Mac Thunderbolt portable drive roundup: The best fast drives for your Mac laptop

Finding the best fast drive for your laptop can be challenging. There are plenty of different options to choose from, and it's hard to nail down a favorite.

For this roundup, we're looking specifically at portable external hard drives equipped with Thunderbolt interfaces. They have to be bus-powered, small enough to comfortably fit in a bag or backpack and made by a company that has more than a passing familiarity with the Mac in order to make the cut!

Why the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is the best

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Versatile, fast, silent, and portable – what else can you ask for?

The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is the best for a number of reasons, but overall, it's a reliable, well-made product.

Because of the Elgato's lack of moving parts, the drive is far less likely to break or get damaged like other devices in the same category.

File transfer is so much faster, about 10 minutes for 100 gigabytes. (Amazon user H. Rose)

The Elgato is also incredibly silent, making it a perfect companion for you on the go, at the office, if you're working in public, or even in the peace and quiet of your own home.

Fastest SSD external drive I have used. Very high build quality. Bought 5 over 2 years and no issues yet! (Amazon user Robert H.)

Overall, the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is a reliable piece of equipment that does its job efficiently. What else can you ask for with a drive like this?


Admittedly, you will pay more for a Thunderbolt-equipped portable Mac drive. If you want to save yourself some scratch, you can pick up cheaper USB 3.0 drives; I recently posted a roundup of Mac USB 3.0 drives for you to take a look at too.

One important note for Thunderbolt mavens: All of these drives have a single Thunderbolt port on them, so they'll need to be at the end of their daisy-chain.

Hopefully this will help you narrow your choices a bit when it comes time to go shopping for a portable Thunderbolt drive. If you have any questions, fire away!

  • Great stuff, Peter. I picked up a couple of drives late last year when I got my 15" Retina MBP. I have a LaCie 1TB Thunderbolt + USB 3.0 drive (doesn't have the T-bolt cable built in, both cables shipped in the box), and a 1TB Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt drive (this one has USB 3.0 also). Both are terrific drives; and there have been a few cases when I didn't think I'd need the USB 3.0 port on these drives, but in some heavier workloads I've definitely been glad a USB 3.0 option was available. I'm sticking with the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt drive as my "carry with me to work every day" drive. The LaCie is great, but it adds a little bit of extra weight to my messenger bag, so I'm going with the Buffalo MiniStation for now.
  • Great roundup Peter, thanks for doing this. Sent from the iMore App
  • Great Article I bought the Lacie Porsche design after reading the last article. Great drive and great design. Sent from the iMore App
  • Actually it would be amazing if apple teamed up with the Porsche design team because they've both been doing some great stuff. Porsche designed iwatch? Sent from the iMore App
  • I've had good luck with the WD drives. Very reliable.
  • Thanks Peter. I wanted to ask your advice. I have a 2013 iMac 27", but unfortunately doesn't have an SSD or Fusion drive.
    If I got an external thunderbolt SSD drive, would I be able to use this as my boot drive and run the OS off this drive? Surely this would be much faster than the 7200rpm drive it currently has?
    This way I wouldn't have to get an aftermarket upgrade to the iMac. Your thoughts? Sent from the iMore App
  • What about more drives that portable like P8-T2 an eight bay 2.5 inches raid