Best external hard drives for Mac 2023: more storage means more everything

Best External Hard Drives
(Image credit: Future)

Whether you're backing up business documents or a lifetime's worth of family photos, there are few things more precious than your personal data. Keeping it protected and backed-up is a modern-day essential, and our picks of the best external hard drives for Macs will help cast out your data-storage demons once and for all.

The best external hard drives for Macs are not only useful for storing data but are an excellent way to transport files from one location to another. When you consider price, ease of use, and portability, the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD is the most reliable hard drive you can carry around with you at all times, but there are plenty of other options. We recommend the SanDisk Professional G-Drive 12TB for those really big back-up jobs, for instance.

Best overall: Seagate Ultra Touch HDD (2TB)

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Seagate Ultra Promo Image

Seagate Ultra Promo Image (Image credit: Seagate)

Seagate Ultra Touch HDD (2TB) External Hard Drive — black

Reliable, portable, and affordable

Reasons to buy

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Affordable
+
Great backup software
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USB 3.0
+
Metal enclosure
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Works with Time Machine

Reasons to avoid

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Proprietary cable
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No USB-C

If you want a reliable external hard drive with a decent amount of storage that is super easy to carry around and has a very affordable price tag, the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD is the best option for most people. Formatted for Windows and Mac right out of the box, it's easy to carry all your essential documents from desktop to laptop as soon as you hook it up.

The Seagate Dashboard backup system is a fantastic, simple tool that lets you schedule backups to ensure you never miss any critical files if something terrible happens to your computer. You can set automatic backups daily, weekly, or monthly and change the frequency whenever you want.

Seagate also throws in a one-year subscription to Mylio Create for free — which can help you wrangle your photo library if you don't already use some photo managing tool — and a four-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

No lengthy setups or formatting procedures here. The Seagate Ultra Touch HDD 2TB is formatted for Mac right out of the box.

Best USB-C hard drive: Samsung T7 Portable SSD (2TB)

Samsung T7 SSD in Red (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung T7 Portable SSD (2TB)

Fast and encrypted

Reasons to buy

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USB-C available
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It's an SSD, which is faster than an HDD
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Super compact
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AES 256-bit hardware encryption

Reasons to avoid

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A little expensive per storage
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Not Time Machine compatible

This small compact SSD drive from Samsung comes with both a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A, meaning it's perfect to use with your MacBook or Mac.

More importantly, it's super fast. SSDs tend to be much faster than HDDs, so if you need speeds, this is our pick. There's more than enough speed and power to transfer any file with up to 1,050 MB/s read speeds and 1,000 MB/s write speeds. And it should be able to store all your photo and video files with ease thanks to its straightforward software. Plus, if you're worried about encryption, the Samsung T7 Portable SSD has you covered with an optional password to launch the drive and AES 256-bit hardware encryption on all your files.

However, it's worth noting that you'll be paying more for SSDs than HDDs, hence the expensive price here.

The Samsung T7 is the best option if you need speeds. It's fast enough for photographers and videographers to transfer their work.

Best capacity: SanDisk Professional G-Drive (12TB)

Western Digital My Book (Image credit: SanDisk)

SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE 12TB

Huge storage space over USB-C

Reasons to buy

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Lots of storage
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Stackable design
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Time Machine compatible

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be noisy
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Needs external power source

Ready for your Mac Time Machine back-ups right out of the box, the 12TB storage capacity on the SanDisk Professional G-Drive offers enough terabytes to back up an entire family's most important documents.

Whether you're filling it with Photos libraries, home movies or professional editing projects, the USB-C (10Gbps) interface provides reliable and speedy data transfers (up to 280MB/s read and 280MB/s write) from a 7200RPM hard drive. It can get a little noisy under load, and its speeds won't match those of an SSD. But the dollar-to-terabyte ratio here is excellent, from a brand you'd happily trust your most valuable files with.

12TB not for you? SanDisk also makes everything from 4TB up to 22TB in this enclosure design – though we feel like 12TB will be the sweet spot for many.

Best rugged drive: LaCie Rugged SSD (1TB)

Lacie Rugged Promo (Image credit: LaCie)

LaCie Rugged SSD (1TB) - External Hard drive

Rugged design with Thunderbolt 3

Reasons to buy

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USB-C
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Water-resistant
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Shock-resistant
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Fast speeds
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Time Machine compatible

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

LaCie hard drives have always been good for people on the go because of their rugged design. The LaCie Rugged SSD Pro can withstand some dust, dirt, and even a tiny bit of water being splashed on it as it has an IP67 rating. Plus, its rubberized outside makes it shock-resistant, meaning it can survive a fall if you accidentally knock it off your desk.

Since it's an SSD, it's incredibly fast, being able to play back 6K video no problem. Plus, the included USB-C cable makes it perfect for MacBook and Mac users alike!

The LaCie Rugged SSD (1TB) is a favorite because it can withstand drops, dust, and even the occasional splash of water!

Best fast drive : Samsung X5 (500GB)

Samsung X5 Promo (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung X5 Portable SSD (500GB)

Incredibly fast SSD

Reasons to buy

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2,800MB/s read speed
+
Shock-resistant
+
Thunderbolt 3

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Gets warm
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Not compatible with Time Machine

If you're used to dealing with giant file sizes and need a hard drive that can handle transfer data fast, the Samsung X5 is one of the fastest SSDs you'll find. Its read and write speeds are 2,800MB/s and 2,300MB/s, respectively, and the entire body is made of metal, making it much tougher than plastic drives. Plus, the internal frame on the inside is shock-resistant for drops from two meters.

This SSD comes with Thunderbolt 3 technology included. This is so you can take advantage of the fast speeds on your Mac or MacBook Pro, and it doesn't need any formatting, so it's plug and play!

If you need blazing fast speeds for giant files, the Samsung X5 is a monster external SSD that can handle any workload.

Back it up, back it up!

The Seagate Ultra Touch HDD is the best external hard drive for your best Mac because you can carry it around with you at all times, it's formatted for both Mac and Windows right out of the box, and its easy-to-use software can automatically complete backups for you as often or as little as you want. No matter how you back up your Mac, the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD has you covered.

Seagate also throws in a one-year complimentary subscription to Mylio Create. This program can help you wrangle your photo library if you don't already use some photo managing tool. A two-month membership to Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Plan means it's the best external hard drive for Mac for budding photographers as well.

If you are looking for something with USB-C to use with your MacBook, and nothing here suits your fancy, you can always check out the best USB-C hard drives for Mac to ensure you can use them on your Mac laptop with no dongle needed.

Gerald Lynch
Editor in Chief

Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 14 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. 


Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar, Space.com, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews, Mirror.co.uk, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.