What is the Best External Hard Drive for Mac – Don’t Risk It

By Paul Gregory / September 22, 2019
What Is The Best External Hard Drive For Mac


Your memories. Your listening pleasure.

And all that hard work stored on your MacBook Pro, Air or iMac.

It doesn't matter if it's your work documents. Or legal documents or your video of grandma holding her first grandchild.

You'll want to keep copies and backups so that you don't risk losing them forever.

That's where having the best external hard drive for your Mac to back up to.

​And keep copies of your crucial files fits in.

For Those of You Who Have to Know Now

I know, some you will want to cut straight to the chase.

And know what is the best external hard drive for Mac.

​If you're happy to take some more time and see the complete list just scroll on past.

The Top Pick for Best External Hard Drive For Mac is ...

​WD Elements
WD Elements Flat

​WD E​lements Portable Hard Drive

You'll want to know how we got to the top five best external hard drives for Mac.

​You our readers said that:-

  • Reliability - ​was important to you - you'll find only those with solid reputations and happy users made the grade.
  • The Best Brand Names - ​it's not a guarantee. But the best brands got to be the best by producing the best products they could.
  • Storage Capacity in Relation to Price - ​you said this was important as you'll don't want to pay over the odds for mediocre. Not when you're protecting your files. You know that paying a few dollars extra is worth it.
  • Speed and Connectivity - ​yes you want your external drive to perform. Why would you want to wait forever for your Mac's back up? And your drive has got to connect to Mac. As that's what you need. And should you want, you can share all the external hard drives in this article between a Mac and a Windows PC.
  • ​Good Looks and Easy to Carry Around -​well you're a Mac user. And you bought your Mac because it looked good.   Even if you don't say it out loud. You want something that looks good and works, just like your Mac does. And is easy to take with you when you need.

You'll find three types of external hard drives in the top 5.

  • the top portables
  • the top SSD
  • the top ruggedized external hard drive

As they covered the three main focus areas we know you'll find important.

Here you'll find the best representatives from all three areas.

What Is the Best External Hard Drives for Mac in 2019

You're free to Click the images to check the latest prices on Amazon


​Price Gauge

​Our Rating

​Quick Review

WD Elements

WD Elements



Toshiba Canvio Advance Red

Toshiba Canvio Advance



Seagate Expansion 1TB for Mac

Seagate Expansion



Samsung T5 Blue Holiday Gift

Samsung T5



LaCie Fuel Wireless

​LaCie Rugged ​



In the quick reviews below you'll find out what you need to watch for. What you need to know. And why they made the list.

Later on in this article there is a six step guide.

The guide will walk you through the key things to think about. And know before you by an external hard drive for your Mac.

 You can read and explore the special five.
​​​​​Table Of Contents

Number One : WD Elements Portable Hard Drive

Rating 4.6/5

The top pick for the best external hard drive for Mac is from Western Digital. And it's also the best low cost portable.

For good backup capacity and price performance you'll find the 2TB WD Elements  hits the spot

​If you buy the Elements portable hard drive you'll get a solid, reliable, work horse. One that will keep all those documents, photos and movies of yours safe.

WD Elements Portable Hard Drive
WD Elements

Elements Pros

  • ​You'll find in the WD Elements a popular top selling drive.
  • And you'll like it too because the WD Elements has a competitive price for the number of TB you get. Important when you have a lot of files to save.
  • ​Western Digital is a top brand name.  You get the security of a well made, reliable external drive. And two year's warranty.
  • With little effort you can set up your WD Elements hard drive on your Mac.
  •  What's not to like?

Elements Cons

  • ​Plain looking. What you see is what you get.
  • Your WD Elements drive is NTFS preformatted. And you'll need to reformat to fully use on your Mac. A five minute job.
  • ​You'll find here a basic drive. There aren't many extras on this drive.

Elements Summary

Flexible, because if you want you can partition up a larger TB drive. And have separate sections for backing up and storing your files.

