Seagate Expansion VS Backup Plus Who is on Top For Mac

By Paul Gregory / May 12, 2018
Seagate Expansion vs Backup Plus

Have a Mac and looking for an external disk drive? Want to know how the Seagate Expansion vs Backup Plus and which may be better for you, your situation and your Mac? Read my research on the pros and cons of each.

Comparison At a Glance

Seagate Expansion VS Backup Plus Slim

Seagate Expansion

Backup Plus Slim

Pictures
Format NTFS NTFS and HFS+
Colors Black Black, Blue, Red, Silver
Included Software none Seagate Dashboard
Warranty 2 Years 2 Years

Pros

Seagate Expansion

  • Good basic drive for a Mac
  • Good read write performance

Backup Plus Slim

  • Comes in a ‘for Mac’ version with a HFS files system for easy connection to Mac
  • Better random i/o performance than the Seagate Expansion
  • Smaller and lighter than the Seagate Expansion
  • Snappy colors and smart Aluminum outer cover
  • Free software download of NTFS or HFS Paragon drivers

Cons

Seagate Expansion

  • NTFS formatted by default and will need to be formatted to connect to a Mac
  • No direct Thunderbolt connectivity. Needs an adaptor.
  • A tad larger and heavier than the Backup Plus Slim

Backup Plus Slim

  • NTFS formatted version will need to be formatted to connect to a Mac, same as the Seagate Expansion
  • No direct Thunderbolt connectivity. Needs an adaptor

The Verdict

For me the Backup Plus Slim comes out on top. Particularly if both drives are priced the same. For a small premium I might decide;

  1. the HFS+ formatting making it a snip to connect to Mac is an advantage,
  2. the Aluminum case and jazzy colors are worth paying a bit extra for
  3. the better random i/o performance is worth it.

If there is a significant premium then I would forgo all that and get the Seagate Expansion. That’s my overall Verdict.

What would be yours? read on and find out how and why I came to my conclusion.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB Red

Take a look at the Backup Plus Slim 1TB on Amazon

Who Manufactures?

The Seagate Expansion and the Backup Plus drives are manufactured by Seagate Technology – link to Seagate wiki

A company selling goods into the hard drive space since 1979. They supply a wide range of drives both to consumers and large corporates with many server farms run on Seagate Technology drives.

Seagate Expansion vs Backup Plus Features

Let’s take a look at how these two drives compare so that I can help you choose which external drive is top for use on your Mac.

Packaging and Market Position Comparison

The Seagate Expansion and the Backup Plus external hard drives are aimed at those who need external storage in a neat convenient package and may even want to take their drives with them.

In terms of suitability for your Mac, the Seagate Expansion is the entry level drive in Seagate’s line up of portable drives. Seagate describes the Expansion Portable as a basic drive.

The Backup Plus the next step up.

The first difference to note here is that the Backup Plus isn’t one type of drive, Seagate has expanded the number and types of drives in the Backup Plus range.

The range ‘starts’ with the slimmest, lightest and generally the priciest. The Backup Plus Ultra Slim, moves up to the Backup Plus Slim onto the Backup Plus Portable with the Backup Plus Fast 4TB carrying the bulkiest, heaviest crown.

I’ve concentrated this article on the Backup Plus Slim as even though its market position is positioned higher, recently I’ve seen both drives priced extremely close together.

So when the price is nearly the same, which do you go for? Stay with me a little longer

If you want a detailed look at the Seagate Expansion you can take a look at the article here

If you would like a more detailed look at the Seagate Backup Plus range of drives head over to my article here

Seagate Expansion 1TB Convenient size

Seagate Expansion 1TB Convenient size

Have a look at the Seagate Expansion on Amazon

Available Hard Drive Capacities and Formats

Lets take a look at the storage capacities that both external hard drives come in.

Seagate Expansion Portable Capacity 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Backup Plus Slim Capacity 500GB, 1TB, 2TB

The Backup Plus Slim starts with 500GB for those with smaller requirements while the Seagate Expansion goes up to 4TB for those with larger capacity requirements. You would have to move up to the Backup Plus range to the Backup Plus Portable to get a drive with 4TB capacity.

Still given that most are looking for a 1TB or 2TB drives there isn’t much to differentiate them here.

Inside the beautiful enclosures the drives are the same quality of drive, so there wouldn’t be much point paying more for a 1TB Seagate Expansion versus a 1TB Backup Plus solely on capacity.

Physically Plugging into your Mac

All the Backup Plus drives and the Seagate Expansion have USB 3.0 type Micro B connections physically on the drive. And a 18 inch USB cable in the box with a type A connection at the Mac end.

Backup Plus USB Cable

Expansion and Backup Plus USB Cable

The drives are USB powered. This means that the USB cable uses the power from your Mac to run these external portables.

You may decide the cable is a little short for your liking. If where you want to put the external drive is further away than 18 inches to your Mac. You will want to consider purchasing a longer USB cable.

The cable is standard, so just look for a USB 3.0 cable with type A at one end and type B Micro at the other end.

Older Macs

Both the Seagate Expansion and Backup Plus are backwardly compatible with USB 2.0. Backwards compatibility is part of the USB standard.

