Best External Hard Drive for Mac – Top 5 Picks

With the way we power-use our Macs these days, there is always a need for more storage. While your Mac might not be physically able to accommodate another hard drive, especially if you have a portable mac, your storage options are virtually limitless when you start using external hard drives for Mac.

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But if you want to protect any valuable data you save to your Mac, reach for an external hard drive as these devices are great for any industry. Having an emergency back-up for your files will provide you with great peace of mind that you’ll never lose a document again.

How to Choose an External Hard Drive

In order to make the right purchase for you, there are a few factors you’ll need to bear in mind during your search. Here are the most important features we recommend looking for.

Security

Who doesn’t want their data to be secure? Even if you’re not storing highly-sensitive files, it’ll still provide you with peace of mind knowing that your data is protected and not possible for others to access. You can purchase hard drives with a software encryption solution, and we recommend this option for most people. But, if you intend on storing personal or valuable data, we recommend a built-in hardware encryption as this will likely feature a security system, such as a pin-code to enter each time you use it. Also, most hard drives have a strong and robust exterior to prevent any damage should someone attempt to physically tamper with it. Commonly, these types of hard drives focus more on security than just storage capacity so you can expect a smaller memory.

Portability

For some users, it’s important that a hard drive is portable enough to carry around, but this isn’t always the case with everyone. Consider where and when you intend on using your hard drive to determine if this is a necessary feature for you. If you plan on keeping your hard drive with you as you relocate, it should be slim and lightweight enough to not burden you. Also, you’ll ideally want a device that doesn’t need a power cable. You might be concerned that a smaller unit means smaller storage capacity, but that isn’t always the case. Many slim and light designs can hold thousands of files without thinking twice.

Similar to the above option, the design also comes into play with portability as you may need a device that can handle being dropped or thrown into the bottom of a bag when you’re quickly on the move. SSDs are more durable products than HDDs and they offer more protection should you accidentally drop or mark the hard drive.

Storage Space

You can’t purchase an external hard drive without considering its storage capacity as this is one of the main reasons you’ll purchase such a device. You should consider the storage capacity you require against your budget as you don’t need to purchase a large hard drive if you only intend on storing a handful of files. You should also bear in mind what the main use of your hard drive is. For example, is it merely to store important files to act as a back-up? Or to transfer files and documents from one device or another?

If you’re hoping to keep your budget low, then a hard drive with a capacity of 64GB will suffice. Although this is much smaller than hard drives with 2TB of storage space, this is a reasonable size for safely saving images, videos, documents and more. On the other hand, if it’s important that your hard drive can store large files, a 1TB drive is great for storing movies or if you want to own the device for years or have a large budget.

Speed of Transferring

Once you’ve determined the size your hard drive needs to be, we recommend looking into the transfer speed as this can make a difference to your patience and prevent you having to wait around for the files to complete. Also, consider how often you intend on using your device. If it’s every day, you’ll be better off with an external drive that has a quick transferring speed. The technology behind the storage and the connector it needs makes a huge difference to the overall transfer speed.

Also, bear in mind the type of connector you’ll need to link the external hard drive to your device. USB cables come in a variety of speeds, including 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1. The higher the number, the quicker the hard drive will transfer data. To make the right decision for you, consider your Internet speed, your availability and how often you’ll use the unit.

The Best External Hard Drives For Mac

Below, you will be introduced to the top 5 external hard drive for Mac models, with brief but helpful descriptions on each of them.

Now, please note that Thunderbolt and FireWire models are available in USB 3.0, USB 2.0 to provide you with more transfer-speed options. If we were to recommend a particular model, we would highly recommend 3.0 as it offers the best of both speeds and affordability.

1. Seagate Backup Plus 1TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive for Mac

  •       Available in 500 GB/1 TB models
  •       Available in USB 3.0/USB 2.0/Thunderbolt models
  •       Out-of-the-box compatibility with OS X and Time Machine
  •       Interchangeable with Mac/PC
  •       Auto social network content backup enabled (Back-up media from Facebook, Flickr or YouTube)
  •       Upgrade to Thunderbolt mode with an adapter

best external hard drive for mac
This is a fantastic choice of an external hard drive if you want a robust portable unit with a system that allows for automatic backing up of content that you post to your social networks. If you post a lot of pictures to Facebook or many videos to YouTube, this hard disk will always make sure that you have a second copy saved, sound and safe.

