Best External Hard Drives for Mac

Review & Comparison, Last Update October 21, 2018
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 of the best external hard drives for Macs. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2018
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Type
Capacity
Interface
Backup Options
Weight
OS Compatibility
Warranty
 
PROS

The USB cable is integrated inside the case, so you will never need to worry about losing it. All interfaces are securely closed with a dense plug.

CONS

Instructions are sparse.

OUR VERDICT

The LaCie portable external hard drive is one of the best protected from dust, sand, moisture and physical damage. Its body is made of durable aluminum with a sheath of shockproof rubber coating of a bright orange color, very pleasant to the touch. 

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

4 TB, 5 TB, 2 TB, 1 TB, 500 GB

Interface

1 x Thunderbolt (integrated), 1 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3 compatible), USB 3.0 compatible

Backup Options

LaCie backup software. compatible with Time Machine and Windows Backup

Weight

1.32 lbs

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS X

Warranty

3 year

PROS

The drive is equipped with two built-in USB 3.0 ports on the front panel, which allows you to connect and charge your gadgets, even if the system is off or in standby mode.

CONS

Drive operation makes an annoying buzzing sound.

OUR VERDICT

The external hard drive Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac is reliable and has a fast data transfer speed, which will help you make backup copies of anything. Thanks to the large  cloud storage capacity, you can easily share documents, photos and videos with your friends.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

4 TB, 8 TB

Interface

2 x USB 3.0

Backup Options

Seagate Dashboard backup software, compatible with Time Machine

Weight

2.34 lbs

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS X

Warranty

2 Year Limited

PROS

The drive is compatible with both the new high-speed USB 3.0 interface and the widely used USB 2.0, which makes it extremely versatile. Drive can be password protected and encrypted.

CONS

USB cable is short.

OUR VERDICT

The ultra light portable WD My Passport hard drive, in an attractive, slim body with excellent build quality, has ample storage capacity for storing all your important data. The high speed of the device in particular will appeal to busy people.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

2 TB, 1 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB

Interface

1 x USB 3.0

Backup Options

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

Weight

0.31 lbs

OS Compatibility

Requires reformatting for other operating systems

Warranty

3 year limited

PROS

This drive can be used with both a PC and a Mac without the need to reformat. Includes a two month subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

CONS

USB cable has a loose fit.

OUR VERDICT

This Seagate portable hard drive, in a small and compact case, has excellent capacity and excellent performance. During operation, the device makes almost no noise and produces very little heat, so you can use it as much as you need.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

2 TB, 1 TB, 4 TB

Interface

1 x USB 3.0

Backup Options

Seagate Dashboard backup software, compatible with Time Machine

Weight

0.35 lbs

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac OS X

Warranty

2 Year Limited

PROS

Thanks to the thin aluminum case and light weight design, this drive easily fits in a bag along with other important things that should always be at hand. Ideal for the road.

CONS

Surface scratches easily.

OUR VERDICT

The G-Technology G-DRIVE hard drive is compact, rugged and extremely reliable. The drive provides fast data transfer and supports the Time Machine function for copying your files. This drive will give you the ability to store large amounts of video, photos, documents and music.

detailed parameters
Type

Portable

Capacity

2 TB, 1 TB, 4 TB

Interface

1 x USB 3.0

Backup Options

Compatible with Time Machine

Weight

0.25 lbs

OS Compatibility

Requires reformatting for other operating systems

Warranty

3 year limited

LaCie Rugged

Rugged and Classy

As a Mac user, you know that computers and their associated equipment should have more going for them than just being functional. Computer equipment should be functional, of course, but it should also be easy to use, as well as being something that looks good. That's why many Mac users opt for components that will often match their computers, even if it means paying a little more than for something that just has bare functionality. For people like this, LaCie has you covered.

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive is an external hard drive that is certain to hit all of the checkboxes that Mac users look for in a hard drive. It has a rugged exterior, yet still looks good, and is also quite easy to use. This hard drive comes with 4 TB of hard drive capacity, giving you plenty of extra storage space for your work needs. Other storage options are available for those who need either more or less storage. The rugged exterior also looks great, featuring a beautiful orange bumper that makes this hard drive resistant to bumps, drops, and other damaging accidents. Underneath the bumper is a gorgeous cream colored plastic shell that will make this hard drive look great sitting next to your Mac.

