Since upgrading the storage in Macs has never been simple, it is always a good idea to get an external drive to offer more capacity for all of your job files, personal files, films, and games. Additionally, you must always keep an external disc handy so that you may create Time Machine backups in case something goes wrong.
The best alternative is modern solid-state discs (SSD), which are incredibly quick, dependable, and small. While 4TB basic desktop hard drives with a USB interface may be purchased for the same amount of money as an SSD, SSDs are still very pricey, with 1TB drives costing roughly $100/£150.
(drives with high-speed Thunderbolt ports tend to be more expensive) Although hard drives are slower than SSDs, they are still the most cost-effective alternative if you require a lot of storage for your crucial files and backups. (If an SSD is what you’re looking for, see Best external SSD for Mac.)
There are also many options, including desktop drives with an extremely big capacity if you truly need a lot of storage and small, portable hard drives made for laptop use. Other advantages that some hard drives offer include built-in docks with numerous Thunderbolt and USB ports and the option to open the drive’s shell and replace the drive inside for an immediate upgrade.
The reviews we have are shown below, along with some basic buying tips that describe what you should be searching for.
1. LaCie Mobile Drive – Best for Travelers and Best Overall
Today’s Lowest Price: $79.99 at Lacie
The mobile drives offered by LaCie have a “diamond cut” shape and a significantly greater choice of possibilities.
The new Mobile Drives are covered in sleek aluminum as opposed to the neon-orange rubber bumper of its Rugged drives. They come in two colors that are meant to complement the Mac: Space Gray and Moon Silver. The exaggerated angles and edges that make up the “diamond cut” shape are only for show; the aluminum case is actually very durable.
The Mobile Drives that are 4TB or larger are 18.104.22.168 inches (12491.220 millimeters) and weigh 0.9 pounds (400 grams). If you hit someone over the head with one of these, they could suffer a significant concussion.
Physically, drives with a capacity of 2TB or less are smaller, with dimensions of 22.214.171.124 inches (121.687.810 millimeters) and lighter weights of 0.5 pounds (200 grams).
With just one USB-C connection on the back of the Mobile Drive and cables for both USB-C and USB 3.0, you may use the drive with any Mac or PC.
The discs are compatible with Time Machine for Mac backups, but LaCie also provides a ToolKit programme that lets you “mirror” certain folders. If you use your Mac for work and have your projects separated into their own folders, this is an excellent alternative.
Any time you modify a file in a mirrored folder, a backup copy of that file is created and updated automatically. Since Time Machine waits an hour between backups, this guarantees that your backups are always current with the most recent versions of your data.
The one thing we have against LaCie is that its scant documentation leaves you to go through a mountain of FAQ files on its website to get any information regarding the ToolKit app or the several formatting options for the drive.
The Mobile Drive performs well, with average write and read rates of 132MBps in our tests (almost identical to the Rugged Secure drives). It took exactly one minute to back up a batch of iTunes tracks totaling 5GB. Craig Joseph
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2. Seagate Ultra Touch – Best for MacBook Owners
There are two storage capacities for the Seagate Ultra Touch: 1TB and 2TB. It boasts a chic style that complements your MacBook well and offers encryption for added security for your sensitive data and files.
With dimensions of 4.5×3.1×0.5 inches (115x78x12 millimeters) and a weight of 0.3 pounds (151 grams), the Ultra Touch may be tucked away into a purse or the pocket of a jacket with ease. It comes in either black or white, and the sophisticated woven fabric finish is a welcome break from the typical hard drive’s dreary monochrome colors.
On the back of the drive, Seagate offers a conventional USB 3.0 socket, a USB 3.0 cable that is compatible with any Mac or PC, and a USB-C adaptor.
The LaCie Mobile Drive’s ToolKit app is also present on the Ultra Touch. On your Mac, you can utilize the drive to set up automatic Time Machine backups, but you can also use the ToolKit app’s mirror feature to back up specific folders in real time so you don’t have to wait for Time Machine to perform hourly backups.
The Ultra Touch’s encryption is similarly handled by the ToolKit software, but we found Seagate’s manual—or lack thereof—to be somewhat unhelpful, forcing us to go around on the company’s website for FAQs and details regarding this encryption and other capabilities.
Although the Ultra Plus won’t win any prizes for high-speed backups, performance is still acceptable enough. It took 110 seconds to back up a 5GB batch of iTunes music files and registered to write and read speeds of 125MBps and 130MBps, respectively, in our tests.
The performance will still be adequate for everyday backups, and the encryption feature will be quite helpful if you want to ensure that your confidential data remains private even if the drive is lost or stolen. Craig Joseph
3. G-Drive ArmorATD – Best Rugged Portable Drive
The ArmorATD is an enclosure with a 2.5-inch shock-mounted hard drive within. For added security, a silicon sock surrounds the tough aluminum shell. It can handle light abuse, especially so when the discs are rotating and the power is out, but you should never treat a hard drive like a hockey puck.
The connector is USB-C and has a 5Gbps (USB 3.1/Gen 1) speed rating, which is more than adequate speed for any hard drive. The drive comes with a three-year warranty.
