changes that prevent that external drive from starting up your Mac successfully.

(You can still opt to use an external drive as your main startup volume in Big Sur, just as with previous macOS releases. I switched my iMac from its slow internal Fusion drive to an external SSD months ago and then upgraded it to Big Sur and performed subsequent macOS updates without a problem. However, it’s my primary startup drive, not a backup.)

Bombich argues, as does Howard Oakley of the invaluable technical resource site Eclectic Light and Adam Engst of TidBITS, that it’s time for those of us interested only in being able to restore our Macs, not boot from an external drive, to give up on worrying about having a copy of the system volume on hand at all.

Back up the Data drive and don’t worry about the system

In this new way of doing things, your Data volume in the volume group is paramount. This makes sense: all the files in the system volume are immutable once installed and sealed into the volume. There’s no variability in them after you install or upgrade macOS. (If you don’t have a speedy internet connection or would prefer to always have a system installer on hand, you can make a bootable Big Sur installer; we provide instructions.)

You have a lot of choices for making an exact copy of your Data volume and keeping it up to date:

  • Time Machine: Apple naturally continues to update Time Machine with each release of macOS, and after the first full backup of your Mac to Time Machine, you have a complete copy of your Data volume.
  • Disk Utility: Disk Utility allows selection of the Data volume so it can be copied to a disk image or backed up as a separate volume on a drive.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner:Carbon Copy Cloner has deprecated full drive clones in Big Sur of the sort described above, and its default “standard” mode creates a full clone of the Data volume, which it can upgrade incrementally. (Like Time Machine, it uses an APFS feature for snapshots, allowing a quick rollback, too.)
  • ChronoSync: The synchronization and cloning software ChronoSync from Econ Technologies is adept at keeping files and folders in sync across many targets—folders, volumes, SFTP servers, cloud servers, etc.—but it can also create clones and archives of the Data volume.

(The long-running SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket is close to releasing a Big Sur-compatible update that’s free to existing registered users.)

When you hit a bump in the road and have to erase your startup volume, have your Mac or its drive replaced, or are migrating to a new Mac, you can restore through multiple options, too:

  • Migration Assistant: With a freshly installed copy of macOS on an erased drive or on a new Mac, you can choose a Time Machine backup to restore the Data volume.
  • recoveryOS: If the Mac has a working copy of recoveryOS—which it should after a fresh install or on a new Mac—you can instead start up into recoveryOS and restore from Time Machine there. (On an Intel Mac: choose  > Restart and hold down Command-R until macOS Recovery appears. On an Apple silicon Mac: choose  > Shut Down. When powered down, press and hold the power button until the startup options screen appears and click Options to authenticate and proceed to the macOS Recovery screen.)
  • Disk Utility: Via recoveryOS, you can also use Disk Utility to restore the Data volume from any mountable volume or from a disk image stored on a mountable volume. Such a volume can be created by Disk Utility, Carbon Copy Cloner, or ChronoSync. After following the steps just above to reboot into recoveryOS and reach macOS Recovery, choose Utilities > Disk Utility. Apple provides instructions.

I know the security blanket of having a fully bootable external drive has meant a lot to many of us in the past, sometimes meaning the difference between getting back to work right away in the event of an internal drive problem and it taking hours to days. But Apple’s made the process of getting a Mac back into order so much simpler that for most of us, it’s time to make the backup change.

Anyone who uses a Mac computer knows that the included internal hard drive tends to fill up quickly. The best solution, especially for those using a portable Mac, is an external hard drive. Read on for our reviews of five of the best external hard drives for Macs....Read more...Read less

Password protection with WD Security, as well as built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption, helps keep your content safe and secure from prying eyes.

A little noisy.

The Western Digital 2TB My Passport external hard drive fits easily in the palm of your hand, so you can take all your material with you wherever you go. Choose the storage capacity you need and enjoy high-speed data transfers.

detailed parameters


5 TB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, 500 GB

1 x USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible, USB-C ready)

WD Discovery™ software for WD Backup™, WD Security™ and WD Drive Utilities™, compatible with Time Machine

210 g

Requires reformatting for other operating systems

3 years limited

The drive boasts the highest data transfer speed of 540 MB/s, so you can quickly place your photos, playlists, documents and much more on the device.

It may noticeably heat up during operation.