Measuring only 4.5 inches in length and 3 inches in width, this is one of the most portable drives for Mac computers available right now. Although these measurements might be slightly larger than their 2014 model, the overall device is much lighter. You can comfortably store this product into your pocket while on your way to a business meeting. This drive comes in a choice of three colors along with a metal finish for a solid feel and sophisticated look.

This hard drive uses a standard USB-A cable to conveniently plug into your Mac, but you also have the choice to use this product with a Windows device, making it extremely versatile for all types of users. The Seagate Backup Plus responds quickly and its speed is quite impressive. For single-volume hard drive portable drives, this is one of the top performers on the market. It’s worth bearing in mind that this hard drive requires a fairly timely installation process for Macs as you have to download and install an NTFS driver for your device. We’re excited that this hard drive comes with a backup software to always keep your data safe. The product will begin backing up files automatically whenever there are changes made to any data.

 

Buy Seagate Backup Plus from Amazon.com

2. Western Digital My Passport, 1 TB Portable Hard Drive for Mac (USB 3.0)

  •    Available in 500 GB/1 TB/2 TB models
  •    USB 3.0 / USB 2.0
  •    3-years limited warranty
  •    Hardware encryption and password protection available
  •    Out-of-the-box compatibility with Mac OS X and Time Machine
  •    Fashionable design
  •    Compatibility with Windows (after formatting)

best external hard drive for mac

This is a portable and external hard drive for your Mac that you can choose if you want a rather snazzy-looking external storage option. What we also like about this model is that it is available in 2 TB capacities, which will allow power users to enjoy fantastic storage options in a high-quality portable drive. The 3-year warranty and the encryption and password safety makes it an all round fantastic product. Western Digital, like Seagate, is one of the top players in the storage space, and their quality is indisputable.

This product is easy to use and install onto your Mac with no headaches. We like that it’s ready to use out of the box so you can be up and running in no time. As soon as it’s installed, you can begin transferring and saving your files, as well as backing them up immediately. To protect your data as well as save it, this hard drive comes with a WD Discovery software that is compatible with Apple Time Machine.

If download and transfer speeds aren’t a major concern for you and you’re more concerned about security and safety, then the Western Digital My Passport hard drive is a great option for you. This affordable and portable hard drive uses a combination of style, usability, and capacity. If you’re looking for drives for Mac that you can comfortably carry around with you, this unit won’t let you down. Measuring 4.4 inches by 3.2 inches, this hard drive is less than an inch thick, making it convenient to store in your pockets. Weighing only 8.3 ounces, this measurement is ideal for people on the go looking for a device to carry with them on their travels.

 

Buy Western Digital My Passport from Amazon.com

3. Toshiba Canvio Slim II Portable External Hard Drive for Mac

  •    Available in 500 GB/1 TB models
  •    USB 3.0 / USB 2.0
  •    10 GB free cloud storage space
  •    3-year limited warranty
  •    OS X Time Machine compatible
  •    Unique brushed aluminum design
  •    Mobile content backup enabled
  •    Password feature

Toshiba Canvio Slim external hard drive for Mac - external hard drive for mac

Like the two other Mac external hard disks discussed above, this Toshiba hard disk can be used immediately with your Mac, right out of the box, without any formatting. It comes with a design that has a lot of oomph, thanks to the very fashionable brushed aluminum finish. The password-protect feature and the mobile content backup feature make it a great choice, mainly because it is a little lower priced than the similarly equipped Seagate and WD hard drives mentioned earlier.

You can leave this hard drive connected to your Mac when it’s not in use and we love that there’s no complicated process to switch it on and off. When in use, you can receive full access to your documents, videos, movies, and photos through the program feature on your Mac. Should you need to, you can then access this data from mobile devices such as your smartphone or tablet so long as they’re synced to your Mac’s hard drive.

