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Finding the best external hard drive for your Mac can breathe new life into your workflow. Especially if you have a MacBook, iMac or Mac Mini, you may have limited internal upgrade options. Adding an external hard drive can increase your storage by orders of magnitude, giving you ample room for backups, movie collections, music libraries, ongoing projects and more. You might also be interested in the best external hard drives for Xbox One. And, if you need more space, then you need to read our top-rated external hard drives guide.
Regardless of whether you will be storing personal memories or files from work, choosing the right Mac external hard drive is vital to protecting your digital valuables. With that in mind, what features are most important in an external hard drive? What are some of the hard drives currently available for your Mac?
The Western Digital My Book (model: WDBFJK0030HBK) for Mac 3TB hard drive offers a good balance of storage, features and speed. With 3TB of storage, the drive is HFS+ formatted out-of-the-box, ensuring compatibility with OS X. We wish that all storage devices came out of the box this way. It is fully compatible with Time Machine and uses USB 3.0 for its connectivity, ensuring fairly fast I/O. Unfortunately, Western Digital does not advertise the speed at which the drive spins. It can be found as cheap as $109.
Related: Check out our best external hard drive USB C.
View on Amazon – $109
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim (model: STDR2000102) is designed for users on the go. Its slim profile can easily be fit in virtually any computer bag. Like the My Book, the Backup Plus Slim uses USB 3.0, but also has wireless syncing for mobile devices. iOS and Android devices can sync via WiFi with the accompanying backup app. Users even receive 200GB of free Microsoft OneDrive storage for two years. In spite of having 2TB, rather than the My Book’s 3TB, the Backup Plus Slim retails for $119. Users will need to determine if the extra features are worth the reduced storage and higher price. You can always get the best usb flash drive for cheaper.
Related: Visit our best external hard drive PS4 guide to learn how to get more space for your PS4.
View on Amazon – $119
In 2003 LaCie and Porsche teamed up to create a hard drive. The P’9233 (model: 9000302) continues that tradition, offering a combination of performance, portability and sleek looks. The case is made from sleek, rugged aluminum, ensuring it matches with your MacBook or MacBook Pro. Like the other top contenders, the P’9233 comes formatted for OS X and is fully compatible with Time Machine. The 3TB model is available for $139, with more expensive models reaching up to 8TB of storage. You can compare what you get with these to the best SSD.
View on Amazon – $139
When it comes to top-of-the-line performance and storage, it’s hard to beat the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo. Unlike the other drives, this external drive relies on Thunderbolt to handle I/O. While this restricts its usage to the last couple of generations of Macs, those machines that have Thunderbolt ports will see significant speed improvements over USB 3 or competing technologies. The Thunderbolt interface also allows the drive to be daisy-chained with other devices, while the 8TB of storage should satisfy even the most data-hungry user. All this comes at a price, however, with the My Book Thunderbolt Duo coming in at $576. If you want a different option, compare with the best external SSD card too.
View on Amazon – $576
The Silicon Power Armor A60 is an extremely rugged external hard drive that offers military-grade shockproof and waterproof performance. This USB 3.0 hard drive is ideal for on-the-go and outdoor use, and is available in both 1TB and 2TB configurations. The drive can be found for $58 and $97 respectively. We think this as one of the best portable external hard drives for macs.
View on Amazon – $58
The Transcend 1TB Thunderbolt offers the very best in performance, combining an SSD with Thunderbolt connectivity. It also includes USB 3.0 for machines that may not have Thunderbolt, and comes pre-formatted for HFS+. The performance comes at a premium, however, with the Transcend 1TB listed at $1,199, although it can be found for $590.
View on Amazon – $589
Ruggedness is less important for a hard drive that will stay on your desk and rarely, if ever, leave the home or office. If, on the other hand, your hard drive will accompany you wherever you go, then ruggedness becomes a critical factor in your decision.
Speed is another factor to consider. The speed you require will depend largely on what you will be using the hard drive for. If you’ll be using it primarily for backups, a slower 5,400RPM drive should suffice. If you will be using it for more intensive tasks, such as editing video or audio files, a 7,200RPM or solid-state drive (SSD) would be a better choice.
Warranty: While virtually all hard drive manufacturers offer a warranty, not all warranties are created equal. Lengths, terms and what is covered vary from one manufacturer to another. Hopefully you will not have any issues with your new drive. If you do, however, a longer, more comprehensive warranty may be worth an additional upfront cost.
Time Machine Compatibility
As with many tech decisions, the choice of hard drive ultimately comes down to your needs. That and information. That’s why we’ve done the hard work and Mac external hard drive reviews. For home and home office users, the WD My Book for Mac 3TB offers one of the best balances of performance, storage and price. Given that current iMacs are shipping with 1TB drives, this option provides plenty of room for backups and future growth.
The most demanding of users will be best served by the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo. With its Thunderbolt connectivity, 8TB of storage and ability to be daisy-chained with other drives or devices, this external hard drive is ideal for professionals, such as videographers, whose livelihood depends on being able to work with large files as quickly as possible.
Those who work in rugged environments, or who simply don’t want to worry about their external hard drive, would do well to consider the Silicon Power Armor A60.