Best External Hard Drive For Mac Cnet

Posted By admin On 16.02.22

By Michael Pierce & Giulio Chiarenza

ImageHard DriveSummaryCheck Price
Western Digital My Passport UltraThis drive is our top choice overall for its winning combination of performance, security, color options, and price, all from a very reliable brand. WD got it right with this one. Best of the BestAmazon
Seagate Backup Plus SlimA close second place finish, this Seagate drive is the sleekest of the bunch. We lament the lack of security option, but otherwise this drive is well-built, speedy, and super thin.Amazon
LaCie Rugged ThunderboltPricier than the others, yet offers something the others don't - protection from bumps, spills, drops, and dust. If you're a road warrior and take your data integrity seriously, the LaCie is the one for you.Amazon
Seagate Expansion Portable DriveThe most budget-friendly portable drive on this list, we love the simplicity of the Seagate Expansion. Perfect for use with PS4 and Xbox One consoles. No bloated software to deal with, but you sacrifice a security option and longer warranty. Best Bang for Your BuckAmazon
Samsung Portable SSD T1The choice for power users, the only SSD on our list offers supremely fast transfer rates. It's also extremely small and sleek. This is everything a portable drive should be… if it wasn't for the very hefty price tag!Amazon

External hard drives are rated by the speed of their interface. All modern drives will have USB 3.0 support or USB 3.1 Gen 1 support. Both standards allow for a maximum throughput of 5Gbps. The 9 Best SATA Hard Drives to Buy in 2018 Selection of best hard drives for value, capacity, performance, and features. Share Pin Email Print Buying Guides. The 9 Best External Hard Drives. Western Digital's Green Hard Drives Offer Low Power and Noise. The 7 Best Hard Drives for Gaming.

There are hundreds of portable external hard drives on the market, with new ones coming out each month. Narrowing it down to just the single best one is a tough job… but we're here to help! In the chart above, we laid out our 5 favorites so you can get right down to it if you don't feel like reading our in depth reviews.

We named the Western Digital My Passport our Best of the Best pick because it quite simply gets everything right - performance, looks, portability, security - all for an exceptional price. We also named the Seagate Expansion Portable External Drive our Best Bang for Your Buck pick, since we love how no-frills it is, it carries the lowest price of any drive on our list, and has lighting fast speed. The other three on our list are there because they are very solid contenders, and are the best options for more specific use-cases; remember, this is a Best Of list, so we don't recommend anything we wouldn't honestly buy and use ourselves.

  • Top 5 Portable Hard Drives
    • Samsung Portable SSD T1

Everything You Need to Know

If you are a power user and external storage is mission-critical, you need to know the specs of what you're getting inside and out. However even if you know nothing about storage and are a casual or hobbyist user, it will make your selection much easier if you get to know the basics. Here's everything you need to know and look for:

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) vs. Solid State Drive (SSD): We'll keep it relatively simple - HDDs are the 'traditional' hard drives that have been around for a while. They are less expensive, and the internals have moving parts like spinning magnetic platters and a read/write head. SSDs are a newer technology, foregoing moving parts and instead storing data on interconnected flash memory chips. They are significantly pricier, but also more reliable, since fewer moving parts = less chances of failure. Most notably, SSDs are quite a bit faster.All things equal, an SSD might be a better choice since it's more future-proof. That said, the more casual user looking for a portable external drive at a good price with good performance will be just as well served by a HDD from a respected brand.

Reliability: Hard drives have a tendency to, well, fail. Unfortunately, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. Hard drives have relatively delicate components - especially HDDs with their moving mechanical components. Regardless of what type of hard drive you have, none are resistant to extreme cold/heat, being dropped, submerged, etc. While there is no hard and fast rule, the general consensus is that hard drive failure rates increase after the 4th year you've used the drive. All the external drives we recommend have been rated high for reliability.

Size & Weight: This is a no brainer. After all, we're talking about portable external hard drives! We want to make sure to only recommend a hard drive that is light and relatively thin, so you can easily throw it in your bag or backpack and not have it take up too much room.

Speed: A hard drive's speed comes into play when you transfer files back and forth from it. The faster it is, the less time you have to waste waiting for files to finish reading and writing to the drive. Speed can be measured by looking at the number of Megabytes per second the hard drives are able to write, or simply timing them against each other when transferring the same size file(s).

Capacity: Capacity is simply the storage space available on the hard drive. Lucky for everyone, storage has become much cheaper as time passes, so you can get pretty massive hard drives for reasonable prices. Capacity is commonly measured in Gigabytes (GB). One thousand GBs is a Terabyte (TB). It's a good idea to buy an external hard drive with storage needs greater than what you think you need (think of it like buying a slightly larger house that your family can grow into).

USB 3.0 vs Thunderbolt: These are the two interfaces through which your drive connects to your computer (or PS4/Xbox One). Some external portable drives support both, but the majority support only USB 3.0 (which is also compatible with USB 2.0). Thunderbolt is mostly built-in by default on Macs, though that's likely to change over time. The name of the game is speed; Thunderbolt's max speed is in theory 4 times faster than USB 3.0. So does this mean Thunderbolt is a no brainer? No! And don't be fooled by the marketing. Here's why: Your external drive has its own speed limitation, and both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt offer much faster throughput than what your hard drive can keep up with.

Brand, Warranty, Customer Service: You want to make sure the portable external drive you get is by a notable brand, and that they offer a solid warranty, and good customer service in case something goes wrong with your product. The two big players in the hard drive game are Western Digital and Seagate. We mostly stick to recommending hard drives by brands that have made a name for themselves crafting very good hard drives.

