Does this sound similar to you?
You thought you had enough disk space when you originally bought your MacBook Pro, but soon you realized that storage is being gobbled up quicker than you can clear old files.
Or maybe you already had an external drive to help extend your MacBook's storage, but now it's either outdated, too slow, or experiencing issues.
We may be in the age of cloud computing and remotely stored files, but it's always helpful to have a portable hard drive you can count on both for file backups and to work off as needed.
In this buying guide, we'll help you pick the best external hard drive for your MacBook Pro so you can access all your files without sacrificing speed or performance.
Here's a brief overview of our recommendations depending on your specific needs and preferences:
- The G-DRIVE 1TB HDD will give you lightning speed for a traditional drive but comes pre-formatted for Mac only.
- If you need instant cross-platform compatibility, and an array of color choices, you'll be covered with the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB.
- Known for being rough on your electronics? The Silicon Power 1TB Drive is rugged and durable, with water resistance in addition to quick read and write speeds.
- If you prefer a modern SSD (solid-state drive), the Glyph Atom RAID 1TB SSD is sure to meet expectations in terms of speed and durability.
Who Should (& Should Not) Get This?
External drives are a worthwhile investment for more than just power users, but it can be hard to determine if you need one or not. Consider this:
- Do you regularly work with large files such as videos and edited images, or run other creative files such as video games?
- Is your MacBook Pro running slower due to being overburdened with files?
- Have you ever wanted to backup your Mac just in case of any data disaster?
- Are you using a cloud storage or online backup service but fear of security and reliability issues from the provider?
- Are old files being stored on your computer because you occasionally reference them but can't completely delete them?
Answering yes to any of the above scenario questions is a fairly good indicator that an external hard drive would benefit you.
On the other hand, an external hard drive is probably not the best option for for those of you who only have a small volume of unimportant files to save, which might be better served by using a cloud storage program like Dropbox or Google Drive or by offloading their old files onto a large USB flash drive.
Buying an External Hard Drive: What to Consider?
If you're purchasing an external hard drive, it's because you need the space on your MacBook, so it doesn't make sense to cut corners on how much exterior space you purchase. However, it's still important to consider exactly how much space you need. Consider how quickly you create large files (such as photo imports) and if you plan on keeping them in a long or short term to decide your actual need.
While many newer drives come formatted to work on both Mac and PC, it's best not to choose one that is single-system compatible as it will limit the drive's versatility (though you could manually format an external drive for both PC and Mac compatibility, it's an extra effort and requires you to be a bit geeky). For added convenience, you should look for drives that come pre-formatted for Mac, which means you don't have to install a special program and do it yourself.
HDD or SSD
There are several kinds of external drives based on the electronics that make them work. An HDD is the traditional spinning disk of data, whereas an SSD is newer technology that has no moving parts and store information inside the electronic components. An HHD, or Hybrid Hard Drive, uses a combination of these methods. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to speed, durability, price, and information safety, so make sure you know which you prefer.
The Best External Drives for MacBook Pro in 2018: Our Picks
Kindly note that the products chosen below are mainly based on our personal preferences and the guidelines as shown above. They are by no means made in the order below.
This speedy HDD drive offers a good chunk of storage at an uncommonly high RPM. It will stand up to daily use in editing and media programs and connects to your computer via USB so you can take full advantage of its specs.
- Pros: It's a 7200 RPM drive which means you won't be waiting for your files to read or write. Also, it comes with a good amount of storage space.
- Cons: The disk is pre-formatted for Mac, you won't be able to use your files on a secondary computer such as a Windows PC unless you reformat it to NTFS file system.
Available in four different sizes, this hard drive from trusted brand Seagate comes in several colors. Approximately the size of your phone, it packs a punch for its size and is very portable.
- Pros: It can be used on both Mac and PC without reformatting. Also, it offers fast connection via USB and weighs about 5 ounces.
- Cons: Largest TB size option is not compatible with Mac.
An extremely versatile and sturdy drive, this model is compatible with more than just your MacBook. It's water resistant, with read and write speeds at the standard 120 mbps.
- Pros: It can be used with several gaming consoles and Apple Time Machine in addition to your Mac. It's also durable and available with the modern USB-C which is especially useful if you're using the newest MacBook Pro.
- Cons: It appears somewhat unprofessional, also the drive is a bit on the heavy side as it weighs around 8 ounces.
Available with USB and USB-C connections and pre-formatted for Mac, this SSD from well-known brand Glyph provides extremely fast speeds that will support your casual and power use. It looks clean and functions beautifully.
- Pros: It comes pre-formatted for Mac with easy reformats for PC or cross-platform compatibility, significantly faster than comparable drives from Samsung and other brands, available in several colors and two connection types.
- Cons: It's the heaviest drive on our list at 11 ounces, and a bit on the pricey side as well.
Useful Tips & Resources
Picking a hard drive can be difficult, especially if you aren't sure whether you need one. One way to help decide is to try a cloud storage platform such as Google Drive or Dropbox before you decide to buy an external drive. Both platforms are free to start with and they offer terabyte storage options for paying customers and using one may help you decide if you need more constant access to your files or simply a place to store them.
If you know you want an external drive but aren't sure what storage type you need (HDD or SSD), perhaps this guide from PCWorld will help you decide which best fits your requirements.
Also, It's worth noting that some external drives available on the market are formatted for PC only, but you can reformat it to Mac OS Extended, or for cross-platform compatibility (with NTFS) if you need to use your external drive for your MacBook Pro and a PC as well. This tutorial video made by David Cox is definitely worth checking out:
Regardless of your final choice of external drive, having one will definitely improve your workflow and computer performance. You'll be able to use your files more effectively and improve your MacBook's performance. Which external drive have you used in the past or are considering purchasing? Let us know.
Published Nov 11, 2017.