Best Accessories & Upgrades for MacBook Pro

I've been using an old MacBook Pro for years and it still runs strong today, except that the battery is starting to wear down. I’ve made one major upgrade: I replaced the internal hard drive with a new SSD (solid state drive), which boosted my MacBook performance drastically. Of course, during the course of my Mac experience, I've also purchased a number of accessories which helped keep the machine in good shape.

My teammates proposed creating a page on this site featuring a list of the best MacBook Pro accessories. I thought that was a great idea, and here we are! In this article, we're going to show you the best hardware upgrades you could consider if you're using an old MacBook Pro, and the best accessories you can add to your shopping list to make the most of your new MacBook.

Note: We've personally bought and used many of the items below, and recommend them because they are useful. You don't need to get all of them, obviously -- they might break the bank! 🙂 Some accessories are for specific models only. Just select those that fit your needs at the moment and don't overspend on things you think you'll use but leave in a corner somewhere after using them once (sound familiar?)

**Reading tip: use the Table of Contents above to help navigate to the category that best helps you.

Must-have Basics

Now that you've bought a MacBook Pro and are used to the Apple macOS system, what's next? Get some basic accessories other Mac fans are also using! Below is a long list that you may consider, depending on whether you own an old MacBook or a new one.

Cases & Protection

If you're new to MacBook Pro, the first thing you should do is get some protection for your laptop. You'll need at a backpack or bag, or a hard case or sleeve. Choose the item(s) that best fit your need as well as your personal taste and sense of style.

Backpacks

A backpack is best for those who travel or work with a MacBook. They can also carry other digital gear like a tablet, a camera, or an iPhone. Incase ICON Slim Pack is one of the best out there. It's sleek, clean-looking, and comfortable to wear with the padded shoulder straps. You may consider this backpack from eBags or The North Face Jester Backpack which has many colors to choose from. Also check out our latest backpack roundup here.

Laptop Bags

A messenger or brief bag is another great way to protect your MacBook Pro for everyday commuting and traveling. AmazonBasics Laptop and Tablet Bag is the best choice. You may also like Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag or this briefcase bag from ProCase.

Hard Shell Cases

If you want to protect your MacBook Pro from scratches or personalize it with your favorite colors or stickers, you should get a shell. We recommend ProCase Rubberized as it also comes with a keyboard skin cover, and i-Blason Smooth Matte Frosted is also a good choice. If you're using a 12-inch MacBook, get Incase Dots Hardshell Case.

Soft Sleeves

If you want to protect your MacBook against drops or cracks, get a sleeve made with sufficient padding to offset normal drop damage. Tomtoc Drop-proof Laptop Sleeve is our favorite. You may also like Incase Classic Sleeve, and this water-resistant one from Mosiso. See the best MacBook sleeves we've reviewed.

Power, Adapters & Cables

If you're using an old MacBook Pro, the battery charge doesn’t last as long. Adapters or cables wear out with time. You may want to replace them. If you're using the new fourth generation MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (late-2016 or mid-2017), your MacBook has either two or four USB-C ports (depending on the model) that support Thunderbolt 3. What does that mean to you? You'll face problems connecting your old peripherals. Thankfully, Apple offers a number of adapters and converting cables to take care of it. Some of the items come with your Mac when you purchase it; you may want to get an extra one for convenience or in case you lose it.

Power Bank

Over time, your MacBook battery will wear down, meaning you'll need to charge it more often. In some cases (e.g. traveling or commuting), you are unable to do so. That's why a portable power bank is awesome. It will help extend the battery life of your laptop and allow you to get more work done. Consider one of these options or see our latest review:

USB-C to USB Adapter

It connects standard USB enabled devices such as keyboards, flash drives, or mouses to your MacBook Pro with USB-C ports. Get this one from AmazonBasics.

USB‑C Power Adapter

Getting an extra power adapter saves a lot hassle when you often forget to bring it home, to the office, or wherever you go. Apple's USB-C Power Adapter offers fast and efficient charging. Apple also recommends pairing it with your 13-inch MacBook Pro with USB-C ports for optimal charging performance.