The 1TB capacity on this drive is ample storage space for typical Mac users and it can comfortably transfer 1.22GB of files in 18 seconds. The Toshiba Canvio Slim II can easily store in your pocket, thanks to its minimal design without limiting the style options. The aluminum features provide an elegant design while the USB 3.0 offers a speedy connection. We love the small blue LED light that informs you if the drive is powered on. This handy feature means that you’re always aware of the hard drive’s status to not run into any issues.

 

Buy Toshiba Canvio Slim II from Amazon.com

4. Apple USB SuperDrive

  •    Reads and writes CDs and DVDs
  •    Small, compact design
  •    Compatible with MacBook Air, 2012 iMacs (or older), 2009 Mac Mini and 2013 Mac Pro

It’s important to note is that this is not technically an external hard drive. Instead, it is a CD reader that can also burn virtually anything into CDs and DVDs. This means you can effortlessly burn and store personal data at a reasonably cheap rate.

You can also burn information, photos, and videos, and distribute them to your family and friends. All it’ll cost you is the disc, which shouldn’t cost more than twenty cents depending on the retailer and if you buy them in bulk. If the disc becomes warped or damage, it won’t cost you a fortune to use another disc and re-burn. While it may not be the most permanent solution, it may the most cost-effective!

The Apple USB SuperDrive is a perfect option to complement your MacBook Pro or iMac as you’ll need a USB-C to USB adapter. This hard drive isn’t large so you can store it in your laptop bag without it taking up much room. When you’re ready to use the device, simply plug it into your computer via the USB cable and there’s no need for special software for the set-up process. The USB cable is built into the SuperDrive so you don’t need to store it separately or carry it around with you. You don’t need an additional power source as the adaptor gets its battery from your computer. Apple products are typically sleek and stylish so it’s also important that this hard drive looks sophisticated alongside your Mac. Thankfully, we’re impressed by its minimal, yet professional design.

 

Buy Apple USB Superdrive from Amazon.com

5. Transcend 1 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive for Mac

  •    Available in 500 GB/750 GB/1 TB models
  •    USB 3.0/2.0
  •    Military-grade shock-resistant design
  •    Integrated software to assist backups/compression and encryption
  •   One-touch auto-backup feature

best external hard drive for mac

If you need an external hard disk that you can literally throw around, maybe in your backpack or as you hand it to clumsy friends, this very attractively-priced Transcend external hard disk makes a great choice.

We really like the one-button backup option feature which allows you to press a button on this external hard disk to automatically backup specific folders on your Mac. Of course, you will have to set up this feature once when you first use it although it is truly one-touch use from then on. It is available at an excellent price as well.

This Transcend hard drive features a shock-absorbing silicone shell and reinforced casing to protect this device, even if you drop it on the floor or regularly knock it. In fact, you can drop this device 26 times from a height of 4ft, and Transcend claims that it’ll survive the impact and not affect the unit’s performance. As a result, it’s an ideal purchase if you intend on traveling with this. Featuring a quick reconnect button, this ensures that you don’t experience any connection issues when you unplug the hard drive.

 

Buy Transcend 1 TB USB 3.0 from Amazon.com

There you have it, a quick roundup of the five best external hard drives designed specifically for Mac choices! You can also click through one of the product links above to check out numerous other popular external hard disks for Mac, all listed at Amazon.com, one of the world’s most trusted E-Commerce platform.

About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.
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  7. Johari-9 Reply

    @Chris – Definitely Seagate Backup Plus. More than anything, it is a very durable hard disk that can take a lot of bangs and small drops. I have even dropped it more than 3 feet a couple of times and it still works great. Can’t say the same for some of the other hard disks I have tried.

  8. Johari-9 Reply

    I have 7 external hard drives and have every model listed above, except the Toshiba model. Seems like a new one and a pretty good deal too…might try it out pretty soon with the way I am buying external drives..lol

    • Chris Reply

      Hello Johari-9,

      so, I want to buy only one 1TB portable USB3 HDD, given your real-world experience, what should I buy? It’s for home, Time Machine back-up, not-live-mounted-use?

      Rgds,

      Chris.

  9. Ravi's 83 Reply

    You just can’t go wrong with Seagate Backup Plus. Have been using it almost everyday for the past 6 months and even dropped it a few times. Never a problem.

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