External Hard Drive For Mac And Ipad

The best external hard drives for Macs are more vital than ever, especially with the latest MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch being even pricier than their older counterparts. Hard drives are a vital tool for professionals, especially those in the creative field who deal with large files. But, with Macs and MacBooks making it expensive to upgrade their storage, these storage solutions have become indispensable.

Finding a reliable external hard drive for your Mac lets you acquire more storage space without having to shell out a lot of cash, making it the most cost-effective solution. That’s especially if you don’t really need something incredibly speedy – for even faster read and write speeds, you might want to consider an SSD. Even if you can afford to spend more, you’re getting more storage capacity with an external hard drive. As a bonus, these drives are also built to be light, portable, and rugged.

Get one of the best external hard drives made for Macs for your storage upgrade needs. Here are our top picks below, alongside our price comparison tool so you can also get the best deal available.

LaCie 5TB Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive. G-Technology 500GB G-DRIVE mobile SSD R-Series Storage - Previous Gallery Image. G-Technology 500GB G-DRIVE mobile SSD R-Series Storage - Next Gallery Image. Dec 05, 2021 This is a great external hard drive for your Mac if you are concerned about keeping your data safe and secure. Western Digital My Passport Ultra features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption.

Protect the data on your external hard drive with this cloud storage solution

IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.


Protect the data on your external hard drive with this cloud storage solution

IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.

1. Western Digital My Passport 4TB external hard drive

Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

This is the latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport external hard drives comes in capacities from 1TB to 4TB, and features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own backup software. While transfer speeds aren't the quickest, due to its USB 3.0 connection, it offers a good balance between speed, capacity and price.

2. Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt external hard drive

Interface: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Low price compared to other Thunderbolt drives+Mac-formatted
Reasons to avoid

If you want to make use of your Mac's Thunderbolt port, then this is the best external hard drive for Macs. It provides twice the speeds of standard USB 3.0 drives. It still uses a traditional hard drive, rather than an SSD, and while this means speeds aren't quite as fast as possible, it at least keeps the price down, while offering large capacities. There's also a USB 3.0 port for connecting to computers that don't have a Thunderbolt port.

3. G-Technology G-Drive USB 3.0 4TB external hard drive

Interface: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, FireWire
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

This is one of the fastest high capacity hard drives you can plug into your Mac, with a huge 4TB of storage space that zips along its USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire connection. The all-aluminium enclosure gives the drive a premium look and feel, while also protecting your data from knocks and drops, and keeping the drive cool when used.

Speedy and large

Interface: USB 3.1
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you really want a super-fast external hard drive for your Mac, then the Samsung T3 SSD is easily one of the best. As it uses a solid state drive, the read and write speeds of this drive are much faster than external hard drives that use traditional hard drives. It does mean the price is higher, but if transfer speed is the most important consideration when looking for the best external hard drive for your Mac, then this is the drive to go for.

5. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC external hard drive

Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

With compatibility for both Mac and Windows machines, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC is very flexible, and comes with a rugged case that's dust and water resistant, along with a built-in USB 3.0 cable. Not only is your data kept protected from knocks and drops with the rugged shell, but it's also got 256-bit AES security features and NFC (Near Field Communication) features as well. This is a great external hard drive for your Mac if you are concerned about keeping your data safe and secure.

6. Western Digital My Passport Ultra external hard drive

Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Large capacity+Type-C connector+Suite of applications
Reasons to avoid

The latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport Ultra range of external hard drives has landed, coming in sizes from 1TB to 4TB. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own software suite.

It is a good performer when it comes to data transfer speeds but doesn't come near the top of the leaderboard. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't reach the top speeds of solid state external drives, but for external hard drives based on traditional HDDs, this is the drive to consider.

USB-C star

Interface: USB-C
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-You need USB-C ports to take advantage of speed

You may have stumbled upon the LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive when perusing the Apple website for USB-C accessories. There’s a reason for that: the Porsche Design ships with both USB Type-C to Type-A and USB Type-C to Type-C connectors, making it a worthy candidate regardless of your setup.

It’s expensive for an external hard drive, don’t get us wrong, especially if you’re in the market for the top-end 4TB option. On the other hand, this is an HDD that could theoretically output speeds of up to 5Gbps, if it weren’t hindered by the limits of SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) technology. With MacBooks coming with USB Type-C connections, this is an excellent - and stylish - external hard drive that makes the most of this speedy new port.

A brilliant external hard drive for extra security

Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you're worried about people getting access to your data if your external hard drive is stolen, than you'll like the iStorage drive here. If someone tries to tamper with your iStorage drive, you can configure it to self-desturct. What's more, the data is encrypted by the 256-bit AES protocol, with multiple forms of protection in place to ensure the bad guys don't get in no matter how persistent. When you consider all that extra security, the prices won't scare you away either. It's more pricey than the other drives of its capacity, but the extra security it offers will be well worth it for many people.

