Best external hard drives for Mac 2021: get more storage for your Mac

These are the best external drives for MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Pros and Mac minis

WD My Cloud Home Duo
(Image credit: Western Digital)

Filling up the hard drive on your macOS machine isn't particularly difficult, which is where the best external hard drives for Mac come in: these plug-in drives add gigabytes of extra storage in an instant, giving you plenty of room for your photos, videos, music, podcasts and anything else you want to store. That's a fact.

You've got a huge amount of choice to pick from as well – from small and portable drives you can fit in your pocket, to hefty units that take up a substantial amount of desk space and can stream files to any computer on your local network.

You'll see two types of technology mentioned below – first HDD (Hard Disk Drive), which is the conventional, slower, mechanical technology. These can't compete on transfer speeds but do give you lots of capacity for not much money. Then there's SSD (Solid State Drive), faster storage technology with no moving parts for those who don't mind paying 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 in extended storage, capacity is often the most important thing, so it's very much what product works best for a user's needs.

With so many makes and models out there, finding the best external hard drive for Mac can be tricky. Everyone's needs are different and the right drive for you depends on how you're going to use it, what you're going to store on it, how much you're willing to spend and several other factors.

Don't panic though because our buying guide will tell you everything you need to know: we've picked out the very best external hard drives for Mac machines that money can buy, and explained what makes each one so good.

Make sure you bookmark our best Black Friday deals page if you're planning to expand your Mac's storage: for as long as there have been Black Fridays, there have been Black Friday deals offering impressive discounts on external drives. If you shop the best deals you could end up with a bigger and faster drive for the same amount of cash, or get your ideal drive for a little less money.

The best external hard drives for Mac

Seagate Ultra Touch external hard drive for Mac standing vertically on white backgroundT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Seagate)

1. Seagate Ultra Touch HDD

The best external hard drive for Mac for most people

Specifications
Max capacity: 2TB
Max read speed: 120MB/s
Portable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Stylish fabric finish+No power supply required
Reasons to avoid
-Slower transfer speeds

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.

LaCie Portable external hard drive for Mac lying down on a white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: LaCie)

2. LaCie Portable SSD

The best premium external hard drive for Mac

Specifications
Max capacity: 2TB
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Portable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent transfer speeds+USB 3.2 Gen 2 tech
Reasons to avoid
-On the expensive side

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).

WD My Cloud Home Duo external hard drive for Mac on a white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Western Digital)

The best external hard drive for Mac for storage capacity

Specifications
Max capacity: 20TB
Max read speed: Not listed
Portable: No
Reasons to buy
+Lots and lots of room+Plenty of extras
Reasons to avoid
-A big and heavy unit

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.

WD Elements SE external hard drive for Mac on a white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Western Digital)

4. WD Elements SE SSD

The best portable external hard drive for Mac

Specifications
Max capacity: 2TB
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Portable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+No power supply required+2 metres drop resistance
Reasons to avoid
-Other drives are faster

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.

Samsung T7 external hard drive for Mac on a white backgrounndT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Samsung)

The best external hard drive for Mac for speedy transfers

Specifications
Max capacity: 2TB
Max read speed: 1,050MB/s
Portable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Blazing fast speeds+Very compact size
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than HDD

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 mm x 57 mm x 8 mm and weighing in at just 58 grams, 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.

David Nield
David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.