This external LaCie Mobile hard drive provides easy access to your data, as well as automatic file backups. The 30th anniversary diamond-cut design will definitely not leave anyone indifferent. For your convenience, it comes with a USB-C cable and a USB 3.0 cable.

detailed parameters


4 TB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 5 TB

1 x USB-C, USB 3.0 Ready

LaCie Toolkit: backup and mirroring software

400 g

Best Mac Backup Drive Uku

Windows, macOS

2 years limited

The set includes two USB-A and USB-C cables, thanks to which you can easily connect the drive to devices of both the new generation and the previous one.

Formatting is required to connect to backup systems.

The Toshiba Canvio Flex external hard drive is ready to go out of the box, in an elegant silver casing, compatible with both PCs and tablets based on iOS and Android. Reads data at a speed of 530 Gigabytes Per Second, does not make noise, and does not heat up.

detailed parameters


1 TB, 500 GB, 2 TB, 4 TB

1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB 2.0 compatible)

Time Machine backup system compatible (but needs formatting)

149 g

Windows, macOS

3 years

Along with the device, you get a free one-year subscription to Mylio Create, a handy photo organization app with editing options. A four-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photo (Photography Plan) is also offered.

The supplied USB Type-C adapter may not fit some smartphones.

The Seagate One Touch External HDD, housed in a sturdy aluminum case, will provide fast data read speeds of 120 Megabytes Per Second. Organizing and streaming huge collections of photos and videos is now even easier and more convenient.

detailed parameters


4 TB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 5 TB, 6 TB, 8 TB

1 x USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible, USB-C ready)

Sync Plus software protection, automatic hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly backups

256 g

Windows, macOS


The USB cable is integrated inside the case, so you will never need to worry about losing it. All interfaces are securely closed with a dense plug.

Instructions are sparse.

The LaCie portable external hard drive is one of the best protected from dust, sand, moisture and physical damage. Its body is made of durable aluminium with a sheath of shockproof rubber coating of a bright orange colour, very pleasant to the touch.

detailed parameters Best Mac Backup Drive Uk


2 TB, 500 GB, 1 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB

1 x USB-C

LaCie backup software. compatible with Time Machine and Windows Backup

100 g

Windows, macOS

3 year

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WD My Passport External Hard Drive

Take Your Data Anywhere

There is something to be said about the latest advances in technology. Thousands of pages of data are now instantly accessible to us, stored on a small computer whereas just a few decades ago they would have required a large file cabinet. Today, you can take several file cabinets worth of data with you anywhere, along with all of the movies and music and photos that you want, thanks to the WD My Passport External Hard Drive. This drive, which is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, holds up to 5 TB of data, with other capacities available as well. This is enough for most people who have large data storage needs, such as those who often work on large video files.

Just having the data with you is one thing, but what about keeping that data secure? This is a huge concern with any portable hard drive, yet this WD external HD has you covered. The WD Security gives you built-in password protection as well as 256-bit AES hardware encryption, which keeps your data completely safe from prying eyes. For Mac users, setting up the hard drive is extremely simple - just plug it into your Mac's USB port, and it should be instantly ready to go. If you're a Mac user who need a high capacity storage solution for your MacBook, then this drive is definitely one of the top options available.

Additional Info

Last updated price£110.06
Stock In stock

LaCie Mobile Drive External HDD

Fast Data Access

LaCie has been one of the most well-known makers of peripherals for Macs, including portable hard drives, and they have become a favorite of many Mac users due to their high-performance devices that are designed to match most Mac computers. You get these same qualities in the LaCie Mobile Drive for Mac, with a 30th anniversary diamond-cut design that will go quite well with any MacBook or Mac Mini, giving you a stylish design along with high performance. This drive comes with 4 TB of storage capacity, with other capacities available as well, letting you choose the right one for your data storage needs.

Looks aren't the only thing going for this external hard drive. Along with the high data capacity, you also get extremely fast data transfer speeds, with the performance measuring up to 540 MB/s in read operations. This gives you near-instantaneous access to any files stored on the drive, no matter how large or small they are. The drive includes a USB 3.0 Type-C connector that lets you plug the drive into your Mac, with it being ready to use right off the bat. There is even back-up software included that lets you set up regular backups for your Mac's internal hard drive or SSD. All in all, this high-performance drive from LaCie should be the best companion for anyone's Mac.