You can use it on your MacBook or iMac. And should you want share with a Windows PC.  You'll find this drive a really fantastic drive to have around.

And with a great price tag you can understand its choice as the best external hard drive for Mac.

And with the price being so reasonable you'll think of getting two. 

It always pays to have more than one back up of your photos and videos just in case.

WD Elements Features

Your Elements Portable Hard Drive is a basic drive. This means that you'll find no bundled backup software. Or password protection. Or encryption on the WD Elements drive itself. 

But for you as a Mac owner you're covered. As your Mac's operating system comes ready with Disk Utility and Time Machine.  You'll use those two pieces of software to set up your WD Elements portable on your Mac. And have it backing up your documents in no time.

You can even set up encryption for your files with Mac OS. If you're particularly sensitive about your information.

WD Elements Reliability

Your Western Digital Elements hard drive has been around on the market since 2013. And the Elements Portable has many happy users.

Feel free to click through to Amazon on the link above and check out the user reviews.

And of course there is the beauty of buying through Amazon. Because should you be extremely unlucky and receive a dead on arrival unit. Amazon takes care of the replacement.

YouTube Video Covering the WD Elements

I thought you might enjoy this YouTube video covering the WD Elements.

Video Credit: Western Digital

Elements Storage Capacity

You'll see the drive itself sports several capacities. If 2TB is too large for you and your Mac's files then you can go smaller with the 1TB offering.

If 1 TB is too small then fill your boots with their 3TB or 4TB. Or the 6TB hard drive. Though the 6TB drive is a desktop external drive and is not portable.

Speed of the Western Digital Portable

Your Elements hard drive is a laptop type drive. You'll find up to 105 mb/s data transfer speed.

When you choose the Elements portable it'll be a solid performer.

One you'll find fine for storing your every day files and your backups. 

But if you're video editing. Or doing other high performance software jobs then the Elements portable is not for you.

Consider buying a Thunderbolt or a Solid State external hard drive when its performance you need.

WD Elements Connecting To Your Mac

Your Western Digital Elements plugs into your Mac using USB 3.0. USB 3.0 does support USB 2.0 backwards compatibility if you've an older Mac.

If you've a Mac with Thunderbolt USB C ports. Or even a Mac with a USB 3.1 port.

You can use your WD Elements Portable. But you'll need a USB 3.0 to USB 3.1. Or Thunderbolt USB C adaptor cable for your Mac.

So remember to buy one when you buy your WD Elements Portable.

When you plug your Elements drive into your Mac will see it's a USB 3.0 drive. And will use it at USB 3.0 speed. Perfectly fine when you're using this drive for backups or storing your files.

How Your WD Elements Portable is Powered

You'll find your Elements Portable drive conveniently powered by your Macs USB port. And draws its though the USB cable. This means that there is no need for you to worry about a power adaptor.

It's worth you bearing in mind that the larger 4TB and above Elements drives need power adaptors. As those drives need external power.

The First Time Using Your WD Elements Portable

When you plug in your new, unboxed Elements Portable your Mac will see your drive.

But because it comes NTFS formatted out of the box. You'll need to reformat your WD Elements external drive. Format the Elements drive to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system for your Mac. Or to ExFAT if you're planning on sharing your Elements drive between a Mac and a Windows PC.

Something that only takes minutes. And then you're ready to use your Elements Portable hard drive with Time Machine to backup.

Unsure how to reformat your WD Elements external drive on your Mac? You can find out here on the site.

WD Elements Looks and Handy Size

You'll find the Elements Portable drive is only available in Black. Plain matt black.

You'll notice that its looks are not designed to excite. 

But black is so practical and efficient.

You'll buy your WD Elements Portable because of its price point, storage capacity. And its physical size.

The drive itself is beautifully sized at 4.4 by 3.2 by 0.82 inches and weighs in at 5.28 ounces.

​You can pop it in your briefcase or hold all. And even if you're not carrying it around it won't take up much desk space or cupboard space to store. 

