The Best External Drives for MacBook Pro in 2021

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 filled 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Or maybe you already had an external drive to help extend your MacBook’s storage, but now it’s either outdated, too slow, or experiencing issues.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 remote files storage, 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 drive for your MacBook Pro so you can access all your files without sacrificing speed or performance.

Quick Summary

Here’s a brief overview of our recommendations depending on your specific needs and preferences:

  • The 10TB G-DRIVE Desktop External Hard Drive will give you enough volume and lightning speed for a traditional drive, and comes pre-formatted for Mac.
  • 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 speedy solid-state drive, the Glyph Atom RAID 1TB SSD is sure to meet expectations in terms of speed and durability.
  • For the best external drives for photographers, consider Seagate Ultra Touch as it provides at least 1TB and comes with a 4-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography.
  • For best for SSD external drive, then have a look at Crucial X6 as it reads blazing-fast of up to 540MS/s

Do I Need An External Drive for My Mac?

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 data-heavy programs 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 cloud storage or an online backup service but fear 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 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.

The Best External Drives for MacBook Pro in 2021: 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.

1. G-Technology 10TB G-DRIVE USB-C Desktop External Hard Drive


This speedy HDD drive offers a huge 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-C so you can take full advantage of its specs.

Pros:

  • If you have set up Apple Time Machine, this drive will be ready for easy file backup so you won’t be waiting for your files to read or write. Also, it comes with a great 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.

2. Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB


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.

3. Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Armor A60


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.

4. Glyph Atom RAID 1TB External Solid State Drive


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.

5. Seagate Ultra Touch – Best for Photographers 

Photographers need large amounts of storage, and this Seagate hard drive comes in either a 1TB or 2TB option to match. 

Even better, this option includes a 1-year subscription to Mylio Create and a 4-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography to give you access to some powerful editing and managing tools. 

It also has a slim and durable design that is easy to take with you on location or in the studio. 

Pros:

  • The hard drive is large enough to handle a steady stream of photos with a 1TB or 2TB option. 
  • Photographers can take advantage of the free subscriptions to Mylio and Adobe 

Cons:

  • You only get four free months of access to Adobe Creative Cloud, so be sure to put it to good use. 

6. Crucial X6 – Best for SSD

The need for an SSD external drive is appealing, and this option for Crucial is one of the best in the category. 

It has blazing fast read speeds of up to 540MS/s, making it an excellent choice for professionals and creatives of all types. This SSD drive is also super portable and lightweight while offering wide compatibility with other devices in addition to your MacBook.

Pros: 

  • Large capacity options of up to 4TB are available for anyone with vast storage needs
  • The 540MB/s read speed is almost 4X as fast as some other competing hard drives. 

Cons:

  • The downside of SSD is that you’ll pay more, and this option is expensive

7. WD My Passport for Mac 

For a Mac-focused option with a large amount of storage, the WD My Passport is a top choice. This is a safe and secure option that features password protection alongside 256-bit AES encryption.

It is Time Machine ready and makes for a great way to backup your entire MacBook Pro with storage sizes of up to 5TB. 

Read speeds of 130MB/s and a SuperSpeed USB port make it a fairly speedy option as well. 

Pros:

  • You can expect instant plug and play compatibility with your MacBook Pro as this drive is designed for Mac and works seamlessly with Time Machine
  • Large storage sizes available for full-system backups

Cons:

  • Larger storage sizes mean a more expensive price tag
  • 130MB/s read speed is decent but doesn’t compare with SSD

8. WD My Passport 

This is a great all-around drive that will work for a variety of MacBook users. 

It has a slim profile which makes it perfect for those who travel or take their laptop to and from work. It’s easy to use as an automatic backup option and has good encryption to keep all of your data safe and uncompromised. 

You can also choose from a few different colors and storage sizes for a customized hard drive. 

Pros: 

  • Slim profile that’s easy to pack and carry
  • Various storage sizes and different colors available

Cons:

  • Not the fastest read speeds available, but it still makes for a good automatic backup option

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 is definitely worth checking out:

Best External Drive for MacBook: What to Look For in 2021?

Storage Capacity

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 the long or short term to decide your actual need.

Formatting

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.

FAQ

Do Any External Hard Drives Work With Mac?

Yes, there are many external hard drives that work with Mac, and you should check out the list we covered above.

To find out whether if an external hard drive is Mac compatible, all you need to do is to look at the compatibility section under specification – if it does not indicate Mac, it is likely that it does not work with Mac. Hence, you should look for the ones that do. 

How do I Backup My Entire Mac To An External Hard Drive?

After you open up the Time Machine program from System Preferences, click Select Backup Disk, and you will get the option to select the external drive. Apple has a detailed guide here

Final Words

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.

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