Additional Info

Last updated price£114.12
Stock In stock

Toshiba Canvio Flex

Plug and Play Drive

One of the nice things about most USB devices nowadays is that many of them are truly 'plug and play', meaning that you really don't have to do any configuration in order to get it to work. Just like any device made to be plug and play, the Toshiba Canvio Flex external hard drive is ready to go out of the box. Coming in an elegant silver casing, this drive is compatible with both PCs and tablets based on iOS and Android along with Macs, so compatibility issues won't be a problem here, no matter which device you plan to connect it to. The overall performance is also no slouch, as the drive reads data at a speed of 530 Gigabytes Per Second, does not make noise, and does not heat up, making it an ideal drive for those on the go.

With the differing USB ports that are in use now, it can often be frustrating to buy a USB device but then find that its connector is not compatible with the USB interface on your computer. Again, this problem has been easily solved by Toshiba. The set includes two USB-A and USB-C cables, thanks to which you can easily connect the drive to both new and old devices, regardless of which type of USB port the device contains. If you are planning on using this device on a Mac, it is fully compatible with Time Machine, although it will require reformatting before you can use it, so please take note of that. Outside of this one issue, this external hard drive is a top choice as an affordable external storage solution.

Additional Info

Last updated price£42.99
Stock In stock

Seagate One Touch

Sturdy Storage

One of the biggest hard drive manufacturers has their own drive that is compatible with the Mac. The Seagate One Touch External HDD, which is housed in a sturdy aluminum case, will provide fast data read speeds of 120 Megabytes Per Second, giving you fast storage access in a very safe enclosure. The drive comes in a variety of different capacities, with the one reviewed here having 4 TB of storage. Plenty of other capacities are also available, so those with larger or smaller storage needs won't feel left out. Regardless of the size that you opt for, organizing and streaming huge collections of photos and videos is now easier and more convenient than ever.

Nowadays, it is quite common for an external hard drive to come with a few extras, and that's exactly what you get with this device. Along with the external hard drive, you get a free one-year subscription to Mylio Create, a handy photo organization app with editing options. A four-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photo (Photography Plan) is also offered, making this drive a great choice for those who work with photos on either an amateur or professional basis. The drive itself even comes in one of three different colours, so you can choose the model that best matches the laptop or device that you will connect it to. Overall, this external hard drive is a solid choice for anyone who values quick and easy portable storage options.

Additional Info

Last updated price£84.99
Stock In stock

LaCie Rugged External

Rugged and Classy

The LaCie Rugged (USB-C + USB 3.0) Portable 2.5 Inch External Hard Drive is an external hard drive that is sure to please any Mac user. Featuring a ruggedised external case with a beautiful orange bumper, this hard drive is extremely resistant to any kinds of drops or jolts, meaning that the drive operation will continue uninterrupted and that your data will remain safe. The drive connects to your Mac through a USB 3.0 connection, providing blazing fast transfer speeds of up to 130 MB/s. The 1 TB of storage capacity ensures that you have plenty of room to store your data, including large files common with photo and video editing. The speed of the drive also ensures that data transfers will happen quickly.

Along with the great looks and blazing fast speed, the drive comes with extras including the LaCie backup software, although the drive is fully compatible with Time Machine as well. The LaCie backup software is easy to use and takes only a few moments to configure it to automatically backup all of your important data. The drive itself is also quite easy to use, operating in a true plug and play fashion. As this drive both looks and works great, it has positioned itself as one of the best external hard drives for Mac, and any Mac user should be pleased with it.

Additional Info

Last updated price£88.77
Stock In stock

Best Mac Backup Drive Uk To Us

What Is an External Hard Drive for Mac?

Most people who have used computers extensively know what hard drivesare. They are devices, usually built-in to the system, that are used for storing large amounts of data. All software on a computer, including the operating system, is installed and stored on the internal hard drive. Many computers, including Macs, tend to come with small internal hard drives or solid-state drives that will quickly become full, especially with heavy computer users, and the need for expanding the internal storage comes into play.

One of the best and easiest ways of increasing the storage capacity of your Mac is by connecting an external hard drive. External hard drives are generally the same as internal drives, in that they are a physical drive that stores data on spinning metal plates. In the case of an external hard drive, the drive itself is stored inside an enclosure that includes the proper ports for connecting it to your Mac. Most external hard drives connect to a Mac either through the USB port, or through the Mac's Thunderbolt port, and thus will likely come with the appropriate cable.

If you are looking for an external hard drive to connect to a Windows PC instead of to a Mac, check our reviews of five of the best external hard drives in the UK.