Elements Portable Warranty

Western Digital offers 2 years limited warranty on your WD Elements hard drive. This level of warranty is pretty reasonable. And in-line with other manufacturers. It shows Western Digital has confidence in the reliability of this Element hard drive.

Number Two: Toshiba Canvio Advance Portable Hard Drive

Rating 4.5/5

You'll find that the Toshiba Canvio Advance ​is included in our list for good reasons.

You've a drive that comes in fun colors. A level of shock protection and the Canvio Advance transfers your files at reasonable speeds.

​Your Toshiba Canvio Advance boasts a 1TB capacity drive in a nice compact size.

​Toshiba Canvio Advance  Portable Hard Drive
Toshiba Canvio Advance White

Canvio Advance Pros

  • Fun Colors, Compact, Portable, Lightweight Design.
  • ​You get a level of vibration and knock protection.
  • ​You'll find the Toshiba Canvio Advance has a good range of storage capacities.

Canvio Advance Cons

  • ​You should be wary of using the USB 2.0 compatibility feature on older USB 2.0 only Macs. As they may not have the power in their USB ports to use this drive.
  • Your Canvio Advance is sold as NTFS. You'll need to reformat to set up your Toshiba Canvio Advance on your Mac.

Canvio Advance Summary

You'll find the Canvio Advance is a great choice if you're a Mac user who wants safe reliable performance. You'll get a good range of storage capacities. And relatively fast transfer speeds.

It'll more than meet your expectations for a portable hard drive at its price.

Canvio Advance Features

On the outside you'll find it simple yet sophisticated in design.

On the inside its features include shock protection via an internal shock sensor. And you'll find ramp loading technology. These features help protect your Canvio Advance from many of the days knocks and bumps.

You'll like it because it's an excellent feature for a portable hard drive.

Especially considering the Canvio Advance is not a ruggedized drive.

But the drive inside the bright packaging is a laptop type mechanical hard drive. And you shouldn't rely on these features too much.

And be mindful about dropping it one time too many.

Canvio Advance Customer Views

You'll like that the Canvio Advance is proven in the field.

And has many very happy Mac users. You can take a look at the reviews on Amazon by clicking on the picture link above.

But if you do happen to get the odd rogue unit then this is a good reason to buy via Amazon and return it for a replacement.

Toshiba Canvio Storage Capacity

Your popular Canvio Advance comes in several capacities 1Tb and 2TB. And in early 2019 the 4TB size replaced the 3TB drive.

Just choose the capacity you want.

YouTube Video Showing You The Canvio Advance in Action

Have a look at this video I found showing you the Toshiba Canvio Advance in action.

Video Credit: Toshiba TAEC

Toshiba Canvio Advance Looks

You'll find a fun colors in a 'piano finish' high gloss case.

You've the colors Red, Blue, White.

And the more usual Black.

So if you want to match your Toshiba Canvio Advance with your Mac's other accessories, you can.

You may find that your Canvio Advance's high gloss finish gets annoying.

As it is a bit of a finger print magnet.

Portability of Your Canvio Advance

Your Advance portable drive will fit easily into a small bag. Or in the back pocket of your jeans.

With sizes and weights of;

1TB and 2TB - 4.3 by 3.1 by 0.55 inches

4TB - 4.3 by 3.1 by 0.77 inches

And is as lightweight as the other portables in its class at;

1TB and 2TB - 5.28 ounces

4TB - 7.4 ounces

You'll find an attractive design that makes it a worthy accessory to flaunt beside your Mac.

The Speed of the Toshiba Canvio Advance

Even with its smaller physical size, its data transfer rate is good – at around  136 Mb/s with the USB 3.0 interface.

If you’re looking for the best portable external hard drive, by size and weight.

And with 4TB of storage for your Mac, then the Canvio Advance may well be just what you want.

Plugging in Your Mac into Your Canvio Advance

You've a USB 3.0 drive that uses the USB port of your Mac for power.

There is no extra power adaptor to carry about. A nice benefit on a portable.