With huge files, your Mac’s ArmorATD will provide a maximum reading speed of 127MBps and a maximum writing speed of about 120MBps. Nice thing.
The Armor ATD is exFAT formatted when it is delivered, so you can use it right out of the box with Windows and macOS. However, exFAT will impose a maximum penalty of 5%, therefore Mac users should format the drive. Jonathan L. Jacobi
Also Read: Best Ways to Check Hard Disk Health in Windows
4. WD My Passport – The Best Budget Portable
The My Passport drive from Western Digital offers a lot of transportable capacity at a reasonable cost. If you’re on a tight budget, the My Passport is a fairly economical backup choice starting at just $79.99/£49.99 for 1TB capacity and rising up to $189/£119.99 for 5TB.
The quantity of storage you select will determine the physical size of the drive. The 1TB and 2TB variants are only 0.43 inches (11mm) thick, in contrast to the bulky 4.23.0×0.8 inches (107x76x19 millimeters) of the 4TB drive we tested.
The 4TB disc is still small enough to easily fit in a jacket pocket. We’d be pleased to use it outdoors with our MacBook because it is quite sturdily constructed.
You’ll need an adaptor, though, if your Mac only has USB-C, as the drive uses the venerable USB 3.0 interface, which is starting to show its age. While the My Passport won’t win any prizes for its read and write speeds (108MBps and 100MBps, respectively), it will work just fine for the occasional Time Machine backup when you’re traveling with your laptop.
There’s also a kind called My Passport For Mac that comes with extra USB 3.0 and USB-C connectors and is pre-formatted in Apple’s HFS+ format, but that’s a little more pricey, so unless you have a little more money lying around, it’s not absolutely necessary.
5. LaCie 1big Dock – Best for Pro and Creative Users
LaCie’s 1big Dock is more than just a typical hard drive, as the name would imply. Starting at $369/£349.99 for a drive with 4TB storage and rising up to $889/£869.99 for 18TB, it is reasonably priced and offers good performance thanks to its 7,200rpm IronWolf Pro hard drive, which boasts read and write rates of 235MBps via its Thunderbolt 3 interface.
For anyone who requires a quick drive for huge video, photo, and music files, this makes it a viable solution.
A MacBook laptop can be charged using the main Thunderbolt port as well. Even better, you have the choice to remove the front panel and replace the stock hard drive with a new drive for immediate improvement.
But the built-in hub and connection features are what really set the 1big Dock apart from most of its hard drive competitors. You can connect more Thunderbolt and USB-C devices via the second Thunderbolt port, and a DisplayPort 1.4 link is provided for an external monitor.
For creative users who need to import files from cameras and other devices, the front of the drive also has slots for SD and CompactFlash (CF) memory cards and a normal USB 3.0 interface.
Additionally, there is a speedier solid-state storage option for the 1big Dock, however, it is somewhat more expensive.
6. Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hard Drive – Best for Desktop Storage and Connectivity
The remarkable all-in-one Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub combines a quick desktop hard drive with a flexible Thunderbolt port. But because of all the extra features, it’s bulky, heavy, and somewhat pricey. The FireCuda Gaming Hard Drive might be a suitable choice if you’re searching for something more reasonably priced but with some gaming eye candy.
It’s available with 1TB, 2TB, or 5TB of storage, so it has plenty of room for all your music, images, videos, and business data. Of course, it’s not only for gaming.
Owners of more recent Mac models that only have USB-C will need an adaptor because the disc only has a conventional USB-A interface (USB 3.2). (not included). You can use the FireCuda as a desktop drive or as a portable drive with your laptop because the USB port also supplies power to the drive.
As you might imagine, the disc is compatible with Time Machine, but Seagate’s ToolKit programme offers additional options for setting up sync plans that back up specific folders. You may also alter the colors and illumination that the drive’s front panel emits.
With read and write speeds of 133MBps and 130MBps, respectively, the drive performs similarly to other tiny hard drives we’ve seen. Additionally, Gaming Drive deserves to draw customers outside of the gaming industry because of its affordable prices and useful ToolKit app. Craig Joseph
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7. G-Tech G-Drive USB-C – Best for Massive Media Files
The G-Drive USB-C is an inexpensive desktop drive that offers good performance and tonnes of storage space. G-Tech has always concentrated on providing high-performance storage devices for creative people that deal with thousands of images, videos, and music files.
With a minimum storage capacity of 4TB and a maximum storage capacity of 18TB, the G-Drive is stylishly constructed with clever, durable aluminum housing. This amount of storage should be adequate for even professional users working with 8K video.
Due to the enormous capacity of the drive, an external power supply is required; however, the USB-C port on the back of the drive also offers 45W pass-through power, allowing you to charge a laptop without also requiring an additional power supply for the laptop.
It comes with USB-C and USB-A cables, so it may be used with older Macs without USB-C without the need for an adapter.
