Best External Hard Drives for Mac

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 10, 2020
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 2020
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

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

4 TB (2 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

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 (500 GB, 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

The drive is ready to use right out of the box. That said, it comes with all the software you need to protect your data, including WD Security and WD Drive Utilities™.

CONS

The software could be better.

OUR VERDICT

This portable external hard drive from Western Digital, encased in a stylish silver body, will perfectly match any modern computer rig and will let you safely store and encrypt massive amounts of data.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

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

Interface

1 x USB-C (USB 3.0 compatible)

Backup Options

Time Machine ready

Weight

0.2875 lbs

OS Compatibility

MacOS, Downloadable driver to read/write on Windows

Warranty

3 years

PROS

With this model, you get the access to the free trial of WD SmartWare Pro. It helps store your backups on the external hard drive itself and in Dropbox.

CONS

Requires reformatting for Mac OS.

OUR VERDICT

The WD Element HDD transfers data very fast with the USB 3.0 (100 Mb/s). And with its capacity, this model can store quite large video/audio libraries as well as expand the storage on your gaming console.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

4 TB (1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 5TB)

Interface

1 x USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)

Backup Options

Automatic local and cloud backup with WD SmartWare Pro

Weight

0.52 lb

OS Compatibility

Windows, Requires reformatting for Mac OS

Warranty

2 years limited

LaCie Mobile Drive

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 Mobile Drive External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C)

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 Mobile Drive External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C) in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


What customers say about this product

Features

This drive works perfectly and does not get confused when your MacBook goes to sleep, installs updates, or undertakes other operations.

Size & Weight

Compact size, will hold 5 TBs of data, easy to use.

Key Specs

The aluminium casing is plus for me because it's sturdy and strong.
 

WD My Passport External Hard Drive

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 My Passport External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C)

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 4TB 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 My Passport External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C) in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Seagate Portable

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 External Hard Drive for Mac (USB 3.0)

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 TB, 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 External Hard Drive for Mac (USB 3.0) in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


What customers say about this product

Features

I'm a huge fan of these for backup drives. Small, cheap, portable. I can buy two and have redundant backups in case one fails and it doesn't cost and arm and a leg.

Key Specs

It's cheap, and large capacity that's the only thing it has going for it.

Size & Weight

Plus, with its size, it fits nicely on the iMac's stand, very out of the way.
 

WD My Passport Ultra

Stylish Drive for a Stylish Computer

Long gone are the days where computers came in boring beige boxes. In fact, it has probably been years since a beige computer has been made, and this is especially true of Macs, which long ago drove the market to create unique and appealing cases. All Macs that have been made within the last 10 years come in metallic enclosures that appear stylish, and as such, they need any external peripherals to match that appearance. One that can definitely match the stylish appearance of any Mac is the WD My Passport Ultra USB-C Portable External Hard Drive. This external hard drive comes in a unique, stylish case that will look great sitting on any desk, giving your computer the perfect peripheral to match its sleek, stylish appearance.

Of course, this hard drive isn't all about style. The drive needs to be functional, first and foremost, and able to meet the data storage needs of the user, and this drive provides exactly that. Coming in drive capacities ranging from 1 to 5 TB, most users should find with this model in the capacity that meets or exceeds their needs, letting them store any and all files that they need to keep safe and secure. Although these drive capacities don't match some of the larger ones in other external hard drives, we believe the ranges offered by this drive are more than enough for most people. And with that, the price of this drive is certainly affordable, so you won't have to spend an arm and a leg to upgrade your storage.

Review of WD My Passport Ultra External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C)

Safe and Secure

An important aspect of any external hard drive is how well it can keep your data safe. After all, having such a portable drive opens your data up to prying eyes in ways that an internal hard drive doesn't. Thankfully, this drive has you completely covered there. This drive provides password protection with 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption, ensuring that you and only you will have access to the data that resides on it. The hardware encryption also ensures that you maintain speedy data transfers, with the 256-bit AES being virtually unbreakable even by the most skilled hackers. To put it simply, there really aren't many ways that you could possibly keep your data any safer than what is provided here.