Like the WD Elements Portable. You can use your Canvio Advance on your a Mac with Thunderbolt ports. 

You'll need a USB 3.0 to Thunderbolt adaptor cable.  Easy enough to buy from Amazon.

Your Canvio Advance is NTFS out of the Box

Typical of external drives on the market your Canvio Advance will need to be reformatted for your Mac.

You'll need to format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. Or ExFAT if you'd like to share this drive with a Windows PC.

Format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. Then use your Canvio Advance with Time Machine for backups.

Or for dragging and dropping your files to. Or copying and pasting to.

Canvio Advance Warranty

Your Toshiba Canvio Advance is sold with a 2 year limited warranty.

Which you'll find is competitive for a basic portable external drive in the market.

Number Three : Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable Hard Drive

Rating 4.4/5

The Seagate Expansion 1 TB is a basic external hard drive at an affordable price. Seagate have been around in the market place and have sold thousands of these hard drives. This is a great choice for entry-level users, and is among the best portable external hard drives along with the WD Elements portable drive and the Canvio Advance.

​Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive
Seagate Expansion

Expansion Pros

  • Competitively priced
  • Nice range of storage capacities
  • Mac and Windows compatible. The drive can be shared between a Mac and a PC if you wish for formatting or partitioning to ExFAT

Expansion Cons

  • 1 year warranty only

Seagate Expansion Summary

​If you’re looking for a basic portable external hard drive, then the Seagate Expansion is up there as another great choice! Thousands of happy users out in the market place and only pushed into third place by the length of its warranty.

The expansion of storage space for your Mac is definitely the best reason for buying the Seagate Expansion drive. You will find that it more than meets your needs for an entry level drive at an affordable price.

Seagate Expansion Features

Seagate isn’t known for its sleek product designs. This drive is in black with a stylish checked pattern on the top. If you're not worried about design you can be assured that Seagate's external hard drives are among the most functional and durable in the business

Seagate Expansion Reliability

With many happy Mac users this drive is has proven itself to be reliable with users. Unfortunately with all consumer hard drives there are the odd hard drives that are shipped out and prove to be dead on arrival. You'd have to be extremely unlucky to get a Seagate one but fear not, Amazon will see you right.

Seagate Portable Storage Capacity

The Seagate comes in 1TB, 2TB and 4TB sizes so you have a reasonable choice in hard disk capacities.


The Seagate drive similar to the portable drives reviewed has a 5,400 RPM drive internally, but performs well for this type of hard drive at a top speed of 120 Mbps.


​The Seagate Expansion Portable is fitted with a USB 3.0 port similar to both the WD Elements and the Toshiba Canvio. And as each of those hard drives the Seagate is powered via the USB port so there is no need for an additional power adaptor.

This means that you can plug the hard drive in as you would a USB stick. And if it's your first time using the Seagate Portable Expansion for a Mac user you simply reformat to have the drive connected to Mac only or to share between Mac and Windows Computers.

Unsure how to do this no fear take a look at the article here.

Like both the WD Elements Portable and Toshiba Canvio there is no direct Thunderbolt connectivity. This is easily solved by the purchase of a USB 3.0 to Thunderbolt adaptor cable from Amazon.

Saves you the cost of a more expensive Thunderbolt drive, particularly if you do not need the performance offered by those hard drives.

Seagate Expansion Portable Aesthetics and Portability

​With a small neat design in a 4.9 by 3.2 by 0.6 inch enclosure is for sure portable and capable of being taken with you. At 6.4 ounces for the 1TB drive, it’s a little heavier than the WD Elements and the Toshiba Canvio Advance, none the less it is very portable.

The Seagate Portable External Hard Drive's Warranty

​One year limited warranty is offered on the Seagate Expansion Portable. This is less than the two year's offered on the WD Elements and the Toshiba Canvio Advance which is a little disappointing and helps push this drive into third place in our estimation.

Number Four : Samsung T5 Portable SSD

Rating 4.3/5

And now we take a step, no.