USB-C to Lightning Cable

This adapter lets you connect your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) to your MacBook to transfer data or charge your Apple Magic Mouse 2. You can get an original from Apple Online Store, or from AmazonBasics Apple Certified.

USB-C Memory Card Reader

The new MacBook Pro comes with no SD card slot, meaning if you are a photographer who uses SD or other camera cards, you'll need a card reader compatible with USB-C ports on your MacBook Pro. Cable Matters USB 3.1 Type-C Dual Slot Card Reader is a nice one that reads all kinds of SD cards.

All-in-one USB-C Hub

If you have a number of external peripherals to connect to your MacBook Pro and feel the built-in ports aren’t enough, get this USB-C Hub from HooToo that allows you to charge your Mac, connect keyboards or memory cards, stream videos to TV via HDMI, and much more.

Cleaning & Cooling

MacBooks, like other tech gadgets, are prone to dust and dirt build-up. When the heat sink gets stuffed, your computer may overheat very quickly. There are other situations when your Mac can overheat--for example, improper placement and runaway apps. That's why you should keep your laptop clean and cool by putting it in an air-conditioned area. But there are other tools you can use to protect your MacBook Pro from overheating as well.

Cooling Pad

You might have heard this before, but there are a lot of considerations for choosing the best cooling pad for your laptop: size, weight, how quiet the fans are, turbo boost, etc. You won't go wrong with TeckNet Portable Ultra-Slim. This one Kootek Laptop Cooling Pad is also worth considering.

Cleaning Kit

All computers and digital devices are bound to get a bit dirty here and there, and they are not as resilient as they may seem. Cleaning your MacBook Pro screen and keyboard using a paper towel (or your finger) can damage the device. That's why you need professional cleaning tools like EcoMoist Natural Organic Screen Cleaner and Dust-Off Disposable Compressed Gas Duster.

Note: when you're cleaning, it's best to shut down your Mac and unplug the power adapter just in case.

For Health & Productivity

Machines are machines. They help you do more only when you know how to use them properly. What do we mean by "properly"? We mean, without affecting your health and productivity! That's why you may find some of the following accessories worth checking out.

Display & Mounts

An external monitor or screen is extremely useful when you use a MacBook Pro for work and need to communicate with colleagues in the same office. Meanwhile, a mount or stand allows you adjust the screen to eye level so you can improve working comfort and reduce strain — all good for your health.

External Monitors

Depending on your MacBook Pro model, you may want to check whether your MacBook supports Ultra HD resolution before buying a 4K/5K display (see this Apple article for more). Also, if your new MacBook has Thunderbolt 3.0, you may want to get a monitor that supports USB Type-C. That said, here's a great list of options to choose from:

Laptop Stands

A stand can elevate your MacBook and help you view the screen more comfortably, as well as enhance venting to avoid overheating. Check out this article to learn more about whether or not you'll need a laptop stand. As for the best stand that fits your notebook and personal style, consider those options:

Note: If you also decide to purchase an external display for your MacBook, you may be interested in getting a vertical laptop stand like Vogek U-Cradle Vertical Laptop Stand to save space.

Mice & Keyboards

All laptops, including MacBook Pro, don't come with a mouse or external keyboard--but there are times you may find yourself needing those devices to work more efficiently. For many, a mouse especially is important--it’s much easier and more comfortable to use than the built-in trackpad.

Mouse

If you're used to an external mouse, it's definitely worth it to buy one for your MacBook Pro so you're not banging your head when the trackpad is too slow. We love Apple Magic Mouse 2 because we've never had issues like freezing, disconnecting, etc. You may want to take a look at VicTsing Wireless Mouse, or AmazonBasics Wireless Mouse that comes with a mouse pad for wrist rest. You can also read our favorite mouse roundup review here.

Keyboards

If you don't want to limit yourself with the small built-in keyboard on your MacBook Pro, or if you've elevated your Mac with a stand, you probably need an external keyboard. If the Apple style fits you, consider Magic Keyboard or Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. If you prefer a PC-style keyboard, consider Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 and Azio Mk Retro USB Typewriter Inspired Mechanical Keyboard. Read more here.

Headphones & Speakers

Are you used to having headphones or speakers whenever you’re at work or leisure? Below are some of our favorites.