Slightly Newer Macs with Thunderbolt Ports

Apple introduced the Thunderbolt ports with the 2011 Macbook Pro. That Mac has Thunderbolt and type A ports so these drives will plug right into the type A port. If you have other devices already connected and are running out of available ports then you’ll need to find an appropriate adaptor to connect these external drives to the Thunderbolt port.

These drives won’t run at Thunderbolt speeds of course, the beauty of backwards compatibility is that your Mac will talk to the drive at the speed the drive can cope with.

Thunderbolt Port on Mac

Even Newer Macs With Thunderbolt USB C ports

Macbook 2015 and later, iMac 2017, Macbook Pro 2016 and later have USB C ports that support USB 3.1 gen 1 or 2 depending on the Macbook and iMac generation.

USB C Thunderbolt 3 Ports

USB C Thunderbolt 3 Ports

Again backwards compatibility is your friend in terms of USB protocol. Your Mac would communicate with both drives and transfer files at a speed the drives can understand. However you’ll note the physical connection is different and you will need to get a USB C 3.1 or 3.2 adaptor cable.

I have an article that goes into more detail on USB connections, so take a look if you would like some more information.

To wrap up this piece on physical connections the Seagate Expansion versus the Backup Plus is just as easy or just as difficult to connect depending on the generation of your Mac. Actually difficult isn’t the right word, you need an adaptor so that has to be costed into the over all costs of your expansion drive.

Software Compatibility with Mac

Don’t worry I’ve not had you read all this way to find out you can’t use these drives on a Mac. The how may be different.

Default Formats

Format
Seagate Expansion NTFS
Backup Plus Slim NTFS or HFS+

Out of the box the Seagate Expansion Portable is formatted to NTFS. With the Backup Plus drive you have a choice on formats you can purchase.

Macs can read and write to disks formatted as HFS+, this format is also known as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Macs can read NTFS but cannot write to NTFS formatted drives unless

  1. You reformat
  2. You have a driver to allow you to read and write to the drive.

The Seagate Expansion will need to be reformatted for your Mac to read and write to the drive.

Versus the Backup Plus Slim, if purchased as a NTFS formatted drive you’ll have to do the same.

However the Backup Plus Slim allows you to download for free the Paragon driver so that you can read and write to the drive.

Which is nice, but it does mean you need to download and run this additional software on your Mac. If you are mainly using the drive on a Windows PC and only occasionally use on your Mac, then I think fine.

Otherwise if you are mainly using the drive on your Mac and you have to go to the trouble of downloading a driver, that has to be kept current with your Mac’s operating system, and if anything happens to your Mac, you’ll need your Mac up and running with the driver installed before you can get to your files …

to my mind you may as well format it and just use the drive in a way a Mac just understands.

Never mind that you can’t use Time Machine to backup your Mac and rebuild your Mac if the worst happens, if the drive is in NTFS format.

However you do have the option of buying the Backup Plus Slim formatted as HFS+ which your Mac will understand straight away.

If the Seagate Expansion and the Backup Plus Slim are similarly priced when you come to buy one then why not buy and have the convenience of an HFS+ formatted drive. Plug in and use straightaway.

If the Backup Plus is more expensive is it worth the extra cost to you for a HFS formatted drive?

Getting Going with the Seagate Expansion or Backup Plus

Both are the same. Power up and log into your Mac, plug in your USB cable, After a few seconds your Mac will see the drive is connected and the drive will appear as an Icon on your desktop. Whether it is NTFS formatted or HFS+ formatted.

If you have a Seagate Expansion and would like to find out how to use on a Mac take a look at my article

or a Backup Plus SIim have an article on that too

Seagate Expansion YouTube Video

I thought you might enjoy taking a look at this Seagate Expansion YouTube Video, and have a look at the drive itself it’s just over 2 minutes long.

Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable

Video Credit: TJS Mind

Portable Size Comparison

The Seagate Expansion and Backup Plus Slim are marketed as portable. Lets take a look at their size and weight.

Size Weight
Seagate Expansion – 1TB, 2TB 3.2 in x 4.7 in x 0.6 in 6.4 oz
Seagate Expansion – 4TB x 4.1 in x 5.8 in 1.6 in 8.32 oz
Backup Plus Slim – 500GB, 1TB, 2TB 2.99 in x 4.48 in x 0.48 in 5.7 oz

Let us compare the 1TB and 2TB drives as these are the most popular capacities bought and the easiest to compare.

You’ll see the Backup Plus Slim is the smaller lighter drive. Not by much but the difference may be important to you.

Is it enough to justify a higher cost if the Backup Plus is more expensive when you think about buying?

Bear in mind that neither of these drives are rugged in any way. Sold and marketed as portable drives, however should you drop the drive, get it wet it is likely you will damage the drive. Carting these drives around with you and you would do well to purchase a protective case.

Looks and Design

Marketed as basic the Seagate Expansion look is functional and comes in Black.

Seagate Expansion Easy Connection to Mac

Seagate Expansion Easy Connection to Mac

The Backup Plus Slim’s Aluminum case is definitely aimed at the part of the market that likes to team their drive color with their mood. You have a choice of four colors.