A long stride up from the basic drives that have made the top five best drive list to take a look at the best solid state drive.

What is a SSD - solid state drive?

​They differ from the mechanical drives we have looked at so far because internally they have no moving parts. The data is stored electronically. There are no fan's to cool the drives and so they are silent in operation, more resistant to knocks and bumps and are typically lightning fast.

There is a price tag associated with these SSD drives, as you pay much more per GB of storage …

But they give you oh so much more.

The first of these drives for the best external SSD 2018 list is the T5 Portable from Samsung. A beautiful drive in many ways, with optional password protection and file encryption (see what we say on that below)

​Samsung T5 Solid State Drive
Samsung T5 Blue

T5 Pros

  • Good looking, reliable and easy to use - who wouldn't want one.
  • Lightening fast disk speeds making those backup's super quick
  • Keep an eye out, occasional deals could mean you get this baby at a bargain price

T5 Cons

  • Problems experienced with Samsung's Mac software provided on the drive

T5 Summary

​With its handsome good looks, striking performance, the Samsung T5 is one of the best SSDs for a Mac and is likely to delight you. Particularly if you are a professional needing fast hard drive performance, need to keep your data safe in the field and need a hard drive to keep up with your latest Mac.

Samsung T5 Feagures

The drive is a real beauty with an Aluminum metallic case colored between royal blue and navy blue for 250 GB and 500 GB versions and in metallic black for the 1 TB and 2 TB versions. It's also reportedly able to take a drop of up to six feet.

That's all very reassuring though we doubt we would want to drop a drive this pricey for fun to test that claim out.

Samsung T5 Reliability

Because this drive operates electronically, there is no worry about internal parts wearing out and failing as they do on a normal mechanical hard drive. The T5 has exceptional reliability with many very happy users. You can read what those users say by clicking on the picture link to Amazon above. The quality of this drive just shines through.

T5 Portable Storage Capacity

The Samsung T5 comes in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1TB and 2TB flavors and covers the capacity that most users of this drive would want. There is a price premium you pay for this class of drive but if you are in the video editing, photoshopping or audio editing professions then you'll love this drives speed and you won't care about the price.

YouTube Video on the Samsung T5

Why not take a look at this quick under one minute video on the Samsung T5.

Video Credit: Samsung

T5 External SSD Speed

With a Single USB-C (USB 3.1) connection - perfect for Thunderbolt 3 connectivity to the latest MacBooks. The drive's headline speed is advertised at 540 mb/s though you are unlikely to get quite that on the Mac.


​The Samsung is also compatible with USB 3.0 for older Thunderbolt 2 ports you'll also get decent performance.

The Samsung is provided with a second cable to allow you to connect this drive from USB-C to USB A (USB 2.0).

Useful for connection to older Macs with USB 2.0 ports but beware, those Macs are unlikely to be able send the data out to the T5 at anywhere near the headline speed the drive is advertised at.

The existing internal hard drives being too slow.

MacBooks running an older laptop internal disk drive are going to be nowhere as fast as this little baby so you'll need to bear that in mind. You'll get the speed the older Mac can do plus all the other benefits of having a SSD drive - reliability and drop shock resistance.

The T5 drive comes preformatted in ExFAT which makes it read, writeable and interchangeable between with both Macs and PCs.

Unless you plan to share this SSD between a Mac and a PC we would recommend you reformat the T5 on your Mac, to Mac OS (Journaled) file system.

Then you'll be able to use the T5 with Time Machine.

Several Mac users have reported problems with the default ExFAT formatting. So just in case you may well be advised to reformat. It only takes a few minutes.

How to do that?

Read my article here on how to do this.

The Samsung T5 is supplied with a software app to make it easier to use on a Mac, (those running Mac OS X 10.9 and above) beware users have reported issues using this software, best to stick with the software provided on your Mac rather than install this software. 

Simply reformat the drive using Disk Utility on your Mac and you'll be golden.

