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The Five Best External Hard Drives for Macs

Updated on April 2, 2017
A typical Mac user?
A typical Mac user?

Apple users have special considerations when choosing external hard drives. Rugged minimalistic design is well appreciated among this crowd. Compatible connections ensuring the fastest data transfer speeds possible and Mac OS friendly software are also among the top criteria to look at.

First off, firewire is always a must. High-speed firewire 800 has phased out the original. So while having a 400 port might be a convenience, keep in mind that firewire 800 is backwards compatible and can connect to any firewire 400 device with the aid of an adapter cable. Two firewire 800 ports then give you the most flexibility as you are able to daisy-chain multiple hard drives if more storage is required down the line.

The two other popular connection types are USB and eSATA. Most Mac users won’t benefit from an eSATA port although it isn’t a bad feature to have, especially if you also own a PC that supports it. At the moment USB 2.0 is the standard you’ll find on most external drives, although USB 3.0 will be more common in upcoming years. USB is definitely a must for any external hard drive, as it is the most universal connection type.

Now let’s look at some great external hard drives that will look stunning sitting next to your Macbook, Macbook Pro or iMac. Please note that the focus here is on both large-capacity 3.5” drives and portable 2.5” drives for the Mac. Some notebook users may prefer portable solutions that can easily be stuffed in a bag and don’t require an external power source.

Apple Time Capsule (2 TB, 1 TB)

Some people have the misconception that Apple’s Time Capsule is only suited for backups. In reality, it’s much more flexible. You can drag and drop data from your Mac onto the Time Capsule wirelessly, which a big plus for laptop users. If you’re router is getting a little long in the tooth you can upgrade the wireless network to dual-band 802.11n wireless plus get the extra storage you need in one swoop. Obviously the seamless integration with Time Machine also makes it the best choice for automatic backups.

LaCie D2 Quadra Hard Disk External Hard Drive (2 TB, 1.5 TB, 1 TB)

LaCie is known for creating rock-solid external enclosures and the D2 lives up to that reputation. The case is heavy (3.31 lbs.) and one of the sturdiest out there, so it is an ideal choice for people that don’t plan to take their drive out of the house. The aluminum case is stacked to the brim with ventilation holes, so cooling fans are unnecessary. Every connection option you could ever wish for is located at the back: eSATA, Firewire 800, Firewire 400 and USB 2.0. The included utilities and backup software works on Mac OS X as well as Windows.

Western Digital My Book Studio LX External Hard Drive (2 TB or 1 TB)

WD makes great hard drives so when you buy a My Book Studio, you have a good idea of what you’re getting inside. Although the connection options and innovative LCD readout is great on the original My Book Studio, the case is cheap and plasticky compared to competing products from LaCie and G-Tech. Western Digital addressed the concerns of Mac users by releasing the upgraded LX version which features an all-metal case. In the back there are 2 Firewire 800 ports plus USB 2.0. It is fully compatible with Time Machine and you can alternatively use WD SmartWare for backups.

LaCie Rugged All-Terrain Portable Hard Drive (1 TB, 750 GB, 500 GB)

Is this a tech gadget wearing a life preserver? LaCie’s tough little 2.5” drive looks like it’s ready to go on a camping expedition. The orange rubber exterior works as a shock absorber that will stand up to bumps and abuse within reason. It can be dropped from up to 2.2 meters and still survive the crash as confirmed in U.S. military tests. Portable drives with so many connection options are rare indeed. With the LaCie Rugged you get Firewire 800, Firewire 400 and USB 2.0. For this reason alone it trumps portable offerings from Western Digital.

G-Tech G-DRIVE mini SSD (256 GB, 128 GB)

The G-DRIVE mini SSD definitely isn’t for most people. It’s for enthusiasts that need the latest and greatest technology has to offer. First off, the storage capacity is dwarfed by typical hard drives. That is because the solid state drives are very expensive in relation to the GBs of storage you get. Of course SSD makes up for it in speed and durability. Mac users that use USB 2.0 see huge speed increases with this device in comparison to garden-variety portable drives. Firewire 400 is the quickest tested at 47.5 MBps read speeds. Surprisingly the Firewire 800 performance isn’t impressive at all. In fact, the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 is faster in this one area.


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