Best external hard drives for Macs in 2019

In this guide to the best external hard drives for Macs, we look at the top devices for plugging in and expanding the storage space of your Mac or MacBook.

While there's a lot to love about Macs, iMacs and MacBooks, they are also tricky to manually upgrade, which means if you run out of space, it isn't too easy to open them up and pop in a bigger hard drive. While you can look into taking your Mac to an Apple Store (or an Apple-approved vendor) to perform the upgrade, this can end up being pretty costly.

So, one of the more affordable (and easiest) ways to expand the storage space of your Mac or MacBook is to use an external hard drive, and this list of the best external hard drives for Macs will help you choose the best drive for your needs.

An external hard drive is essentially a hard drive that comes enclosed in a case. It plugs into a Mac via a cable. 

The other major plus is the portability of an external hard drive means you can take it with you and plug it into another device for instant file swapping – handy if you swap between PCs and Macs regularly.

When looking to buy the best external hard drive for Macs for your needs, you should consider how much capacity you need. External hard drives come in all shapes and sizes, and you don't want to pay too much for space you'll never need, but neither do you want to cheap out and run out of space all too quickly.

Speed is also important. SSDs are faster than traditional hard drives, and you should consider what cables they use as well. USB 3.0 is fast, but Thunderbolt is faster. If you want to store lots of large files on your external hard drive, then consider going for the fastest drive you can afford.

In this guide to the best external laptops for Macs we take that into consideration - as well as ease of use, affordability and dependability. This last consideration is perhaps the most important, as when you're entrusting your important files to an external hard drive, you need to be confident that it won't break and lose your data.

Seagate 5TB

1. Western Digital My Passport 4TB external hard drive

A brilliant external hard drive for Mac or PC

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Large capacity
Good data transfer speeds
WD backup software is basic

This is the latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport external hard drives comes in capacities from 1TB to 4TB, and features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own backup software. While transfer speeds aren't the quickest, due to its USB 3.0 connection, it offers a good balance between speed, capacity and price.

2. Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt external hard drive

A brilliant Thunderbolt external hard drive

Capacity: 1TB, 2TB | Interface: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0

Low price compared to other Thunderbolt drives
Mac-formatted
Not SSD

If you want to make use of your Mac's Thunderbolt port, then this is a great option, as it provides twice the speeds of standard USB 3.0 drives. It still uses a traditional hard drive, rather than an SSD, and while this means speeds 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.

3. G-Technology G-Drive USB 3.0 4TB external hard drive

Slim and stylish

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, FireWire

Slim design
Sturdy
Can be noisy

This is one of the fastest high capacity hard drives you can plug into your Mac, with a huge 4TB of storage space that zips along its USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire connection. The all-aluminium enclosure gives the drive a premium look and feel, while also protecting your data from knocks and drops, and keeping the drive cool when used.

Samsung

4. Samsung T3 SSD

Speedy and large

Capacity: 1TB | Interface: USB 3.1

Very good performance
Very high capacity
Expensive

If you really 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 write 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 important consideration when looking for the best external hard drive for your Mac, then this is the drive to go for.

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC

5. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC external hard drive

Wireless security

Capacity: 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0

NFC security
Rugged design
Not the fastest drive

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 kept protected from knocks and drops with the rugged shell, but it's also got 256-bit AES security features and NFC (Near Field Communication) features as well. This is a great external hard drive for your Mac if you are concerned about keeping your data safe and secure.

Image Credit: Western Digital

Image Credit: Western Digital

6. Western Digital My Passport Ultra external hard drive

Comes with Encryption and a long warranty

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Large capacity
Type-C connector
Suite of applications
Average performance

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 own software suite.

It is a good performer when it comes to data transfer speeds but doesn't come near the top of the leaderboard. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't reach the top speeds of solid state external drives, but for external hard drives based on traditional HDDs, this is the drive to consider.

LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB

7. LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB

USB-C star

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB-C

Fast USB-C connection
Great design
Expensive
You need USB-C ports to take advantage of speed

You may have stumbled upon the LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive when perusing the Apple website for USB-C accessories. There’s a reason for that: the Porsche Design ships with both USB Type-C to Type-A and USB Type-C to Type-C connectors, making it a worthy candidate regardless of your setup.

It’s expensive for an external hard drive, don’t get us wrong, especially if you’re in the market for the top-end 4TB option. On the other hand, this is an HDD that could theoretically output speeds of up to 5Gbps, if it weren’t hindered by the limits of SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) technology. With MacBooks coming with USB Type-C connections, this is an excellent - and stylish - external hard drive that makes the most of this speedy new port.
 

iStorage diskAshur 2TB

8. iStorage diskAshur 2TB external hard drive

A brilliant external hard drive for extra security

Capacity: 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Physical security
Rugged design
Expensive

If you're worried about people getting access to your data if your external hard drive is stolen, than you'll like the iStorage drive here. If someone tries to tamper with your iStorage drive, you can configure it to self-desturct. What's more, the data is encrypted by the 256-bit AES protocol, with multiple forms of protection in place to ensure the bad guys don't get in no matter how persistent. When you consider all that extra security, the prices won't scare you away either. It's more pricey than the other drives of its capacity, but the extra security it offers will be well worth it for many people.