Review of LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive + 1mo Adobe CC

Integrated Cable

As great as this hard drive looks, it is even easier to use. The external shell of the hard drive includes an integrated Thunderbolt cable that will easily connect to your Mac. The integrated nature of the cable means that there will never be a problem with losing it. The Thunderbolt interface provides data transfer speeds of up to 130MB/s for a regular hard drive, and 510MB/s for a model that comes with an SSD. This gives you blazing performance when it comes to accessing large files on the drive, and makes moving and copying files to and from the drive almost instantaneous. For those with an older Mac, there is no need to feel left out, as the drive also comes with a USB 3.0 adapter.

Along with the blazing fast data transfer speeds and great looks, this drive has more to offer. Buying the drive includes you in a 1-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan, giving you a full collection of both desktop and mobile apps from Adobe, ranging from Photoshop CC to Adobe XD CC, as well as a wealth of tools to assist you in your creative endeavors. You also get a 3-year limited warranty that includes Rescue Data Recovery Services, which guarantees data recovery in the event of a hardware failure. With all of the tools and protection included with this hard drive, it is easy to see why going with a LaCie external hard drive for Mac is your best bet.
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive + 1mo Adobe CC in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac

A Trusted Name

Seagate is well known to experienced computer users as a company that specializes in making high quality hard drives. Whether it be an internal or external hard drive, the products they make are renowned for their high quality. Seagate makes drives for all kinds of computers, but they have a special external hard drive for Mac users that works great both as a high use drive and as a backup hard drive.

The Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac External Desktop Hard Drive is made specifically for Macs, and this is easy to see when you first see the drive. The external case is white with a beautiful grill design on the sides, making this hard drive match almost any Mac model. The 4 TB of capacity ensures that you will have plenty of space available for backups, and the drive works seamlessly with Apple's Time Machine utility in Mac OS X. The drive even comes formatted in HFS+, and also includes a Windows HFS+ driver should you ever need to connect it to a Windows PC. The drive not only connects to your Mac through a proprietary USB 3.0 cable but also includes two standard USB 3.0 ports on the front, allowing it to work as a USB hub in addition to its hard drive functionality. This makes it like two products integrated into one.

Review of Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac External Desktop Hard Drive + 2mo Adobe CC

Highly Functional

This drive not only looks great, but it performs great too. The USB 3.0 interface provides data transfer speeds of up to 160 MB/s, which means that backups will take a bare minimum of time to complete. Not only will the drive work great with Time Machine, but it also can work with backing up data from your iOS or Android device by using the free Seagate Mobile Backup app, making this drive capable of backing up data from every device you own. Few other hard drives provide this level of functionality or versatility.

Along with the hard drive, you also get a 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which provides you access to a wide range of Adobe creative apps and tools, which is perfect for creative types. The two month membership is valid until January 31, 2020, which gives you plenty of time to take advantage of it should you not wish to do so right away. The drive also includes the Seagate Dashboard software, giving you the ability to easily manage the drive's data as well as photos and videos in one easy to use interface, and preventing the need to use complex tools for the same tasks. With everything included with this drive, it quite possibly takes the crown as the best external hard drive for Mac.

Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac External Desktop Hard Drive + 2mo Adobe CC in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

WD My Passport for Mac

Classic External Drive

Not every external device connected to a Mac has to match its color scheme. Although most Mac models come in white or silver, there are other colors that look good when placed in proximity to the Mac, including black. That means that a black external drive such as the WD My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive will look great when connected to your computer. This drive features a slick black case with a classic design that will look great next to your computer, regardless of its setup.

This great-looking WD drive is Mac-ready, featuring full compatibility with any Mac model, and guaranteed to work flawlessly with the Time Machine utility. Of course, the drive doesn't have to be used exclusively for backups. The drive connects through a USB Type C connector, although it is also compatible with a Type A connection as well, coming with separate cables for both. The case is actually quite rugged despite its slick appearance, being made to handily absorb shocks and jolts, preventing interior damage to the drive and ensuring that it will work for a long time. In case it doesn't, it is protected by a 3-year limited warranty for hardware failures, which can leave you with peace of mind about the drive's quality.

Review of WD My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive

Great Features

As we've stated earlier, the drive is completely Mac-ready, meaning that no preparation needs to be done before or after connecting it to your Mac. It will be ready to go as soon as it is connected, saving you valuable time that can be spent doing productive work. The drive includes compatibility with security features of the Mac, including full password protection and drive encryption, keeping your data safe and protected from prying eyes. The WD Security software provides an easy way to enable the security features in an intuitive interface, so keeping the drive secure is just as easy as it is to use.

