We have been evaluating some of the best external drives for Mac for 2023, focusing on capacity, interface, and compatibility with Mac devices. Now that the holiday season has passed, we are keeping an eye out for sales, deals, and any new releases at CES 2023.
Collin Probst, B2B Hardware Editor
If you anticipate needing a lot of storage space for your large files, invest in the best external hard drives for Mac.
An excellent external hard drive for your Mac lets you expand your computer's storage without losing a lot of cash. And, while a case can certainly be made for SSDs – creative professionals will appreciate their faster read and write speeds and more robust build – they're an excellent solution for budget-minded folks who don't need anything speedy. Plus, because hard drives are cheaper than solid-state drives, you can have more storage capacity for less money. Moreover, external hard drives are typically designed to be portable and rugged, so they can go everywhere you go.
Although it is possible to upgrade the storage space on a Mac or MacBook before you hit the buy button, Apple computers are pricier than ever, and boosting their components inside will charge you a premium. So, getting an external hard drive to meet your storage needs can be cost-effective, depending on what you plan on doing with the drive.
We've compared these external hard drives across numerous points, like their speed, type of connectivity, build, durability, and portability. We also looked at their pricing and warranty, among other things.
Consider one of the best external hard drives for your storage needs for Mac. Here are our top picks, alongside our price comparison tool, so you can get the best deal available.
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The best external hard drives for Mac in 2023 in full
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The latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport external hard drive comes in capacities from 1TB to 4TB. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's backup software. While transfer speeds aren't the quickest, its USB 3.0 connection offers a good balance between speed, capacity, and price.
Along with a three-year warranty, the hard drive comes with a USB Type-C connector (USB 3.1 Gen 1), a cable, and a Type-C to Type-A adaptor. The 4TB hard drive weighs 232g without the accessories, has dimensions 82 x 110mm, and has a thickness of 21mm. The 1TB/2TB models are around half the size.
The WD My Passport Ultra also has 256-bit AES hardware encryption to keep your files secure.
Read the full WD My Passport Ultra 4TB portable hard disk drive review here.
If you want to use your Mac's Thunderbolt port, this is the best external hard drive for Macs. It provides twice the speeds of standard USB 3.0 drives. It still uses a traditional hard drive rather than an SSD, and while rates aren't quite as fast as possible, it at least keeps the price down while offering large capacities. There's also a USB 3.0 port for connecting to computers that don't have a Thunderbolt port.
This external hard drive is sturdy, portable, and attractive. It has a clean white finish that'll go well with Macbooks and is also compatible with Time Machine. Although the Buffalo MiniStation is formatted for Macs, it has just one Thunderbolt port. But this shouldn't be a deal breaker for most users.
Read the full Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt review here.
This is one of the fastest high-capacity hard drives you can plug into your Mac, with a massive 4TB of storage space that zips along its USB 3.0, eSATA, or FireWire connection. The all-aluminum enclosure gives the drive a premium look and feels while protecting your data from knocks and drops and keeping the drive cool when used.
Air vents are on the front of the device to ensure enhanced cooling. The illuminated 'G' logo in the vents' middle contributes to the hard drive's premium design. It is a rather large device, though, at 196 x 128.5 x 35.3mm with a weight of just over 1kg, and that's because of the 3.5-inch hard disk drive inside.
Read the full G-Technology G-Drive 4TB review here.
If you want a super-fast external hard drive for your Mac, then the Samsung T3 SSD is easily one of the best. As it uses a solid-state drive, the read and writes speeds of this drive are much faster than external hard drives that use traditional hard drives. It does mean the price is higher, but if transfer speed is the most crucial consideration when looking for the best external hard drive for your Mac, this is the drive to go for.
The T3 features an aluminum case that's rugged and shock-resistant. It has a USB-C port and an integrated Thermal Guard feature to prevent overheating in extreme temperatures. Although the hard drive doesn't come with a USB-C cable, it includes a USB-C to USB-A cable that'll work with any computer with regular USB ports.
With compatibility for both Mac and Windows machines, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC is very flexible and comes with a rugged case that's dust and water-resistant, along with a built-in USB 3.0 cable. Not only is your data protected from knocks and drops with the rugged shell, but it also has 256-bit AES security features and NFC (Near Field Communication) features. This is an incredible external hard drive for your Mac if you are concerned about keeping your data safe and secure.
This external hard drive comes with a bunch of programs usually seen on Buffalo devices, but they don't add much value, and uninstalling them is a hassle because the folders are left all over your system's hard drive.
Read the full Buffalo MiniStation Extreme review here.
The latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport Ultra range of external hard drives has landed, coming in sizes from 1TB to 4TB. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's software suite.
It is a good performer regarding data transfer speeds but doesn't come near the top of the leaderboard. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't reach the top speeds of external solid-state drives, but this is the drive to consider for external hard drives based on traditional HDDs.
This external hard drive is small, light, and sleekly designed. Although it's a bit larger and heavier than the My Passport Slim, it is a little smaller than the My Passport Essential. Since it has a plastic body, it lacks the sturdy metal design seen on the My Passport Slim.
Read the full Western Digital My Passport Ultra review here.
You might also want to check out the best PS5 external hard drives.
How to choose the best external hard drives for Mac for you?
When choosing the best external hard drive for your Mac, you must consider other things beyond storage capacity and price. Of course, those two things are vital. Finding one that’s affordable and has enough storage space – a minimum of 1TB is highly recommended – for your present and future needs is ideal, even if you have more than enough money to splurge for something expensive.
Another deciding factor, however, is the connection. Many external hard drives have USB 3.0 connections, but since MacBooks and Mac accessories rely on the power and data transfer speed of USB-Cs, USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 or 4 connections are certainly favorable.
If you’re storing critical files, especially for work, consider getting one with more robust security features. There are other things, including a rugged build if you plan on taking it out in the field with you and portability if you plan to travel around with it.
Best external hard drives for Mac: How we chose them?
While we will talk mainly about hard drives as storage devices that write and read on spinning metal or glass platters, we have to mention SSD (solid state drives), which has grown in capacity and performance. That, however, came at the cost of endurance, especially at the lower end of the market, and is likely to be an issue if you use our SSD storage extensively.
All newer MacBook and desktop Macs (iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro) come with one or more Thunderbolt ports which are also compatible with USB Type-C. So we look not only at the versatility and general performance of the drives - across several benchmarks - but also their relevance to specific use cases, after-sales and warranty, and sheer value for money.