What to look for in a external hard drive for your Mac

When choosing the best external hard drive for your Mac, you need to consider other things beyond storage capacity and price. Of course, those two things are absolutely vital. Finding one that’s not only affordable, but has enough storage space – a minimum of 1TB is highly recommended – for your present and future needs is definitely ideal, even if you have more than enough money to splurge for something expensive.

Another deciding factor, however, is the connection. Many external hard drives have USB 3.0 connections, but since MacBooks and Mac accessories rely on the power and data transfer speed of USB-Cs, USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 or 4 connections are certainly favorable.

If you’re storing very important files, especially for work, consider getting one that has more robust security features. There are other things as well, including a rugged build if you plan on taking it out in the field with you, and portability if you plan on traveling around with it.

Best external hard drives for Mac: How we chose them?

While we will talk mostly about hard drives as storage device write and read on spinning metal or glass platters, we have to mention SSD (solid state drives) as well as they have grown both in capacity and in performance. That however came at the cost of endurance, especially at the lower end of the market and is likely to be an issue if you use our SSD storage extensively.

All newer MacBook and desktop Macs (iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro) come with one or more Thunderbolt ports which are also compatible with USB Type-C. So we look not only at the versatility and general performance of the drives - across a number of benchmarks - but also their relevance to specific use cases, after sales and warranty as well as sheer value for money.

You might also want to check out the best PS5 external hard drives.

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Buying an external hard drive or SSD for your Mac is not all that different from buying one for your Windows PC. Most laptops with either operating system now come with at least one oval-shaped USB-C port, and it's the one you'll want to use for connecting your external drive. The main difference is that many drives made specifically for Macs use the upgraded Thunderbolt data transfer protocol, which promises super-fast data transfers for photographers and video editors who need to store mountains of footage and access it very quickly. As a result, they are typically external SSDs, or even multidrive RAID arrays, which means they also tend to be expensive.

So what's a Mac user to do who just wants to back up his or her files using Time Machine, or stash a large video collection? Spoiler: A Thunderbolt drive isn't your only option; far from it. In fact, in many cases it makes sense to choose an inexpensive non-Thunderbolt drive that isn't targeted toward Mac use. Read on as we solve this and all of your other Mac external-storage quandaries.

File-System Considerations

Before we get to Thunderbolt, we need to address a basic building block of hard drives that has always affected compatibility, and probably always will: the file system.

An external drive's file system is the most important factor that determines whether or not it's readable by Macs, PCs, or both. Starting with macOS 'High Sierra,' Cupertino ditched its venerable Mac OS Extended file system, commonly abbreviated as HFS+, and switched to an entirely new file system. It's simply called the Apple File System (APFS), and it's the first format to be used across both Macs and iOS devices.

The Best Mac External Hard Drive and SSD Deals This Week*

*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains

  • WD My Passport 5TB Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive — $109.99(List Price $149.99)
  • WD Elements 1TB Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive — $47.99(List Price $84)
  • WD Elements 18TB Desktop External USB 3.0 Hard Drive — $379.99(List Price $529.99)
  • Toshiba Canvio Flex 2TB Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive — $55.19(List Price $74.99)
  • LaCie Rugged Mini 4TB Portable USB 3.0 Hard Drive — $114.99(List Price $159.99)

There are many benefits to switching from HFS+ to APFS, including better security thanks to native encryption, but the most important thing to note for external-drive shoppers is backward-compatibility. Any drive formatted with HFS+ will work just fine with a Mac that's running High Sierra or later.

Neither Apple File System nor HFS+ works with Windows, however. If you plan to use your external drive with computers that run both operating systems, you should consider formatting your drive with the exFAT file system. You won't get the security and efficiency of APFS, but you will get the convenience of being able to transfer files back and forth between Windows and macOS simply by plugging in and unplugging your drive.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Of course, you can easily wipe and reformat most external drives, so you're not limited to buying only those intended for use with Macs. If you really fancy a consumer-oriented drive formatted for Windows (which will usually come pre-formatted in the NTFS format), you can use the Disk Utility in macOS to reformat it after you bring it home from the store. Some highly specialized external drives might not work with Macs even if they're formatted correctly, but consumers looking for extra space simply to store backups or large video collections aren't likely to encounter them.

External Drives: SSDs vs. Spinning Platters

Once you've settled on a file system, you then have to determine which storage medium you want: solid-state or spinning disk. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and—unlike the file system—the type you buy is the type you're stuck with for the life of the drive.

A solid-state drive (SSD) offers quick access to your data because it stores your bits in a type of flash memory rather than on spinning platters. SSDs are often smaller and lighter than spinning external drives, as well, which is also thanks to the lack of moving parts. Their small size means they can often fit into a jacket or pants pocket, which makes them a better choice if you're looking for a portable external drive that you'll be carrying with you frequently. (See our overall picks for favorite external SSDs.)

