Not too long ago, in a post covering tips for new Mac users, we covered a handful of accessories that every new Mac user should consider grabbing. And in that post, I mentioned twice that grabbing an external SSD is probably a good idea. So today, I thought I’d cover the best external SSDs for Mac – that way, if you’re thinking about buying one, you know what to grab.
In this post, we’re going to be covering quality SSDs as well as what makes a quality SSD. I’ll also touch on HDDs at the end of this post briefly, because you’ll probably come across them in your search.
What is an external SSD?
Before we jump into all of that, though, let’s talk about what an external SSD is. For those that don’t know, an SSD is just a storage device for your computer. You can think of it like a big flash drive or thumb drive, although those are technically also SSDs.
SSD is short for “Solid State Drive”. Older computer users may remember that when personal computers were new, you had a spinning disk in the middle of your computer called a hard drive. These would occasionally break or fail, as all moving parts do. And if you didn’t have your data backed up somewhere, that data would effectively be gone.
That’s why the SSD was developed. It’s faster than a traditional hard drive, has no moving parts, and is much less likely to fail. Most Macs these days have an internal SSD with a fixed amount of storage. You choose this whenever you buy your Mac – you decide how many gigabytes of storage you want, and that’s the size of SSD that Apple puts in your machine.
The thing is, sometimes you need more storage than what you originally signed up for. Or maybe the SSD that is built into your Mac is slowing down. Or maybe you simply want to start using the Time Machine feature on your Mac.
In all of these situations, you’re going to want to grab an external SSD. External SSDs are different from internal SSDs only in that they plug into your Mac – they aren’t installed on the inside. As of now, you can’t really install a new SSD in your Mac, so if you want a new SSD, you’re going to have to buy an external one.
What qualities make the best external SSDs for Mac?
Alright, hopefully you have an idea of what an SSD is. Now, we’re going to look at what makes an SSD one of the best external SSDs for Mac. After all, like all hardware, no two SSDs are created equal.
I will say, though, that nearly any SSD will be better than nearly any traditional external hard drive. At least, that will usually be the case if you’re shopping for an external drive under $200. Beyond that, things get a bit more complicated – but let’s focus on more budget-friendly devices right now.
These are the qualities to look for in an SSD, and they’re the qualities we’re going to be keeping in mind for the recommendations in this list.
Perhaps the most important feature of one of the best external SSDs for Mac is that it’s super fast. Whether you’re using this to replace an old SSD, add some extra storage to your Mac, or start using Time Machine, you’re really going to notice if it’s a slow device.
The speed of an SSD basically determines how quickly files move to and from your SSD as well as how quickly they open. So if you go for a cheap SSD with a lot of storage, you’re going to find that it holds all of your stuff, but getting to that stuff is going to be a big tedious.
So basically, don’t skimp out on speed.
Reliable storage and performance
The next feature that makes one of the best external SSDs for Mac is reliability. That means having enough storage and plenty of long-term performance. The last thing you want is to move all of your most precious files to this thing, only to have the SSD die in two years and lose all of your data.
Again, it might hurt your wallet, but the best way to avoid running into this situation is to simply spend a little more money. That should ensure that you get a long-lasting SSD that will be reliable for anywhere from seven to ten years.
When it comes to how much storage you should get, I generally recommend going for double what you think you need. For example, if you have a Mac that has 500GB of storage and you want a Time Machine SSD, then grab an SSD with 1TB of storage. If you are running out of storage on your Mac and think you need an extra 200GB of storage, grab an SSD with 400GB. An SSD is an investment, and you don’t want to be constantly buying new SSDs as you quickly fill them up.
Unobtrusive and portable
Lastly, you’ll want to aim for something that is unobtrusive and portable. Lots of external SSDs are going to be bulky or difficult to carry around with you. And most of them are going to connect to your computer via a cable, so they’ll be dangling awkwardly from your Mac.
So if you have a Mac, especially a MacBook, that needs an SSD, try to go for something that is small. This will take up less space on your desk or your lap while you work on the go.
Obviously, this isn’t always an option. If you’re looking for a lot of storage (more than 1TB) then you’re likely going to end up with a larger SSD. Still, finding one that is sleek and designed to be carried around is always a plus when looking for the best external SSDs for Mac.