Black, Blue, Red, and Silver.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1tb colors

Is the range of colors the Backup Plus Slim comes in going to sway you from one drive to the other? Without doubt the Backup Plus is the snappier looking external drive.

Backup Plus Slim YouTube Video

Let’s take a break for a few minutes. This short, under two minutes YouTube video will let you look at the Backup Plus Slim.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB Portable Hard Drive

Images and Video Credit: Finding With PK

Seagate Expansion vs Backup Plus Speed Test

My favorite site for this data is the usb.userbenchmark.com.

They compare multiple user benchmarks and the closest comparisons I found was for the 4TB sized drives.

The 4TB Seagate Expansion’s desktop type drive and the Backup Plus Portable – the next step up from the Backup Plus Slim.

Here is a link to the test results page. Take a look.

Overall they found the Seagate Expansion on average was 12% faster than the Backup Plus.

Read speed 120 Mb/s versus 85.1 mb/s = 41% faster

Write speed 112 Mb/s versus 92 Mb/s = 22% faster

4K Random Mixed i/o test, however the Backup Plus 4TB came out faster with 0.3 Mb/s versus 0.48 Mb/s = 60% faster

Given that most of the work average users do is random I/O the Backup Plus would be the one to choose if speed is important to you.

What do Users Think?

Both drives have many happy users on Amazon. Many of them Mac users.

At the time of writing the Seagate Expansion had over 9,000 reviews versus the Backup Plus over 15,000 reviews.

It is always worth taking a look yourself to find out what the latest users have to say on Amazon. Click on the links and scroll down to the Amazon Reviews.

Seagate Expansion Portable  OR

Backup Plus Slim

What’s in the Boxes

Both the Seagate Expansion and the Backup Plus have of course the respective hard drives in the box.

An 18 inch USB cable in the box

Each box includes a Quick start guide.

Backup Plus Slim Quick Start Guide

Backup Plus Slim Quick Start Guide

Both are brief. Just a quick picture on how to plug in and that’s about it for usefulness.

Let me give you a guide on how easy they are to use on a Mac.

Using the Seagate Expansion v Backup Plus on a Mac

The quickest and easiest external hard drive to use on a Mac is one that is formatted for a Mac. So from that point of view purchasing a Backup Plus Slim in its ‘for Mac’ guise is the easiest to use. Plug in and go, create folders, drag and drop, copy and paste and use with Time Machine – use as you wish.

But if you need partitions then the NTFS formatted and HFS drives are equivalent as they both will need formatting before partitioning on your Mac.

Backup with Time Machine or Storage for your Files

The Seagate Expansion and the Backup Plus NTFS versions will need formatting before you can freely use on your Mac for Time Machine.

It’s quick and easy to do if you know how.

I teach you how to format the Seagate Expansion for storing Mac files in my article here.

For the Backup Plus Slim you can learn here.

For using the NTFS formatted drives as storage for your files on a Mac, I am going to ignore the use of the Paragon driver for reasons I gave earlier in this article and recommend to format. (See the section above – Software Compatibility with Mac)

Want to share either drive with a Windows PC?

If you are mainly using the Backup Plus NTFS formatted drives mostly on a Windows PC and occasionally on a Mac then the Paragon driver for you and the way to go.

If you would prefer to do away with any third party driver then format the whole drive as ExFAT. ExFAT is understood, readable and writable by a Mac and a PC.

or create an ExFAT section (known as partitioning), to share between both.

Learn how to format as ExFAT and share between a Mac and PC.

Preloaded Software

There is no software sold on the Seagate Expansion Portable, however the Backup Plus Slim is sold with the Seagate Dashboard software preinstalled on the drive.

The software allows you to register your Backup Plus drive online for warranty and to download the Paragon NTFS driver for Mac if you have purchased the NTFS flavor of drive.

On the ‘for Mac’ version you can download a HFS driver for a Windows PC if you would like to use the drive for occasional PC use.

Personally I think formatting the drive or partitioning as ExFAT is the way to go to share a drive either in part or the whole drive between a Mac and a PC.

The NTFS version of the Backup Plus drive does include some backup software. The software is for use on Windows only and only allows you to backup files, not backup enough to do a complete restore of your Windows PC so whether it is truly useful is debatable. I think there are better PC backup options out there.

Time Machine is the backup software on the Mac to use for backup and to be able to do a full restore of your Mac.

Seagate Expansion vs Backup Plus Security

Neither drive has any special hardware or software that secures your data should your external hard drive get lost and fall into the wrong hands.

However Mac OS is there at the ready. Disk Utility allows you to add a password and encrypt your drive when you format,

And Time Machine allows you to encrypt and add a password to your backup.

On the disk security measurement both drives are tied.

In Conclusion

Thank you for reading my article and well done for making it this far. I hope you found my article ‘Seagate Expansion VS Backup Plus Who is on Top For Mac’ valuable. Please feel free to look at my other articles on the site.

 

Image Credit: Certain images are reproduced by courtesy of Seagate Technologies.

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