Best External Hard Drives for Mac

Review & Comparison, Last Update October 25, 2019
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 top models and find the best external hard drive for Macs. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2019
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Type
Capacity
Interface
Backup Options
Weight
OS Compatibility
Warranty
 
PROS

Easy-to-use LaCie Toolkit software is designed for one-click backup, automatic backup according to your schedule, and even mirroring folders, which ensures uninterrupted file storage.

CONS

The case heats up significantly during prolonged use.

OUR VERDICT

This LaCie Mobile Drive lets you store personal photos, audio and video files, documents, and more. And, thanks to compatibility with Mac OS, Windows, USB-C and USB 3.0, access to your data becomes easy. One month of free use of Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan included.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

5 TB (1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB)

Interface

1 x USB 3.0 (Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C compatible)

Backup Options

LaCie Toolkit backup and mirroring software, One-click or automatic backup

Weight

0.88 lb

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS

Warranty

2 years limited

PROS

A two-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as a free one-year subscription to Mylio Create, offers ample opportunities for editing and organizing your photos in a simple and intuitive interface.

CONS

Could be better made to resist minor shocks.

OUR VERDICT

The compact and lightweight Seagate Backup Plus Slim HDD easily connects to a Windows computer or Mac PC via a USB 3.0 port, so you can start backing up your files right away without requiring any additional setup.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

2 TB (1 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB)

Interface

1 x USB 3.0 (USB-C ready)

Backup Options

Seagate Dashboard backup software, compatible with Time Machine

Weight

0.28 lb

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS

Warranty

2 years limited

PROS

In USB 2.0 mode, the data transfer speed reaches as much as 480 Mb/s, which guarantees fast and uninterrupted operation of the device.

CONS

USB cable may not seem very high quality.

OUR VERDICT

This reliable WD My Passport drive has a high enough capacity to take all the important photos, videos, music and documents with you or save a backup copy of them. And the WD Backup and WD Security programs will help protect your data.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

4 TB (1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB)

Interface

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

Backup Options

WD Discovery software for WD Security, Social Media and Cloud Storage import and WD Drive Utilities, Supports Apple Time Machine

Weight

0.54 lb

OS Compatibility

Mac OS (easily reformatted for Windows)

Warranty

3 years limited

PROS

This HDD is very simple to use. It connects to a computer (both Mac and Windows) within a second via USB 3.0 at the maximal speed of 120 Mb/s.

CONS

It is a bit noisy when running.

OUR VERDICT

Thanks to its high speed, capacious design, auto-setup, included 18" USB 3.0 cable, and aluminum body, this Portable External Hard Drive by Seagate is a reliable device to store photos, music, and documents.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable (Desktop available)

Capacity

2 TB (1 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB, 8 TB)

Interface

1 x USB 3.0

Backup Options

Seagate Dashboard backup

Weight

0.418 lb

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS

Warranty

1 year limited

PROS

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

CONS

Support number is incorrect in the documentation.

OUR VERDICT

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 transfer.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

2 TB (4 TB, 5 TB)

Interface

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

Backup Options

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

Weight

0.26 lb

OS Compatibility

Mac OS, Requires reformatting for other operating systems

Warranty

3 years limited

LaCie Portable

Backups Made Easy

What is one of the most common uses for an external hard drive? For many people, the main purpose of having one is to backup all of the important data on their computer. Backups have been a requirement for computers ever since the earliest days of them, as data loss has always proven to be a big problem for a lot of people. Just about anyone that has ever used a computer before has had to deal with lost data, which can be a frustrating and even a catastrophic occurrence. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interest to have an easy backup solution. The only problem is, backups tend to be a lot more trouble than many people realize.

The LaCie Portable External Hard Drive is one model that does its best to make backups as easy as possible. The easy-to-use LaCie Toolkit software that is included with this external hard drive is designed for one-click backups, automatic backups according to your schedule, and even mirroring folders, which ensures uninterrupted file storage. This gives you full coverage of all of the different backup options which will help you keep your data protected from any kind of loss due to hardware failure or even accidental deletion, which in turn should give you peace of mind about your computer.

Review of LaCie Portable External Hard Drive

Convenient Data Storage

Of course, an external hard drive can be used for more than just backups, and this same thing is true of this model. This LaCie Mobile Drive lets you store personal photos, audio and video files, documents, and more. And, thanks to compatibility with Mac OS, Windows, USB-C and USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, access to your data becomes easy, regardless of which type of computer you have. One month of free use of Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan is also included, which should be a great benefit for those who do any type of creative work and wish to use the Adobe Creative suite of applications.