Password protection on the hard drive is optional through Samsung's Portable SSD software. This software installs drivers in your kernel. A forgotten password means no access to your data. As some Mac users have experienced problems using this software I'd suggest avoiding

The Samsung Portable's Aesthetics and Portability

​If you wanted to take this little baby about with you then it couldn't be more convenient. With dimensions of 0.4 by 2.3 by 3 inches 1.6 ounces it gives my credit card a run for its money.

The T5's Warranty

​Tip top and shows Samsung's confidence in this drive and reflect the many happy users. Three years Limited warranty is the quality warranty you would expect of this kind of external SSD drive.

Number Five : LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt External Hard Drive

Rating 4.4/5

And now we come to the best rugged external hard drive. We have picked this LaCie Thunderbolt hard drive not just for its sporty outdoor looking design.

It also has some of the best rugged features around to back up its throw away good looks, with Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and Firewire options for hard drive connections, as well as hard disk drive and SSD drive options.

LaCie originally a French hard disk manufacturer that specialized in providing rugged, performance and even wireless products to Mac users, is now wholly owned by Seagate Technologies.

The tough orange brand is traditionally loved by photographers, video editing and audio editing Mac computer users.

​LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt Hard Drive
LaCie Rugged Outdoor

LaCie Rugged Pros

  • Quality, practical and tough. This drive ticks all the boxes
  • Impressive range of storage sizes and connection options to your Mac
  • Can be formatted to be both Mac and Windows compatible and share betweeen the two computers

LaCie Rugged Cons

  • Not the most attractive hard drive of the group, but oh so practical
  • Reports of more hard drive failures since the take over of LaCie by Seagate

LaCie Rugged Summary

​If you want a take with you nearly anywhere hard drive then you wouldn't go far wrong with this drive. Proven in the field and popular with the go everywhere crowd. Take this little orange daemon with you and be proud.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt Features

The orange one sporting its IP-54 rating that offers water resistance, Drip resistance, shock resistance along with hardware encryption.

This hard drive has been a favorite amongst professionals needing a reliable hard drive to take out in the field where conditions aren't always conducive to using hard drives.

Rugged Thunderbolt Reliability

With many hundreds of happy users this is a hard drive that is proven out in the rough. Want to see what users on Amazon think? Easy just click on the text link above and it'll take you over to Amazon where you can have a look.

Though there have been reports of an uptick in hard drive failures since the company was taken over by Seagate, those failures are low in numbers.

LaCie Thunderbolt Storage Capacity

Your rugged portable hard drive comes with capacity options and drive type options.

  • There are 1 TB, 2 TB USB 3.0 rugged external hard drives
  • and 250 GB, 500 GB, 1TB rugged external SSD options.

Rugged Speed

Powered by the USB port on your Mac, there is no separate power adaptor to worry about. Just as well with a hard drive designed to go out into the field.

With up to 122 mb/s hard disk performance or if you choose to go for a solid state drive up to 387 mb/s SSD performance. There is plenty of choice in performance level and size of disk drive.

Connecting Your LaCie to Your Mac

​To connect this hard drive to your Mac there is an integrated Thunderbolt USB-C (USB 3.1) cable that plugs directly into your Mac's thunderbolt port. This cable is fully covered and is resistant to the elements and when not in use can be tidied away inside the LaCie's cover.

This cover allows the LaCie external hard drive to be IP54 rugged and resistant to the elements.

Once removed the cover also exposes the USB 3.0 port.

Which is only relevant for the hard drive models with USB C and USB 3.0 connections.

And LaCie has supplied you with a separate USB 3.0 cable for connectivity and backwards compatibility with USB 2.0.

There are even versions of this hard drive with Firewire ports for connectivity over Firewire. You'll need to check the models for the ports you want - Thunderbolt (USB C) and or USB 3.0. Some of the models offer up to three different ports one USB 3.0 port and two Firewire 800 ports and the hard drives can be daisy chained together.

The LaCie set up assistant software that comes with the hard drive, allows you to set up this drive for use on a Mac exclusively. Or you can format the drive to ExFAT if you wish to share and interchange data between a Mac and a Windows PC

Plenty of choice for you.