The 4TB model recorded read and write rates of 170MBps using the Blackmagic Disk Test, demonstrating the performance is also good. If you simply need a lot of hard drive capacity at a low cost, this USB-C model is the best choice since it contains both USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connectors but is significantly more expensive. Craig Joseph
8. WD_Black D10 – Best Budget Performer
The intimidating black style of this D10 desktop drive appears like a piece of heavyweight ammunition from the Call Of Duty games because Western Digital’s WD Black drives are largely targeted at gamers who desire a fast disc to improve loading times for their games.
Anyone who wants to save a lot of audio, video, and photo files on their Mac will also benefit from a fast drive, and the D10 has other functions that may be useful.
A few features of the design are a little peculiar. There is only one version, with 8TB storage, but it is still reasonably priced on Amazon at $240/£199.99 for such a quick drive. You’ll need an adapter if your Mac only has USB-C since it only has an outdated USB A interface (even if it is USB 3.2), possibly to give compatibility with older gaming consoles.
With read and write speeds of 245MBps and 240MBps, respectively, its 7,200-rpm drive performs admirably. The D10 is primarily intended for desktop use because it needs an external power source, but it also contains two additional USB 3.2 ports on the rear of the drive that can power other gadgets like an iPhone or iPad.
The D10 cannot be used as a dock for attaching peripherals like a printer or memory stick because these ports are exclusively for charging. Craig Joseph
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How to choose the right Mac hard drive
Although we’ve listed the top Mac hard drives above, you should consider your usage patterns before making a purchase. Answering a few questions can help you identify the finest hard disc for your requirements.
How Much Storage Do I Need?
Storage on hard drives is reasonably priced. We’d suggest a 1TB hard disc as the smallest size unless you’re truly trying to save money.
Upgrades to 2TB, 3TB, and even 4TB are similarly economical because the cost per megabyte decreases as capacity increases, so moving up to the next model is a smart move. Each terabyte can hold almost 11,000 music albums at 192 kbps quality, but once you start archiving 4K video, this storage capacity doesn’t appear so impressive.
Desktop or Portable?
You can get a portable drive if you believe that a 1TB to 4TB hard drive would satisfy your needs. These conveniently fit into a coat pocket and use tiny 2.5-inch discs. Bus power is also typically used for portable drives.
This indicates that there is no need for a separate power supply; you can simply plug them into your desktop or laptop. There is only one cable, and the drive won’t take up much room.
Consider a desktop device if an ultra-high-capacity hard disc is all that is required. These typically have capacities ranging from 4TB to 18TB and use bigger 3.5-inch discs. They’ll need to be plugged in for electricity, but if they stay at home or move from office to office, that’s great.
Rugged Drives for Travel
Roughness is something some portable drives give. For a hard disc, shock protection is crucial since, unlike an SSD, they include moving elements that might sustain irreparable damage from drops.
Rugged drives often have a hardened enclosure that won’t dent, break, or collapse under any typical level of pressure, as well as some sort of rubber coating that absorbs impact pressures.
Some are also water resistant. Few devices can withstand being submerged in water without being damaged, like the IP68-rated iPhone 11 Pro, but many can withstand rain or water jets or splashes.
What Extra Features Do You Need?
Though you’re more likely to receive more features if you purchase a larger drive. Desktop devices could come with an integrated “hub” that allows you to connect USB connections for accessories or memory cards. These are especially helpful if your present setup has poor connectivity or your available USBs aren’t very useful.
Which Connector Do You Need?
It’s also crucial to match the hard drive’s connector to the ones on your laptop or desktop. A cable will be included in the package, but it will either end in a USB-A or USB-C socket, as shown here:
You should use the more modern USB-C connector, which also functions as Thunderbolt unless your Mac or MacBook only has the older USB-A port. A USB-C style connector is included on every Mac that Apple has marketed in recent years, however, some Mac desktops still support the earlier USB standard.
However, not all USB-Cs are created equal. Thunderbolt 3 and, in certain situations, Thunderbolt 4 are also supported by the USB-C port on Macs. Based on USB 3.1, USB-C provides speeds of up to 10Gbps. 40Gbps is the maximum speed of Thunderbolt 3.
Thunderbolt 4 provides a few improvements over Thunderbolt 3, including a 32Gbps transmission rate that will be helpful to anyone who wants to move huge video files from a drive to their desktop for editing. Thunderbolt 4 also delivers 40Gbps.
Alongside the more recent Thunderbolt 4 standard, there is a new USB 4 standard that provides a bandwidth of 20 to 40 GB/s. However, USB 4 does not have all the functionality that Thunderbolt does.
If you’re searching for the finest interface for your hard drive, Thunderbolt is undoubtedly a better option than USB, although Thunderbolt options are probably more expensive than USB alternatives.
Wireless and NAS
You can choose a network-attached storage (NAS) drive instead of a traditional hard disc if you want to be able to wirelessly transmit files and backups. To share their data with other devices in your home, these network-attached storage drives join your Wi-Fi network. This could be a laptop, tablet, Apple TV, smart TV, or another device.
If you want to install a media server at your house, a NAS is really helpful. Similar to a wireless jukebox that you can load with music, pictures, and videos To learn more, see our piece on the top NAS drives.
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