The particular drive reviewed here comes with 5 TB of storage capacity, which should be plenty of data storage to cover almost anyone's needs. There are also smaller capacities available for those who don't need quite so much storage space. The data access speeds of this drive are quite in line with what to expect from a drive that connects through USB 3.0, with read and write speeds that are quite fast. The case for the drive is actually quite rugged, providing ample physical protection for the drive. If you are in the market for a great Thunderbolt external hard drive for Mac either for backups or standard data storage, then this model should give you everything you need.
LaCie Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Seagate STHN2000400

Plug and Play

Connecting an external hard drive to your computer for the first time should be a simple process, requiring little more than just plugging it in and then being ready to go. Unfortunately, some drives out there make this process needlessly complex, with some requiring the installation of drivers or backup software in order to get going with the external drive. Some drives don't even come formatted, or will come formatted with a file system that is less than optimal for use, requiring even more setup processes before you are ready to start using the drive. It would be much easier for people to just be able to plug it in without requiring any additional steps before it is ready for use.

The compact and lightweight Seagate Backup Plus Slim HDD makes the setup of the drive as simple as possible, as it easily connects to a Windows computer or Mac PC via a USB 3.0 port, so you can start backing up your files right away without requiring any additional setup. If you want a simple way to start getting backups made of your computer's internal storage, you can download and install the Seagate Toolkit backup software, which lets you set automatic backups so you never have to worry about losing data in case of a huge system failure.

Review of Seagate STHN2000400 Backup Plus Slim

Perfect for Creative Types

Are you someone who uses your computer for creativity projects, such as art or photo manipulation or creation? If so, then you'll find this external hard drive to be the perfect companion. A two-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as a free one-year subscription to Mylio Create is included with this drive, and both offer ample opportunities for editing and organizing your photos in a simple and intuitive interface. Anyone who has used Adobe products in the past will definitely find this package to be quite a huge addition to helping you with your creative projects.

Along with the creativity subscriptions, this drive has plenty to offer to users of all types. The 2 TB of storage capacity is plenty enough for most people's needs, with the model also available in other capacities ranging from 1 TB to 5 TB, so you should be covered regardless of your storage needs. The drive connects to your computer through the USB 3.0 interface, offering high speed data transfers that will rival those of internal hard drives. If there is a complaint to be had here, it would be that the drive isn't as well protected against physical jolts as some other drives, so you will probably want to be careful with handling it. That said, this external hard drive for Mac is simply one of the best options available, regardless of your needs.

Seagate STHN2000400 Backup Plus Slim in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

WD My Passport for Mаc

Blazing Fast Data Access

One of the biggest roadblocks that people tend to run into with any external hard drive is in the data transfer speeds. Hard drives can often be slow as it is, but more often than not, the real bottleneck of any external hard drive is the speed in which the data can be read or written between it and the computer. Although many drives will be advertised with a particular data access speed, being able to achieve those speeds is often only a pipe dream, with real life usage often showing much slower speeds. This can be frustrating for those who often need to work with data on an external drive, with slow access speeds causing problems with their workflow.

The WD My Passport for Mаc Portable External Hard Drive was made with fast data access speeds in mind. In USB 2.0 mode, the data transfer speed reaches as much as 480 Mb/s, which guarantees fast and uninterrupted operation of the device. This ensures that even with a slower USB 2.0 connection, you will get blazing fast data access, helping to prevent the drive's performance from being a huge bottleneck in your workflow. Through a USB 3.0 connection, data access speeds should be even faster, so you won't be limited in your data access due to its compatibility with an older standard.

Review of WD My Passport for Mаc Portable External Hard Drive

Ample Capacity

This reliable WD My Passport drive has a storage capacity of 4 GB, which is high enough to let you take all the important photos, videos, music and documents with you or save a backup copy of them. For those with lower storage needs, lower drive capacities are also available, although the price point at which you can get the 4 GB drive is low enough to where most people will want this. After all, you can never have too much data storage capacity, as your data storage needs will almost always grow in the future, and it is always best to be prepared in having more storage capacity than you currently need.