LaCie Aesthetics and Portability

​The orange ruggedized outer casing is designed to resist drops and falls. It may not be the prettiest of hard drives or the sleekest. But then it isn't why you would buy a LaCie hard drive.

The casing is IP54 rated to resist dust and water being splashed onto the hard drive. The SSD's are tested to resist falls of up to 6.6 feet, the hard drives up to 4 feet. LaCie have also tested the drive for crush resistance by LaCie driving over the drive using a 1 ton car and the drives still worked. Impressive.

Size of 0.98 by 3.5 by 5.52 inches and weight of 0.882 pounds it is no doubt portable and begs to be taken with you.

Rugged Thunderbolt Warranty

​The external mechanical hard disk based LaCie's have 2 years limited warranty. The SSD based external drives come with 3 year's limited warranty.

Wrapping Up on the Final Verdict

​Your choice in a Mac compatible external hard drive depends on several factors, from your budget through to your need for storage capacity, features and connectivity to your Mac.

The ​WD 2TB Elements hard drive​ answers the question of what is the best external hard drive for Mac because of its price performance, range of capacities and because it more than performs as a use every day hard disk.

But really in a way all the external hard drives on the list are winners and the five quick reviews above are the ones that deserved a special mention.

And depending on what is important to you, good looks, range of colors, performance or sheer toughness then your pick of the bunch may differ. As they say - your mileage may vary!

If you're still not sure how to go about choosing, then we have a treat for you, read on and note the six steps to choosing the right external hard drive for you.

6 steps to choosing an External Drive

6 Steps to Choosing an External Drive. That Special Companion for Your Mac

​I am guessing you love your Mac, what ever flavor it is, iMac to Macbook to Macbook Air and why not?

They are lovely machines, designed to be easy to use, and get along with but they are not particularly expandable.

Your Macs attractive design,

Thinner, smaller, lighter enclosures. Is exactly what you wanted. And what about the software programs you have on it.

Well they are not growing smaller neither will there be less of them over time.

The best selfies, HD video's, the wish to have documents with embedded pictures and video's not to mention most documentation is being provided on-line and you need to store your own copy … course you do.

Macs are designed to be … well a Mac

so you won't want to open up the back (you can't on some Macs) and dig around in the internals to upgrade the hard drive …

And god forbid the next software upgrade makes your Mac unusable, or the internal disks you have everything so carefully stored on fails … so what do you do?

You need options and alternatives.

Storing your data in the cloud is a good option, assuming you have the network bandwidth to get to it all should you have a failure.

But what if what you have stored is sensitive, pictures, company documents. Would you be concerned about anything up in the cloud should someone break in and get to it?

And there you have it, the argument to get yourself an external hard drive and depending on how crucial your data is then maybe two.

It's unfortunate, that consumer grade hard drives both internal and external have been known to fail, so if you really have got to have it, have it in several places and you won't be left crying or cursing that it's gone.

An external drive that is easy to use, that you can store away when you're not using it, or transport files between locations.

And now there are so many options in the way your little Mac companion drive looks, how handy it is to take with you and how much you can get on it. Now we get to the meat, the how, the process,

The 6 Steps to Choosing Your External Drive

1. What Mac do you have?

​​This is important because an older Mac may have a USB 2.0 interface. What's that?

The place you plug your external drive into.

The newest Macs will have thunderbolt connections. Wha?

It means that you have a much faster connection interface to your Mac.

A USB 2.0 port compared to a Thunderbolt port is a physically different connection. You may only need an cable adaptor or a compatible cable but it's worth checking.

If you have several Macs types and generations then you may be looking for something able to connect to them all.

What interfaces to they have? make a note.

2. Next, Have a think About your Main Reason for having an External Drive

​Is it storage for those mega important files or

for saving games, apps and movies that can be downloaded again easily.

Are they work files? Customer files? Sensitive? Do you need a drive that supports password protection and encryption?

