Learn how to choose the best portable hard drive so that your MacBook remains fast and light, but with many more gigabytes of space
Did you just buy a new Mac? Is your old MacBook still going great but you’re out of space? Surely, you need an external hard drive, but you have to know how to buy the best one for you, since there are many models and technologies involved.
A bad idea would be to invest more than a thousand euros in a new MacBook and connect an old portable hard drive that you found around the house every day or buy the cheapest one you can find. Does it make sense to put the crappiest tires on a Porsche? Choosing a hard drive is not a trivial task if you have a laptop and are going to use it daily.
The first thing you have to decide is if you want it with a large capacity at a good price, with a small capacity but fast, or with a lot of capacity and very fast, but investing a lot of money. Not just any drive will reach high speeds, and very few users would take advantage of them in their daily lives, since they would only make sense if working with huge files such as video editing, 3D rendering, etc.
For almost any user, USB-C 3.0 will be enough, and for those who need some extra speed, those who have USB 3.2 Gen 2, compatible with the latest MacBook. For those who need the highest possible speed, and are willing to pay for it, you will need a hard drive that supports the Thunderbolt 4 standard.
Keep in mind that many hard drives promise transfer rates of 2,000 mbps with USB 3.2 Gen2 standard, but it is not compatible with the MacBook or almost any computer, since it requires two ports at the same time. However, the MacBook running via USB (not Thunderbolt) reaches 1,000 Mbps transfer rate that is more than enough for 99.99% of users.
Taking this into account, we recommend three options for each speed and use and an alternative with greater or lesser capacity within each section:
- High capacity, portability and low cost
- Portability and better performance for a little more with SSD drives
- Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 hard drives
- DIY: SSD hard drive + case
High capacity, portability and low cost
WD 5TB My Passport
If what you need is a reliable, small hard drive that does not weigh a fortune or cost a fortune, and speed is secondary for you because it is for storing documents and backup copies, the best hard drive we can recommend is the Western Digital My Passport. It’s similar to many other competitors, and similarly priced, but WD’s decades-long reputation for reliability makes us recommend this model. There are all the capacities you could need.
It has a USB-C connection (USB 3.0 protocol) and is expressly prepared for use with Mac. As if that were not enough, it is beautiful and economical.
Another cheap hard drive that we can recommend for its reliability and quality price is the Seagate One Touch, which will go great with your Mac. It has a USB 3.0 connection and has many large space options at a low price.
Portability and better performance for a little more with SSD drives
Sandisk SSD USB 3.2 Gen 2
If you need a little more speed because you are going to install games on it, you need to work with many files at the same time or you are going to install an operating system there, you would do well to buy a portable hard drive that has a solid state drive inside and was compatible with the USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection.
The model we like the most is the SanDisk Extreme 1 TB Portable USB-C NVMe SSD for its value for money, its speed and its fantastic case. However, we recommend that you choose the normal or extreme models, since you will not be able to take advantage of the maximum speed as it requires 2xUSB3.2 Gen 2.
Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 hard drives
LaCie Mobile Drive USB-C, Thunderbolt 3
If for whatever reason you need a high speed rate, or simply want the best possible quality, LaCie portable hard drives are some of the best you can find. Obviously, you are going to pay a great price in comparison for extra performance and quality of materials in the case. There are other even more expensive options that can cost the same as a MacBook.
Our recommendation is that you first make sure you need that much speed because the difference between USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 or 4 is huge on paper, but not so big on a day-to-day basis unless you have clear professional use. and highly demanding that justify the investment.
DIY: SSD hard drive + case
Another option, in many cases the best, is to make it yourself by choosing the NVMe SSD hard drive you want and the case that best suits your budget and needs. It’s actually very simple, and doesn’t require you to use anything more than, at most, a screwdriver. How to do it? It’s very simple, you just need to buy the case and the SSD separately. In this article we explain how to convert any SSD into a portable hard drive to carry in your backpack to class.
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