Best External Hard Drive for a Mac

Running out of real estate to park your digital property, are you? Here are some of the best external hard drives ideally suited for a Mac, that might solve your storage issues for a long time to come. From desktop, portable to network storage, reviews of the best drives out there are presented in here.
There is nothing like adequate storage, as far as digital data is concerned. No matter how much hard drive space you start up with, you will be left wanting for more, soon enough. Moreover, Apple has never known to be generous as far as hard drive space is concerned. Even the high-end MacBook Pro models have 768 GB of flash memory (which is undoubtedly fast, but not adequate). A companion external hard drive is an inevitable choice for any user. It saves you from the tyranny of moving around loads of optical disks. With the amount of digital data that we create today in the form of photos, videos, movies and other personal data, you can be damn sure that some day you are going to wish for more hard drive space. Though tech giants like Apple and Google would rather have all our data on clouds, most of us would rather have larger external drives to store it all. Though solid state drives are rapidly cutting into the market share of external magnetic hard drives, they still maintain their dominance on the basis of the large price advantage they offer. Before diving into reviews of the top external hard drives, best suited for a Mac, here's a short buying guide, that will point out the essentials.

Choosing an External Hard Drive for a Mac

Here's what you need to check out in the specification sheet.

Storage Capacity: The most important feature, don't settle for anything less than 1 Terabyte of storage. That is the minimum you would require. When you buy memory in bulk, it costs you lesser per gigabyte, than buying an entirely new drive later. Depending on your budget, you can choose any device in the 1 TB to 4 TB range. If the drive is supposed to be used as backup with Time Machine, massive capacity is essential.

Type: Portable (2.5" to 1.8") drives are compact and designed for users on the go, with no need for an external power connection as they draw power from the computer bus. Desktop drives (3.5") are cheaper but bulkier and require a power plug-in for operation. Ergo these drives can only facilitate tethered usage. Then there are wireless network storage drives that can be used as data hubs. Choose one that best fits your budget and requirements. Portable drives are expensive, but certainly worth the extra bucks.

Interface: The type of connectivity offered will decide the rate at which the drive can transfer data. For a Mac, the best interface is Thunderbolt, which offers the best overall dual channel data transfer speeds (10 Gbps) currently. Next best is USB 3.0 (5 Gbps) followed by eSATA (which does not have native connectivity on a Mac) and Firewire 800. If you have a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display or an iMac, external hard drives with Thunderbolt can provide you with lightning fast data transfers, making them default choices. Check what kind of ports are installed in your Mac and buy a drive with fastest compatible data transfer interface, from among Thunderbolt, Firewire 800 and USB 3.0. Thunderbolts connectivity is expensive but worth every penny.

Spindle Speed (RPM) & Cache Size: The reading and writing speed for a hard drive is partially determined by the spindle speed, specified in rotations per minute. Higher the speed, faster are the overall operations of the drive. Another factor that can improve drive performance is a larger cache size. Drives with a large cache will definitely be faster.

Encryption: With private data being stored on the drive, encryption is a necessary feature. In the era of corporate espionage, data encryption can be a life saver. Ergo, in cases where sensitive data may be stored on the drive, it's best to opt for a secure encrypted drive.

Advanced Format: Hard drive manufacturers are moving over to Advanced Format, that will change the minimum sector size of drives from the current 512-520 byte range to 4k (4096 byte) size sectors. Ergo, going for drives which would be compatible with this new emerging format would be a prudent thing to do.

Wireless Network Connectivity: If you use a Wi-Fi network at home or office, a hard drive with wireless connectivity makes for a highly convenient choice. Through apps made available by certain manufacturers, all your iOS devices, including iPod touch, iPhone and iPad can access the network storage drive to directly access all stored data.

Price: A simple way of determining whether the price of a drive is reasonable, is a cost-per-gigabyte calculation. That, along with an analysis of overall performance should enable you to compare and choose the best drives.

Best External Hard Drives For Macs: Reviews


Finally, here are the contenders. They are primarily chosen with the requirements of a Mac user in mind. Quality has taken precedence over price when choosing drives that may be used with iMacs, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro devices. The devices have been classified into desktop, portable and network storage solutions for Mac users, which should make it easier for you to make a choice.

Desktop Drives

Seagate Backup Plus Desk Drive For Mac With Thunderbolt

One of the most complete storage solutions for any Mac user, the Backup Plus series from Seagate, with Time Machine compatibility, is your own little personal cloud that can accommodate the totality of all your digital data. At 10 Gbps, the Thunderbolt interface provides the fastest data transmission speeds in the world. Moreover, the Thunderbolt port lets you daisy-chain as many as six compatible devices at a time. See high-definition movies getting copied in a few seconds. An interesting feature is its ability to automatically backup your personal data from various social networks. With a 3 year warranty and the range of features, this would be the default purchase for most.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceThunderbolt
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 10 Gbps
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$399.99

LaCie 3 TB USB 3.0 Porsche Design P'9233 Desktop Hard Drive

Aesthetically designed LaCie 3 is a product ideally suited for Mac users. With solid aluminum casing and Porsche design, this product perfectly compliments the design sensibilities apparent in Apple devices. With blazing fast USB 3.0 speed, massive 3 TB storage capacity, automatic backup and password protection, this drive deserves a place beside your iMac, as its trusted storage companion.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceUSB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 5 Gbps
Spindle Speed5400 RPM
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty2 Years
Price$189.95