Are you planning to share your drive between a Mac and a PC? Then you need to make sure it is of a large enough capacity to store the files you want to share and you'll need to spend the short time needed to format the drive to ExFAT or have a ExFAT partition where you can interchange files.

Are you out and about on location? Are the sites you visit hard drive unfriendly? Dust, dirt and water can kill of your external drive super quick. Could it get knocked about? Then a ruggedized or a solid state hard drive may be just what you need.

Are your files large and numerous? HD video's, photographs so you need a drive with capacity and one that is quick.

3. Storage Capacity in Relation to Price

​It's a universal truth that the larger the storage capacity, the higher the price.

If your external drive will be backing up several Macs then you'll need to tot up the storage capacity of them all and how many days/weeks of backup you want to store.

There is nothing wrong with taking a leaf out of the book of large corporates. They will have hard drives that does Monday's backup and use a different set for Tuesday's backup, alternating days in the week. So that if the worst happens they have options.

Is a 1 TB disk drive or a larger 4 TB+ needed?

If your total backup requirement is 2TB then it is best to get a hard drive that is at least that size for backup. You probably should really have a 3TB or larger hard drive so that you can store your backups and grow into the drive.

Could you consider 2 x 2 TB's spreading the backup file load and have alternating backup drives?

Ok so your armed with that knowledge what now?

Compare your favored hard drives against the storage capacity you have in mind.

4. Connectivity and Speed

​External hard drives for Macs usually have USB 3.1 or 3.0 interface with backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 interface for using with older Mac models.

That's how you physically connect. What else?

A number of external hard drives now take their power from the USB port on the Mac itself. This has implications for older Macs.

Macs are very picky about how much power external devices take and not all manufacturers have stuck as strictly to the USB 2.0 specification as Apple Inc. You may find those drives won't power up at all or consistently on your Macs USB 2.0 port so check.

Check that other users haven't experienced that problem.


you many not want a physical connection to the hard drive at all. You may want to perform backups wirelessly and automatically over Wi-Fi. In that case you'll be looking at a network connected device.

You may also want a drive that can be connected to and perhaps shared with your other household devices, such as to your game consoles, iPhones, printer, Windows based machines or even to your router. In that case you'll need to check your drive of choice is compatible with all those devices, get a hard drive that is big enough, partition it up and your good to go.

But if you’re looking at a drive for a professional application, or to connect to multiple devices across Wi-Fi then it pays to look for a drive speed that is up to that.

5. Reliability and Manufacturer Reputation and Warranty

​The reliability of hard drives is generally determined by the manufacturer’s reputation for quality products, and on the length of the warranty offered. Why?

Lets face it a manufacturer is not going to offer a long warranty on hard drives that fail often.

Stick with the best manufacturing brands if you can, even if it costs a bit more. You've not been shy to spend on your Mac so it pays to make sure its external hard drive companion is of suitable quality.

For drives aimed at a consumer, the best warranty you'll see in the market place is a three year warranty offered by top manufacturers of the premium solid state drives and mechanical drives. A 2 year warranty is considered pretty good.

6. Handsome Looks and Portability

​You have a Mac, you'll want something that looks good beside it right?

It's no accident that the best external hard drives for Macs have attractive designs as manufacturers that cater to the Mac market know well that a buyer of a Mac likes his kit to look good.

As for transporting your hard drive around,

with portability;

size and weight in relation to disk capacity is important. Check that the dimensions and lightness of the drive suits your purpose.

Desktop external hard drives designed for use in the home are heavier and the technology assumes a stable surface.

Laptop class drives - as many of the portable external hard drives are, are largely aimed at the portable market place due to their smaller internal mechanisms. Some have mechanisms to resist shocks to the drive and drops to a certain extent. If you are looking at taking your hard drive around with you it will pay to get a quality case for it and look for a drive with features that make it more tolerant of what might happen to your drive in a pocket or bag.

​Seagate Expansion and LaCie images by curtesy of Seagate Technologies