Computers are quickly adopting the USB Type-C connector, which allows for easy plugging and unplugging of the cable, and this drive comes complete with such a connector, so you'll be able to connect the drive immediately to a brand new system that utilises USB Type-C. For those still using the regular USB 3.0 connector, this drive is compatible with that as well thanks to the included adapter. The drive comes with the WD Discovery software installed, which provides an easy way to transfer many of your files over to it, although this software isn't of the best quality, so you may not want to rely on it for transferring your files over. The drive works perfectly with Apple's Time Machine utility, so it's not like you are stuck with using the WD utilities for backups. With all of that said, this drive from WD gives you the best bang for the buck.

WD My Passport Ultra External Hard Drive for Mac (USB-C) in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

WD Elements

Plug and Transfer

The WD Element can rightly be called one of the most reliable external hard drives on the market. It is quite compact for the model with a storage space of 4 TB and fairly affordable for the HDD of its range. Plus, the manufacturer offers you a choice of models with different capacities (1TB / 2 TB / 3 TB ) so you can get the one that meets your individual needs.

Just like the other portable hard drives in our review, this one is powered through the USB cable. You can either use USB 3.0 or 2.0, but as you know, data transfer is faster with the former: it is 100 Mb/s with USB 3.0 and about 38 Mb/s with its alternative. Speaking in terms of the time it takes to copy a 1GB video file onto your WD, you will need to wait for either 10 or 40 seconds with USB 3.0 or 2.0 respectively.

The Elements HDD is compatible with most OSs: Windows 7 and higher, Mac, and Linux. For Windows users, it is ready to use right out of the box, just plug it into your PC and you are ready to go. The external hard drive is NTFS pre-formatted for Windows. If you reformat your hard drive in FAT-32 for example, it will work on any system. Gamers can also benefit from this model since this WD hard drive can easily expand the storage on Xbox One, PS4, and other gaming consoles. This drive gives you the ability to have all of your important data on hand 24/7.

Review of WD Elements External Hard Drive for Mac (USB 3.0)

Great Value For The Money

As we have mentioned before this model is user-friendly and it starts working right after you plug it in. It’s like using a flash drive, though no flash drive will give you so much storage space at this price. But there is more! This drive comes with the WD SmartWare Pro. It allows you to back up your data in Dropbox, thus expanding your data storage options greatly. The installation app is on the HDD, you just need to run it on your PC and follow several simple instructions. However, don’t forget to save it elsewhere before formatting the hard drive.

Being made of high-quality materials, the WD Element pleases its user with a pretty durable construction. It is wear-proof and can withstand accidental drops and hits, thus protecting the hard drive and all your data reliably. The front and back sides of the housing have a matte finish so it is not a fingerprint magnet. That is a clever touch considering how annoying fingerprints on a glossy surface can be. Otherwise, the design is pretty simple, no bells and whistles. If you care little about your HDD being eye-catching and more about its functionality, that wouldn't be much of a problem, though. Finally, this 4TB model is pretty compact, so there is no need to carry your briefcase for the HDD only. Just drop it in your pocket.

Without a doubt, the WD Elements hard drive is a pretty simple and user-friendly model that can store hundreds of video files, thousands of audio tracks, and so many more for you securely. And at the same time, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Does it sound like the hard drive you are looking for? Then the WD HDD is right up your alley.

WD Elements External Hard Drive for Mac (USB 3.0) in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


What customers say about this product

Key Specs

It’s a great little External/portable hard drive. I personally use mine for my PS4 since this is USB 3.0 so it works with the console.

Size & Weight

I received the drive when promised and was happy with it's small size and that it was powered by the USB cable.

Features

Is there still a program included for encrypted auto backup? That was a fantastic feature!
 

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