One major downside, however, is that they're more expensive. You could pay more than 20 cents per gigabyte for an SSD, while spinning drives can be had for less than 10 cents per gigabyte—and often much less. External SSDs also have lower capacity limits, with most drives topping out at 2TB. Compare that with external spinning drives, which are easy to find even in capacities in excess of 8TB for desktop-style drives, or up to 5TB for portable ones.

For professional videographers who edit lots of 4K footage and gamers or movie buffs who have large libraries of multi-gigabyte titles, an external RAID array made up of multiple platter-based drives is worth considering, since it combines the near-speed of an SSD with the gargantuan possible capacities of spinning drives. An array contains two or more drives that all work together to increase throughput, or guard your precious files against corruption via drive redundancy if one of the drives fail. (Or both; it depends on how the array is set up.) The result is that you can get SSD-like speeds, with throughput of more than 400MBps, and capacities that top out close to 50TB. You'll pay handsomely, of course—some Mac-specific arrays cost thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, if you're looking to buy an external drive mainly to back up your files (which you should definitely do), and it will rarely leave your home office, an inexpensive spinning drive will work just fine. These come in both portable and 'desktop' versions.

The portables are obviously smaller, and are based on the kinds of 2.5-inch platter drives used in laptops. Desktop-style external hard drives are larger, are based on the beefier and more capacious 3.5-inch drives used in full-size desktop PCs, and require their own AC power source. Portable drives don't have a power plug; they get the juice they need to run through their data interface.

Does Thunderbolt Matter, or Will USB-C Do?

So, to recap: Faster, smaller (both physically and in terms of gigabytes) solid-state drives come at a premium, while spinning drives offer a much better value while sacrificing speed. But what happens when you throw yet another variable into the mix: the connection between your drive and your Mac? As you might have guessed, the answer is more trade-offs.

Every current Mac comes with oval-shaped USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt speeds. The MacBook Pro models released in 2021 come with the latest Thunderbolt 4 interface, while other recent Macs use the older Thunderbolt 3. Both have the same maximum 40GBps maximum throughput, many times the speed of regular USB-C ports.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Unfortunately, you won't find all that many Thunderbolt 3-compatible drives on the market, and even fewer that support Thunderbolt 4. There are even some Mac-specific drives still sold with USB 3.0 connectors. Moreover, the Thunderbolt drives you can buy are constrained by the maximum throughput of the drive itself, rather than the Thunderbolt interface. Until recently, most external SSDs topped out at around 600MBps, for instance, due to the traditional bus types used by the drives inside the chassis. That's more than fast enough for backups and occasionally transferring multi-gigabyte files, but many times lower than Thunderbolt's maximum throughput.

However, that speed ceiling is rising. While older external SSDs have been limited by the internal electronics (generally a drive and controller using the older Serial ATA bus inside the drive), late-model drives use different internal components, based on PCI Express drives using the NVMe protocol. These kinds of components in newer drives help Thunderbolt reach more of its speed potential. Drives with rated peak reads and writes in the 1,000MBps to 3,500MBps range indicate one of these newer-tech drives. (Again, see our roundup of the best external SSDs for more discussion of this.)

You can insist on Thunderbolt support if you know you need all the speed you can get, but a USB-C drive will be a better pick if you're more price-sensitive, or need to also use the drive with a PC. With USB-only drives, some manufacturers include a USB Type-C cable for people who own a USB Type-C-only Mac, and you can always pick up a converter for a few dollars online if the drive you're eyeing doesn't offer one. And don't forget that the 27-inch iMac and Mac Pro still come with USB 3.0 ports, so they won't require adapters.

Other External-Drive Considerations

Drives intended for PCs sometimes come bundled with software that will automatically back up your files to the drive when it's connected, but such software isn't as much of a consideration for Mac users, who already have an excellent built-in backup option in the form of Time Machine. (See our guide to using Time Machine for backups.)

The first time you plug in an external drive, Time Machine will ask if you want to use it as a backup drive. While you can customize backup options in System Preferences, such as asking Time Machine to exclude certain folders, there's no action required on your part if you're happy with the default settings. The next time you plug in your drive, Time Machine will automatically set to work creating a backup.

Best External Hard Drive For Mac And Ipad

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Wireless External Hard Drive Ipad

Unless your drive is never going to leave your home or office, you should also consider its physical durability. Rugged, waterproof drives are a good option not just for surfers and BMX riders, as their marketing seems to suggest, but also for people who are carrying their drives to and from school or work, where they might occasionally get spilled on or dropped on the floor. (Check out our favorite rugged drives.)

External Hard Drive For Mac And Ipad Reviews

Finally, you might want to consider how the drive will look when it's plugged into your Mac. Some drives come in a variety of colors. Many others feature copious amounts of aluminum and industrial-chic styling to match the design cues of your MacBook or iMac.

Best External Hard Drive For Ipad

So, Which Drive Should I Buy for My Mac?

External Hard Drive For Mac And Ipad Mini

We've selected a host of our favorite drives up top; all were tested on both Windows and macOS systems. For more options, check out our main list of best external hard drives and our top picks for external SSDs.