In addition to the ample data storage capacity provided by this drive, the included WD Backup and WD Security programs that come with the drive will help protect your data, making backups and data security easy to do. You can also use Apple's Time Machine backup software for performing backups with this drive, if you prefer, and the drive is also compatible with Apple's File Vault data encryption. Just keep in mind that it is best to turn off the sleep timer for the drive before using it for backups. All in all, this fast and stylish external hard drive for MacBook Pro laptops should help suit anyone's external data storage needs.
WD My Passport for Mаc Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Seagate Portable 2TB (STGX2000400)

Great Budget Drive

Although hard drive prices have dropped to all time lows, getting a drive with a large amount of storage capacity can still end up being pricey, with even 1 TB hard drives often running more than what many people would like to pay. This is especially true of external hard drives, as they tend to be a bit more expensive than internal drives due to the extra electronics required for them to work, such as the external enclosure and data cable. With many external drives being quite pricey, there is definitely a market for an affordable external drive for those who need to shop for one on a budget.

The Seagate Portable External Hard Drive is a great external hard drive for Mac that is also very affordable, making this a primary choice for those who need a lower cost drive. Not only is this hard drive affordable, but it is also very simple to use. It connects to a computer (both Mac and Windows) within a second via USB 3.0 at the maximal speed of 120 Mb/s, requiring no additional setup. Just plug in the drive, and your computer should automatically recognize it and have it ready to go in no more than a few seconds, letting you use it immediately. This is especially handy for those who are not very computer savvy and just want things to work without needing configuration.

Review of Seagate Portable 2TB (STGX2000400) External Hard Drive

Reliable Storage

Seagate has been around the storage business for many years now, and they are known for creating great quality hard drives that are highly durable. The same is true of this external hard drive, which should last you for years. This particular drive comes with a storage capacity of 2 GB, which should be plenty for most people's needs. What this drive isn't, however, is a speed demon. The drive has a maximum data access speed of 120 Mb/s, making it much slower than many of the other drives reviewed here. If you are needing super-fast data access, then this may not be the drive for you. Regardless, for those with simple data storage needs, or those who just need an external hard drive for backups, this drive will certainly shine.

Despite its slow data speeds, this drive still provides a great value to those who often find themselves priced out of faster external hard drive. Thanks to its capacious design, auto-setup without requiring additional configuration, the included 18" USB 3.0 cable, and its aluminum body, this Portable External Hard Drive by Seagate is a reliable device to store photos, music, and documents, or to serve as a great external backup device, and all at a very affordable price point.

Seagate Portable 2TB (STGX2000400) External Hard Drive in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


What customers say about this product

Features

The physical size of the drive makes it handy and when I am doing a great deal of photoshop illustration work, I don't have to worry about file size nor storage.

Key Specs

Product is used to store digital images. Very good capacity, good write speed, extremely easy setup.

Size & Weight

Easy to use. Small and light weight. Large storage capacity
 

WD WDBA2D0020BBL

Highly Secure

One of the biggest concerns for anyone in regards to data storage is in how secure that storage will be. Whether you are talking about local, external, or even cloud storage, having a highly secure storage option is of the upmost importance for all users, regardless of what their specific needs are. With the rash of data theft that occurs nowadays, no one can be too concerned about the security of their data and of their personal information, as the threat is very real. This even extends to the security of an external hard drive, as simply misplacing it or leaving it out of your sight for any length of time can result in others getting access to your data if it isn't secured.

The WD WDBA2D0020BBL My Passport was made with security in mind, as it contains a number of security features included. For example, password protection with WD Security, as well as built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption, help keep your content safe and secure from prying eyes. This built-in security lets you use the drive as you normally would while keeping yourself as the only person with access to whatever data is stored on the drive, with the encryption being secure enough to prevent it from being easily cracked by anyone.

Review of WD WDBA2D0020BBL My Passport

Small and Light

The security features of this external hard drive are great, but there is much more that this drive has to offer its users. 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 transfer. Storage capacities ranging from 2 TB to 5 TB are available, so even those with the highest storage needs will find this model suitable.

It should be noted that this drive is made specifically for Mac, meaning that it comes pre-formatted for immediate use with your Mac, and is also Time Machine compatible. If you are wanting to use this drive on a computer running a different operating system, you will need to reformat the drive first before it can be used on that system.

The drive is compatible with systems that use both USB Type A and USB Type C ports, and comes with cables for both types, so users with both older and newer systems should find this drive ready to go without needing any additional cables or connectors. For any users who value both high portability and security, this hard drive from Western Digital just may be the best option available.

WD WDBA2D0020BBL My Passport in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

What Is an External Hard Drive for Mac?

Most people who have used computers extensively know what hard drives are. 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 for safe data storage.

What Features to Compare

Most external hard drives that are available on the market are actually compatible with a Mac, even those that are labeled 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 utilize 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.

Capacity 

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 

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 labeled 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.

Interface 

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 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.

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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Publish Date: 2018-08-22 10:30:26