WD 4TB My Book Studio External Hard Drive

All metal and USB 3.0 enabled, this password protected drive from Western Digital is a solid performer. Built to be compatible with Time Machine, it boasts a healthy 7200 RPM spindle speed, that works to deliver phenomenal speed, coupled with USB 3.0. It is an ideal investment for any home Mac user, looking for a basic storage solution at a reasonable price.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity4 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceUSB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 5 Gbps
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$299.95

WD My Book for Mac Desktop Hard Drive


Built to plug and play with your Mac, this Time Machine compatible desktop hard drive delivers quite a punch with its USB 3.0 interface. A full length high-definition movie can be transmitted from the drive in about 3 minutes, compared to more than 13 minutes of labored transfers on USB 2.0. With hardware encryption and password protection, it's built to provide a secure storage experience. Though the speeds are not comparable to the pricey Thunderbolt, it is an adequate storage solution for any home user.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceUSB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 5 Gbps
Spindle Speed7200 RPM
Encryption256-bit AES Hardware Encryption
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty2 Years
Price$199.48


Portable Drives

LaCie 1TB Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series Hard Drive

One of the top sellers on Apple store, this LaCie product offers the dual advantage of USB and Thunderbolt interfaces to provide a blazing fast usage experience. Competitive price and solid performance has helped it gain a bestseller spot in the US market. LaCie has managed to provide one of the first bus-powered Thunderbolt devices which would delight any user with its rugged design and speedy performance. Mac users with native Thunderbolt connectivity are poised to benefit the most from this drive.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity1 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceThunderbolt/USB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 10 Gbps
Spindle Speed5400 RPM
Cache Size8 MB+
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty2 Years
Price$219.00

Buffalo 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive


Another powerhouse performer, the Buffalo MiniStation has been topping bestseller charts on most e-commerce sites with its dual interface design, portability and speed. Encased in aluminum, it comes bundled with all the requisite interface connection cables which makes it a versatile player on Mac and Windows platforms. It's reasonable cost and the promise of 10 Gbps data transmission, makes it one of the best players in the game.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity1 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceThunderbolt/USB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 10 Gbps
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$249.95

Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive for Mac With Thunderbolt

We are really spoiled for choice, as far as portable external hard drives are concerned. From Seagate's armada of storage solutions, the Backup Plus for Mac, with Thunderbolt has all features that you are looking for. Pressing on the advantage offered by a Thunderbolt port with 10 Gbps transmission speed, with USB 3.0 to complement and a solid 3 year warranty, this is a potential purchase you will never regret.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity1 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceThunderbolt/USB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 10 Gbps
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$229.99

G-Tech 1TB G-DRIVE USB 3.0 Mobile Hard Drive

Compared to its Thunderbolt-powered brethren, this USB 3.0 powered G-Tech drive may be lacking in the speed department, but it more than makes up for it with a low price tag. That's how it earned a spot on the list. It's a good choice for folks who are looking for a speedy and dependable drive, with no intention of spending too much.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity1 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceUSB 3.0
Data Transfer SpeedUp to 5 Gbps
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$149.95

Network Storage

Seagate Central

A revolutionary product, recently launched by Seagate, this external drive is your complete network storage solution, acting as your data hub. Built to be compatible with Apple AirPlay and Internet television sets, it comes with a complete set of free apps on Android and iOS, to access and store data. Built to manage your digital life, Seagate Central is superbly designed to handle all your data storage needs. It is your family media library, with automatic backup facility, accessible to all your mobile devices through a router based Wi-Fi connection. At $260 for 4 TB, it's a steal!

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity4 TB/3 TB/2 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceEthernet
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty2 Years
Price$260/ $220/ $190

WD My Book Live

My Book Live is WD's solution to the problem of managing data on multiple mobile devices. A massive three terabyte offering, priced at just $179.99, this home networking solution makes for a good investment. With secure remote access, automatic backup, slim design, Time Machine compatibility and a healthy data transmission speed, it would be ideally suited for the Mac user who's tired of transferring and juggling data between his various mobile devices.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceEthernet
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$179.99

Iomega 3 TB EZ Media & Backup Center

Iomega's offering is your no bells and whistles workhorse solution, offering all the essentials of a network storage device. A little bit on the pricier side compared to its competitors, it provides automatic wireless backup, photo sharing apps and an easy installation process.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceEthernet
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty3 Years
Price$230.99

BUFFALO LinkStation Pro

Building on its momentum in the compact drive market, Buffalo's Linkstation Pro is an economical solution at $213.99. Besides the 3 TB of storage, it lets you stream your movies and music on other devices. With scheduled backup facility, this is a product that would serve you well, as a network hub.

SpecificationValue/Type
Storage Capacity3 TB
Data Transfer InterfaceEthernet
System CompatibilityMac + PC
Warranty1 Year
Price$213.99

When buying storage, it's wise to follow the mantra - 'More is always better'. The job of a reviewer is akin to a matchmaker. One has to find the right product that exactly matches user requirements. I hope you found your match here and have your happily ever after.
Advertisement