What Features to Compare

Most external hard drives that are available on the market are actually compatible with a Mac, even those that are labelled as being for Windows PCs only. A Mac is able to interface with and read data that is stored on an external hard drive that has been formatted for PC. However, many of the tools that are included with the external hard drive may not be compatible with the Mac, which can be a problem if you wish to utilise those tools. For finding the best type of external hard drive to connect to your Mac, there are a few things that you will want to pay attention to before purchasing an external hard drive.


The total capacity of an external hard drive is going to be important, especially for those who work with lots of data. The larger a hard drive is, the more data that can be stored on it, so those who have large data workloads will want to buy the highest capacity hard drive possible. Thankfully, many of the hard drives featured in these reviews come in multiple capacities, so there should be plenty of choice for both low and high capacity hard drives.

Operating System Support

Best Mac Backup Drive Uk To United States

Many external hard drives will show that they are compatible with both PCs and Macs, while others will show that they are compatible only with one or the other. As stated above, virtually any external hard drive will work with a Mac, including those labelled as being for PCs only. However, finding a drive that lists itself as being compatible with both will be ideal, especially if the hard drive is going to be shared between a Mac and PC computer. A Mac is able to read PC formatted hard drives, but a Windows PC can't read a Mac-formatted drive, so if you need to share the drive between both types of systems, get one that is listed as being compatible with both.


The interface is what the external hard drive will use to connect to your Mac. The two main interfaces you will find are USB and Thunderbolt. If you are using an older Mac that does not have a Thunderbolt port, then you will want a hard drive that connects through USB. Likewise, if you need to share the drive with a Windows PC, USB support for the drive will be a necessity.

Backup Support

Many external hard drives will come with backup software that is ready to use, whereas others will come with no software at all. Almost any external hard drive is going to be compatible with Apple's Time Machine backup software, but if you prefer to use different backup software, you might want to opt for an external hard drive that comes with its own backup software solution.

Although most external hard drives should work fine with your Mac, keeping the above characteristics in mind when looking for the best external hard drive for Mac will ensure that you make the best choice possible.

Did you know?

Connecting an External Hard Drive to Mac

Those who are either computer novices or who spend much more time doing productive work on a computer than in getting to know the ins and outs of it may be unsure of what all needs to be done to connect an external hard drive. Thankfully, it is a relatively simple procedure, especially with a Mac. Most hard drives that advertise themselves as being Mac compatible will often come pre-formatted with a compatible file system, usually either HFS+ or NTFS (Windows file system). It should be noted, however, that Macs can only read data from NTFS formatted hard drives, not write to them. Some other hard drives may come without being formatted, although this is actually rare. For those that are already formatted, simply plugging the drive into the USB or Thunderbolt port should be enough. Once the drive is connected, the Mac should automatically recognize the drive and place an icon for it on the desktop.

Formatting an External Hard Drive

In the case of getting an external hard drive that is either unformatted, or pre-formatted for Windows as NTFS, the formatting procedure is still very simple. When the drive is connected to the Mac, it may or may not show an icon on the desktop. Drives that come pre-formatted as NTFS will display the icon, but usually give you a warning that the drive is read-only. If this is the case, or the drive is not appearing on the desktop, then you will need to open Disk Utility by clicking on the Go menu at the top, select Utilities, and then select Disk Utility.

In the Disk Utility window, you should see the external hard drive listed there, and labeled as an external drive. Select the drive, and then select Partition near the top. Here you can set a new name for the volume, choose the size of the partition up to the maximum possible size, and also select the file system to use for the drive. If you are needing to read and write data to and from the hard drive, then you want to format the drive as 'OS X Extended (Journaled)'. Once the drive has finished partitioning and formatting, it should be ready to go, which will be indicated by the drive icon appearing on the desktop.

For those who need further assistance with connecting and formatting a new external hard drive for Mac, this page has more detailed instructions on this process.

Backup Data to New External Hard Drive

Some of those who purchased a new external hard drive for Mac may want to use the drive for backup purposes rather than for extending their total storage capacity. If you are wanting to use the drive to make backups of your important data, this can easily be done through Apple's Time Machine utility. When an external hard drive is first connected to the Mac, you may see a pop-up asking you how you want to use the new drive. On this pop-up, clicking on 'Use as Backup Disk' will automatically prepare the drive to be used for backups. If you want the backups to be password protected, then selecting the 'Encrypt Backup Disk' checkbox will ensure that only you have access to the backup disk.

Mac Backup Utility

For detailed instructions on how to set up Time Machine to automatically backup data to the new hard drive, please read the Apple Support Page for How to use Time Machine to back up or restore your Mac.

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