Here are the top 10 best external hard drive to save important files on an additional place. This collection includes cheap priced and best performing external hard drive for your Windows PC or laptop and Mac computers. You should buy external hard drive to save your files. Best External Hard Drives For Mac. Aug 03, 2021 The best external hard drive for laptop-friendly workflow comes in the shape of the Seagate 1TB Fast. The Fast offers impressive read/write speeds of up to 540MB a second. Connectivity is managed via USB C, meaning the data is being retrieved as quickly as possible, although a standard USB cable is included so you can still use it on slightly.
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.
Will most external hard drives work with my Mac? External hard drives typically come in OS-agnostic formats, so you can plug them into any computer and start using them right away. In some rare occasions, you may find an external drive that comes in a Windows-only format, but you can use your Mac’s Disk Utility software to reformat.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
So, Which Drive Should I Buy for My Mac?
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.
Where To Buy
- Best for Photographers, Videographers, and Travelers
- Photo and Video Pros in the Field
- Best for Mac Users Seeking Ruggedized Storage
- Frequent Travelers, Value Seekers
- Best for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Business Professionals
- Best for Outdoorsy Mac Users
Game consoles today come with 1TB drives (equivalent to approximately 1,000GB of hard drive storage), but the drives get full quickly if you aren't good about taking games off the drive as you add more. And most new computers don't come with much internal hard drive storage space unless you're splurging on a high-end model -- they usually have 256GB or 512GB. One way to manage it all is to find the best external hard drive and SSD for your needs.
A traditional hard drive or mechanical drive that uses 'old' hard drive technology (mechanical platters and a moving read-write head to access data) is adequate for the majority of users, thanks to speedier USB-C and USB 3.0 (as well as 3.1/3.2) interfaces. Prices have dropped significantly in the last few years, with even the high-capacity external hard drive models tipping the scales at 5TB but costing just over $100. A solid-state drive doesn't have moving parts and the external SSD drive has up to four times faster read and write speed, but it costs a lot more per gigabyte.
Most of the options on this list of the best external hard drive models will work across platforms -- whether you have a Windows PC, Mac computer, PlayStation 4 or Xbox -- so long as the drives are correctly formatted for the right platform. But a lot of times they'll be designated as working with a specific platform out of the box and sometimes come with backup software that's platform-specific. Unless otherwise indicated, all the PC drives mentioned here are compatible with Windows but can be formatted for a Mac. Many of them include cables or adapters to accommodate USB-C and USB-A ports. But if they don't happen to be included, you can easily buy dongles for about $10.
And remember: A single backup doesn't cut it. Ideally, you'll want redundant backups either off-site or using cloud storage for key data and large files (such as family photos) in case of theft or fire. And make sure to encrypt your data, too.
One important note for console gamers is that the newer PS5 and Xbox Series X (and Series S) consoles are much more restrictive about using external drives. The PS5 can store and play PS4 games from an external drive, but not PS5 games; the Xbox Series X can store Series X games, but you'll have to transfer them to the main SSD to actually play them. The Xbox Series X does offer a proprietary Seagate-made storage expansion card, but it costs $220.
With those caveats noted, our current top picks for the best external hard disk drive and external solid-state drive are below. These (or nearly identical models with less storage capacity) have been used or anecdotally tested by CNET editors. We'll update our list of the best external hard drives and SSDs as we test new products.Sarah Tew/CNET
Western Digital, which owns SanDisk, sells its WD My Passport SSD as well this SanDisk External Portable SSD for basically the same price. I like the design of this model a little better and it's technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, meaning it can withstand a sustained spray of water. It's also shock-resistant and has a USB-C interface.
The cheaper 'older' version has transfer speeds up to 550MBps while the next-gen version nearly doubles that speed with up to 1,050MBps (just over 1GB per second) and only costs slightly more for the 1TB version. The price for the 2TB model of this external drive jumps to $280 for the newer version.
Your speed will vary if you're moving a mishmash of files to or from the USB drive, but when copying a single large file you should be able to get close to those fast transfer speeds.Amazon
If you're looking for a high-capacity external drive for your Xbox One, the WD Black P10 2TB portable hard drive is a good value at around $80 (The 5TB version is about $140). It gives you portable storage for your coveted game collection. This external drive also comes with a digital code that gives you one month of Microsoft's Game Pass Ultimate if you're a new subscriber. There's also a standard version of the portable hard drive, which also works with PCs and the PS4 for slightly less (it's missing the Xbox branding but is otherwise the same drive). The portable drive can deliver speeds up to 130MBps.Amazon
For $115, you can get an external drive so you don't have to worry about managing the storage space on your PS4 (you can play games without lag directly from the portable hard drive). The 2TB version of the Seagate Game Drive is about $30 less at $80. But you might as well spend the extra dough and get 4TB for this portable external hard drive.