Also featured with the drive is the WD Discovery utility, giving users a simple software interface to manage photos and videos, as well as a wide range of documents, thus keeping your data organized and easy to access. The software can even manage photos and videos from social networking sites and cloud storage services, so you don't have to hunt around to find one specific file. Should the drive be used primarily for backup purposes, it is fully compatible with Time Machine as stated before, and will provide a great place for storing your backups. All of these features combined with WD's high quality makes this drive one of the best in its class.

WD My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Seagate Backup Plus for Mac

Small Form Factor

According to statistics, the vast majority of computer users nowadays own laptops, and this is even more so true for those who own Macs. Apple's Macbook models have been extremely popular, and are well known for their high degree of portability. Anyone who wants to get an external hard drive for a Macbook will undoubtedly also want one that matches their computer's portability, which seems to contradict with many of the bulkier external drives that are available.

The Seagate Backup Plus for Mac Portable External Hard Drive is a small form factor hard drive that is perfect for those who demand portability. Featuring a small footprint with a silver external shell, this external hard drive is not only extremely portable, it will also look great when sitting next to your Macbook. The drive comes with a USB 3.0 cable that can easily plug into your Mac, and the drive will be ready to go without any additional setup required. The drive will also make full use of the high data transfer speeds of USB 3.0, so accessing files and transferring data to and from the drive will be lightning fast, with minimal wait times. Those who demand speedy performance will be pleasantly surprised to find little to fault.

Review of Seagate Backup Plus for Mac Portable External Hard Drive

Small Drive WIth Large Capacity

Despite the small form factor of this external hard drive, the capacity is quite ample, with 2 TB of storage. There are also models with 1 and 4 TB of storage available, so those with different storage needs will find plenty of options with this model. If the drive is being used primarily for backups, you will be pleased to learn that the drive is fully compatible with the Time Machine utility, with backups being extremely easy to perform. The drive also comes with the Seagate Dashboard software, providing an easy interface to customize backups as well as to manage the data on the drive.

Along with the drive is a complimentary 2-month membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which provides access to many of the brilliant photography utilities from Adobe, such as Photoshop CC, as well as to a slew of online tools for editing and managing photos. This plan is also quite affordable should you wish to continue it past the 2-month membership, which makes this hard drive a perfect solution for photographers. As many photographers, both hobbyist and professional, require lots of extra storage space, those who need a highly functional and portable hard drive for their Mac will find this model to be a fantastic value.

Seagate Backup Plus for Mac Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

G-Technology G-DRIVE MOBILE for Mac

Sleek Aluminum Case

Apple really set the bar for great looking computer equipment years ago when they first introduced Macs that came with aluminum cases. Having an aluminum case is a great way to make computer equipment look great while being lightweight, but strong enough to resist damage. Ever since then, Apple has not shied away from making most of their products with the same types of cases. That's why an external hard drive that is made of aluminum looks great next to a Mac of any kind.

The G-Technology G-DRIVE MOBILE for Mac Portable External Hard Drive is a great example of this. Featuring a great-looking silver aluminum case, this portable hard drive retains the same characteristics of Macs featuring the same kind of case. Being lightweight yet strong, and looking great, this portable hard drive will look fantastic sitting next to any Mac. The light weight and small dimensions of the drive make it extremely portable, and it will fit in any travel bag right along with your Macbook. It will also look great next to a desktop Mac, especially the Mac Mini, and the 2 TB of storage capacity provide more than enough storage for most people's needs. Larger and smaller storage capacities are also available for those with different needs.

Review of G-Technology G-DRIVE MOBILE for Mac Portable External Hard Drive

Performance and Compatibility

There is much more to this 2 TB external hard drive for Mac than its looks. This drive features connectivity through USB 3.0 with both USB-C and USB-A cables included, providing a data transfer speed of up to 130MB/s. That means that large video files can transfer to and from the hard drive in mere seconds instead of seeming like an eternity with older hard drive models. This transfer speed is also great for making backups with minimal wait times, and the hard drive fully supports the Time Machine utility.

Using the drive is just as easy as using any other external hard drive on a Mac. Simply plug in the drive, and no additional setup is required. Your Mac will instantly recognize the drive, and will make it immediately available to use, meaning that your file transfers and backups can start mere seconds after plugging it in. The drive is also fully powered through the USB 3.0 port, so there is no need to worry about using a separate power adapter for the drive. The drive is also quite sturdy and reliable, and should last you for years, but in case of a premature hardware failure, it includes a limited 3 year warranty that guarantees a working external hard drive for your use. Anyone wanting a sleek aluminum hard drive that both looks and performs great with their Mac will find this drive to be a worthwhile purchase.

G-Technology G-DRIVE MOBILE for Mac Portable External Hard Drive 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