Headphones

There's a lot to consider while choosing headphones that fit your style. Color, weight, sound quality, in-ear or around-ear, wireless or not, etc. all matter. We can't recommend which ones you should use, but Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H6, Bose SoundSport, and of course, Apple AirPods are all worth considering.

Speakers

A set of external speakers can make your favorite songs, podcasts, and movies come to life, turning your MacBook Pro into the ultimate entertainment rig. Check out these great options below or this article for more.

We also have reviewed the best external microphones.

For Data Security

These days, the data stored on your Mac is probably more valuable than the machine itself. You can't afford to lose data or "share" it unexpectedly. However, like every other kind of technology, storage media (i.e. the internal hard drive or solid state drive) can be used up or die any day. What do you do? Back it up and protect it. The following accessories are great for data protection.

Storage & Backup

We all know the importance of data backup, and there are a variety of ways to do this, such as via online backup services and external drives. Most of us prefer the latter for privacy and convenience, and we recommend them as well. If you're into Apple products, consider AirPort Time Capsule.

If you're on a budget, consider buying an external hard drive and choose to back up selected individual files or the whole Mac system via Time Machine (see this official guide from Apple). Consider these:

Privacy Screen

A privacy screen protector is particularly useful when you use your MacBook Pro in public, or at work, and display sensitive information you want to protect. The best filters mount to your MacBook screen so that only people right in front of your MacBook display can see the content, while strangers or coworkers will only see a black screen. If you've decided a privacy screen is needed, consider 3M Privacy Filter or Akamai Privacy Screen.

Performance Upgrades

If you've got an old MacBook Pro (any model between 2008 to 2012), you can boost its performance by simply adding or replacing the old components like RAM and hard drive. I use a mid-2012 MacBook Pro (with 8GB memory and a 512 GB Hitachi hard drive), and I managed to improve its performance by upgrading the hard drive to a new SSD which is faster and more reliable.

Add Extra RAM

Adding extra memory will help your Mac run applications faster, so consider doing this if your old MacBook is slow in responding to commonly used apps like Photos, iMovie, etc. Depending on your MacBook Pro model and its configuration, you may be able to add an extra 2GB or 4GB RAM. See this post Best RAM for MacBook Pro for more information.

Upgrade to SSD

There are many advantages to SSDs (solid state drives) over HDDs (hard disk drives). In general, SSDs are speedy, faster, and quieter. Most old MacBook Pros (prior to 2012) are loaded with a spinning hard drive (2.5-inch), but you can replace it with an SSD. As for the best SSDs, you may consider Crucial MX300 and Samsung 850 EVO; Power users may like Samsung 850 PRO and WD Blue 3D NAND.

Software & Apps

Unlike hardware or real accessories you can touch, software is sort of "invisible". But don't underestimate the power of software or apps, because you literally can't live without them. There are plenty of well-developed applications that can help increase productivity or protect your MacBook. Here is some of the best software for you:

Microsoft Office for Mac: If you just switched from a PC to Mac, you probably used Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more back in the PC age. Luckily, Microsoft also offers the Office suite for macOS, cutting out the learning curve for Apple iWork.

Parallels Desktop for Mac: This app allows you to run Windows 10 on your Mac. How cool is that? If you need to work with programs that are specifically for PCs, get this app immediately.

CleanMyMac: Running out of disk space on your Mac? CleanMyMac is the best storage cleaning app. It can help you reclaim tons of storage so you can save your most important stuff like photos and videos.

Bitdefender for Mac: Did you fear viruses and malware attacks back in the PC days? Get this program installed on your Mac. Though Apple macOS has built-in features to keep Macs safe and is generally considered more secure than Windows, Macs are still vulnerable. It's best to have antivirus software on your Mac!

Setapp: Setapp is an app subscription services for the Mac, like "Netflix for software". It includes a collection of the best Mac apps in a single folder, saving you time and money.

Adobe Creative Cloud: A must-have for professional photographers. Creative Cloud is packed with apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, etc. for graphic design, video editing, and much more.

Intuit Quickbooks: If you are a small- or medium-sized business owner dealing with payroll, sales and tax stuff is boring. But with Quickbooks, your life will be much easier.

Published on Oct. 21, 2017​