Note that Seagate makes an SSD Game Drive For Xbox but not PS4. The storage drive costs around $200 for 1TB.David Carnoy/CNET
You can use any SSD with your PlayStation PS4/PS5 or Xbox One, Xbox One Series X or Series S to store PS4 and Xbox One games and other content and pick up a nice speed bump when loading games compared with a standard external hard drive like the WD Black P10 above. Note that with the Xbox Series X, you can only archive Xbox Series X and S games to this drive, you can't store full games on it (the Seagate Storage Expansion Card is required for that). The PS5 has the same restriction -- you can only store full PS4 games on external drives.
On its surface, then, the WD Black D30 game drive isn't all that special (it has up to a 900MBps transfer rate, which is basically what a console's USB 3.1 connection caps out at). But it's really its design that sets it apart. It's thicker and more rugged-looking than your typical SSD or flash drive and includes a detachable stand with rubber feet to keep it from moving around wherever you place it. This is an NVMe SSD (Non-Volatile Memory Express) that provides efficient performance and interoperability.It essentially looks like a mini hard drive, which is kind of cool.
The standard version works with PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and One X and S consoles, as well as PCs. The Xbox version shown in the image simply includes an Xbox logo and a month of Game Pass Ultimate, a $15 value, for $20 more. Alas, only new subscribers can use the included code, so if you already have a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you're really paying the extra $20 for the logo.
The 1TB version starts at $150 while the 2TB version starts at $270.David Carnoy/CNET
SanDisk makes the Extreme Portable SSD (see above) that delivers speeds up to 1,050MB per second transfer rates. But if you're a photographer or videographer looking for an even faster SSD drive for your PC or Mac, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD is the way to go for extra storage space. The latest version is capable of delivering up to 2,000MBps (2GBps) read/write speeds if you pair it with the right equipment (in order to get the maximum speed, you need a host system that supports USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2x2 speeds).
Compatible with Macs and Windows PCs, it's technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, meaning this can withstand a sustained spray of water. It's also shock-resistant and has a forged aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It has a USB-C interface and includes both USB-C to USB-C and USC-A to USB-C cable. The 1TB version is around $230 while the 2TB model jumps to $364.Amazon
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is one of the more compact non-SSD drives, making it the best external hard drive for those who are looking to save some space. And at less than $60, this backup drive is also a good value. This Seagate external hard drive can also be connected to Macs that have a thunderbolt port. Available in a few color options, it also comes in 1TB ($55), 4TB ($93) and 5TB ($115) versions, but the higher-capacity drives are thicker.WD
This drive is about as future-proof -- and backward-compatible -- as they come. You pay a bit of a premium over the standard WD drive, but this newer model offers a USB-C connection, meaning it has the latest and greatest USB cable connectivity for Macs and PCs. No USB-C on your system? No problem: Western Digital also tosses in a USB-A to USB-C adapter, so this storage device will work with pretty much any computer straight out of the box.Amazon
The WD My Book desktop drive is available in up to a 18TB configuration, but the 8TB is the best value at around $200. Unfortunately, it's so popular it's out of stock.
Read our WD My Book (Fall 2016) review.
Good External Hard Drive For MacAmazon
After Seagate acquired LaCie several years ago, LaCie became the company's premium brand and this external HDD 5TB model can be found on a lot of video editors' desks (including plenty at CNET). This rugged hard disk drive uses a USB-C interface, is compatible with Mac and Windows PCs and is water and shock-resistant. A 4TB Thunderbolt with USB-C version is available for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs for about $200.David Carnoy/CNET
Crucial's X6 external SSD is considered entry-level because it's just not as fast as higher-end models, which can offer read/write speeds that are twice or even four times as fast (the Crucial X8 is the step-up model). Even so, the X6 is about 4x faster than a non-solid-state drive, with transfer speeds of up 540MBps for the 1TB and 2TB versions and up to 800MBps for the new 4TB version, which has one of the lowest prices for a 4TB SSD at around $490.
Comparatively, the 4TB SanDisk Extreme SSD, which has a transfer speed rating of up to 1,050MBps, costs $700. So you're basically looking at a $240 savings if you're willing to take a bit of a speed hit (again, at least the 4GB version of the Crucial X6 has been bumped up to 800MBps from 540MBps).
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