The best external SSDs for Mac
Alright, now that you know what to look for when buying one of the best external SSDs for Mac, it’s time to cover our picks. I’ve used just about every brand on this list, even if I haven’t used the exact SSD that is being mentioned. So you can move forward with any of these with a high degree of confidence.
As always, you can grab these directly from the manufacturer’s website in most cases, or you can hunt for a deal on a third-party site like Amazon. Just don’t get a used SSD, as you won’t necessarily know how long it’s been used and therefore how much longer it will last.
At the top of our list is the brand of SSD that I’ve found myself using the most. Whenever I need a new SSD, either because the old one is now too small or I have more than one computer that needs backing up, I always end up going for Samsung’s brand of SSDs.
These are some of the best external SSDs for Mac for a few reasons. For starters, they’re small and sleek. Even the options with a lot of storage don’t take up too much space.
Additionally, they’re very fast and durable. You can keep these on your desk or toss them in your backpack, and you shouldn’t ever have any issues. And if you grab one of these SSDs these days, it should natively support USB C. That’ll make it more convenient to use with your modern Mac devices.
So yeah, if you just came to this list looking for a fast suggestion, this is it! Grab the Samsung line of portable SSDs.
Next up on our list of the best external SSDs for Mac is the Sandisk Professional SSD. If you’ve used any flash drives or SSDs in the past, then you’ve probably come across a Sandisk product before. They make great professional drives, and this one is no exception.
This device is great because it comes in larger storage options, making it a great go-to for someone who needs to backup a larger Mac or is looking to store something like a movie or gaming collection.
It’s not quite as sleek as Samsung’s offerings, but it does have a loop that you can secure a strap or keychain to, which might make it more portable.
This one doesn’t necessarily have any unique advantages, it’s just a great all-arounder.
The Crucial X8 2TB Portable SSD is the only suggestion on our list of the best external SSDs for Mac that I have never heard of before. This brand is totally new to me, but from everything I can tell, it truly is one of the best options out there.
For starters, it has an excellent design. It provides multiple TB of storage in a very slim and small form factor, which is excellent. You can potentially store your entire file system, photos and videos, and video games on a device that is smaller than your iPhone.
The Crucial X8 2TB Portable SSD also has the benefit of working with a broad variety of devices. You can just as easily use it with your iPad as you can your Mac and MacBook.
This thing also comes with a great three-year warranty. So if it happens to fail you in that time, you should be able to snag a replacement without too much trouble. Check it out!
Lastly, we have the Kingston XS2000 High Performance External SSD. Before I switched to Samsung, I was regularly using Kingston devices. They’re super affordable, very small and durable, and provide plenty of performance.
The Kingston XS2000 SSD is no exception. You can grab the 500GB model for under $100, which is a great deal. It has a metal and plastic body, which makes it great for withstanding most of what you end up throwing at it.
It’s also a super fast SSD. Like everything else on this list, the Kingston XS2000 SSD doesn’t have a lot of weak points. If you’re looking for one of the best external SSDs for Mac, this is definitely one of them.
The best external SSDs for Mac: SSD vs HDD
Before closing out our list on the best external SSDs for Mac, I did briefly want to mention HDDs. After all, you’ll probably run into them on your search for a quality SSD if you haven’t already.
Functionally, external SSDs and HDDs fill the same role. They’ll provide you with extra storage, which you can use to hold more files or even back up your Mac.
However, HDDs work quite differently from an SSD. They have a spinning disk inside that reads and writes data, kind of like a CD. This means they’re more prone to breaking, but also significantly less expensive. There are high-quality 5TB HDDs on Amazon for right around $100. That’s pretty insane.
The problem with HDDs is that they’re easy to break. In fact, I have broken two in the past, costing me Time Machine backups both times. So while you can go with one of these, I only recommend it for a stationary desktop computer. Even then, getting an SSD is likely the better option.
Grab yourself one of the best external SSDs for Mac
And that’s it! Those are our picks for the best external SSDs for Mac. Let me know if you have any others that you’ve enjoyed using over the years, or if you have any comments on the ones mentioned.
For more insights, news, and guides on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.
See you next time!