The best external hard drives for Mac can be hugely useful when you've filled up the capacity of your macOS machine's internal SSD. These plug-in external drives can give you gigabytes of additional storage in an instant, so you'll have much more room for photos, videos, music, podcasts and anything else you want to store in digital form.
There's now a huge amount of choice to pick from in 2023 too – from compact, ultra-portable drives that slide into your pocket, to chunky bricks that take up a substantial amount of desk space and can stream files to any computer on your local network.
Two types of technology are covered in our best Mac external drive list: HDD (Hard Disk Drive) devices use the traditional, slower, mechanical technology, so these can't compete on transfer speeds but do give you lots of capacity for not much money; SSD (Solid State Drive), meanwhile, provides faster storage technology with no moving parts for those who want the speed and can afford the extra.
As we note in T3's best SSDs buying guide, these drives offer order of magnitude faster speeds than conventional HDDs, as found in many of the best external hard drives. Insane speed isn't everything though: when it comes to extended storage, capacity is often the most important thing, so it's very much about finding the product that works best for you.
Don't panic though: our buying guide will tell you everything you need to know in plain language. These are quite simply the very best external hard drives for Macs that money can buy, and we'll talk you through the advantages (and occasional disadvantages) of each one.
Best external hard drives for Mac 2023: The top 3
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The best external hard drive for Mac for most people is the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD. Lots of storage for little cash, plus two years of rescue recovery software.
The best premium external hard drive for Mac is the LaCie Portable SSD. Stepping up the speed, this is a great SSD option for double-quick access.
The best external hard drive for Mac for taking anywhere is the SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD. A rugged option for added peace of mind when carting your drive about.
External hard drives don't have to be complicated at all, as the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD proves. It simply and efficiently gives you stacks of extra storage for your Mac, and at a very affordable price too. Here we've featured the cheaper, slower HDD version, but if you want to pay extra then a faster SSD model is available as well.
For most people, HDDs still offer the best value for money, even if you're going to have to wait a few extra seconds when you're copying large files over. Whether you go for the HDD or the SSD model, these drives are fully portable, so all you need is the drive and the USB3.0 cable (it has a USB-A connector but there is a USB-C adapter in the box).
A word too on the design of these drives, because they're some of the most stylish that we've come across. Whether you pick the white or the black finish, the woven fabric adds a touch of elegance to your Mac setup. As an added bonus, you get a 4-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography thrown in for free.
It's hard to go wrong with a LaCie drive – the premium brand has been putting out external hard drives for years and years at this point, and while they might often cost more in terms of price-per-gigabyte than other models, the extra investment is usually worth it. Which brings us nicely to one of their latest drives, the LaCie Portable SSD.
The name says just about everything you need to know about this external hard drive for Mac: it has super-fast SSD technology (with read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s), it's made by Lacie, and it's portable, so you can take it anywhere you like without a separate power brick. It's also pretty stylish in our opinion.
With the SSD technology installed here and the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface (a USB-C cable is included in the box), you can, for example, transfer around an hour of high-resolution video footage in under a minute. It's ideal if you're regularly shifting large amounts of data around on your computer(s).
There's so much to like about the SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD, but when it comes to the best external hard drives for Mac, you're likely to choose this one if you need something you can take anywhere. It runs on USB power and it comes with a rugged design to protect against bumps and scratches.
In other words, if you're out in the field with your MacBook and you need something you can rely on in terms of file storage and data transfer, this SSD might be it. Thanks to the NVMe technology that's on board, you can expect transfer speeds of up to 1,050MB/s with this particular drive.
SanDisk says the unit is good for IP67 water and dust resistance, drops of up to 3 metres, and crushes under weights of up to 900 kilograms or 2,000 pounds – and there aren't really a lot of hard drives you can say that about. You can buy the drive in capacities ranging from 500MB to 4TB.
Best external hard drives for Mac 2023: The best of the rest
The WD My Cloud Home Duo is certainly bulky, and it needs a separate power supply, but it's undoubtedly one of the best external hard drives for Mac in terms of overall storage capacity: depending on the disks you get installed inside the unit (and there are two bays), you can configure this to have up to 20TB of room.
That gives you the capacity for a lot of data, though you're going to have to pay accordingly. We're impressed by just how many configurations you can get this drive in – the capacities start at 4TB, so you really can choose a storage and price point to suit your needs and your budget, while getting all the usual Western Digital quality.
Besides storing your files, the Home Duo plugs directly into your router, which means it's instantly accessible from all the Macs in your home. It can work seamlessly with backup programs such as Time Machine, and the on-board software even lets you set up different slots of storage space for different users.
If you want an external hard drive that powers itself solely from the USB port it's plugged into, then the WD Elements SE SSD is absolutely worth a look: it's fast, it's stylish, and it's affordable, and it comes in capacities of up to 2TB as well. It's perfect for sliding into a bag or even a shirt pocket (depending on the size of your shirt pockets) while you're moving between computers and locations.
Western Digital has made this too tough, with drop resistance up to 2 metres (over 6 feet) and a tough plastic shell, as well as a 3-year warranty for some additional peace of mind. It makes use of a USB 3.0 interface and you get a USB-A cable in the box (check the ports available on your Mac to work out if you'll need an adapter).
While it's not the absolute fastest external hard drive for Mac you're going to come across, your files will still speed along as you transfer them to and from the drive, thanks to the SSD (solid-state drive) technology in play here. If 2TB is out of your budget, you can get it in 480GB or 1TB capacity configurations instead.
For those looking to pick up one of the fastest SSDs on the market without paying over the odds, the Samsung T7 has to be on your shortlist: this incredibly compact, remarkably fast external drive is a showcase for the power and potential of SSD technology, and it's likely to become your constant external storage companion if you invest in it.
Measuring just 85 x 57 x 8mm and weighing in at just 58g, this is a very small drive – it's hard to visualise just how small it is until you've actually seen it for yourself, but it'll take up less room in your pocket or your bag than your smartphone will. It's definitely worth considering if you're on the move a lot and you like to travel light, and it's protected against drops of up to 2 metres, with a cool titanium exterior.
It's the speeds that are the star of the show here though, with read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s and the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2 technology for connecting the device to your Mac. You get a USB-A cable included in the box, so you may need to pick up an adapter or another cable if you only have the newer USB-C on your Mac.