How We Selected the Winners

When researching the best portable hard drives, we were shocked to see how many old and outdated articles were out there. An article from 2016, or worse yet 2015, misses out on all of the advances and new models that have come out in 2018. We read thousands of reviews on Amazon, analyzed best sellers, read the recommendations of other notable publications, and combined all that with our own experience (we ordered all the hard drives we recommend ourselves).

Top 5 Portable External Hard Drives for 2018

Without further ado, let's have a look at the best 5 portable hard drives we recommend.

Western Digital My Passport

Connection:USB 3.0 (also USB 2.0 compatible)
Weight:0.50 lb
Size:3.21 x 4.33 x 0.64 inches (thickness is for 1 & 2TB models)
Warranty:3 Years
Capacity We Recommend:2TB
Capacities Available:1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB

Let's just get this out of the way - if you want the best of the best portable external hard drive, the Western Digital My Passport simply gets most things right, at a very good price point. Now to be fair, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is a very close contender, at nearly an identical price. We've seen lots of trusted sites go back and forth in their recommendations between these two, so it really comes down to minutiae!

With that out of the way, let's dig in a bit. Starting with the look and feel of the drive, if you care about looks, the WD My Passport Ultra is not exactly the sexiest of the bunch... but it's reasonably sleek looking. You also have myriad colors to choose from, as well as the option of an all-metal enclosure. With the standard enclosure it feels nice to the touch. It's a tad bit heavier than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, but we're talking about a couple of ounces - barely noticeable. It's also about 0.12 inches thicker - again, these are not differences you will feel in your everyday life (unless of course your everyday life consists of 'how light & thin is your external hard drive' competitions ;-) ).

Performance wise, this drive is fast, quiet, and cool. It simply works out of the box for PC, Linux, and Mac (it's formatted with NTFS by default, so if you're using it to backup your Mac, you might need to do a quick reformat). The USB 3.0 connection ensures transfer rates will be fast. The Western Digital My Passport's speed is on par with the Seagate Backup Plus Slim. Some speed tests have one edging out the other just slightly, but not enough to be noticeable. This drive comes with Western Digital software for both PC and Mac (WD Backup, WD Security, WD Utilities, WD Quick View) which aids in making backups and running diagnostics, but truth be told you don't necessarily need it. WD Backup is pretty neat in that it lets you backup data onto your Dropbox account. And if security is a concern, it comes with software to password-protect and lock/unlock the drive.

One of the only gripes from consumers is that the USB 3.0 cable it comes packages with is too short - only about 3 ft.

PRO TIP #1: You'll see other reviews favor Western Digital over Seagate (or vice versa) because one brand's drives tend to crash or fail more than the other. Be weary of these kinds of claims. -All- Most hard drives will fail at one point or another. Sure, there may have been certain runs of specific models in specific years that were more prone to failing, thus giving one of the brands a bad rap. We think this is both unfair and inaccurate. Both WD and Seagate are best in class when it comes to hard drives, so rest assured one's hard drives do not fail more often than the other.

Bottom Line: We recommend the 2TB version of the WD My Passport for most use cases. The 2TB model offers the best Terabyte-per-dollar according to the current prices on Amazon. If you choose this drive you'll be in good company, with many positive Amazon reviews, and accolades from the writers at CNET. With good looks, plenty of storage capacity, security features, 3-year warranty, and excellent read/write speeds, recommending the WD My Passport as our top choice is a no brainer.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Connection:USB 3.0 (also USB 2.0 compatible)
Weight:0.3 lb
Size:4.5 x 3 x 0.5 inches
Warranty:2 Years
Capacity We Recommend:2TB
Capacities Available:500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB

It was hard to choose an overall winner between the WD My Passport Ultra and the Seagate Backup Plus Slim. For all intents and purposes and for most users, they are nearly identical portable external hard drives. Instead of rehashing everything, we'll focus on what's different.

Aesthetically, as its name implies, the Seagate drive is very slim at about half an inch. The drive is housed in an anodized aluminum metal case, which comes in four color options - black, silver, blue, and red (we opted for the black one and it looks great). Of all the drives we recommend, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is arguably the sleekest looking one.

With USB 3.0 connectivity, you just plug this thing in, and you're good to go (it comes packaged with a USB cable). The file system it comes formatted with by default is NTFS, so you'll need to reformat before using it with your Mac. Some users have reported that the Seagate Dashboard software that comes pre-loaded onto the drive is a bit clunky to use. This is a minor gripe, since using the software is very much optional. The one thing we're really missing with the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the ability to password-secure the contents of the drive. Without this layer of security, if you happen to lose the drive, anyone could access the contents of it by simply plugging it in.

Speed and performance-wise, this drive performs on par with the WD My Passport Ultra.

Note: The Seagate Backup Plus Slim comes with a two-year 200GB subscription to Microsoft OneDrive online storage. We don't necessarily see this as a perk, since 1) if forces you to go with Microsoft OneDrive as opposed to something like Dropbox, and 2) after the two years, you'll have to pay to continue using the service.

Bottom Line: The 2TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is a fantastic portable external drive worthy of your hard earned money. If you don't take our word for it, check this thing out on Amazon - it has a whopping 5000+ users reviews and a 4.5 star rating! Admittedly it's a bit lighter on features than the WD My Passport Ultra; it doesn't have security options to password protect, and the warranty is 2 years as opposed to WD's 3 years. Still, these are relatively minor complaints against an otherwise speedy, good-looking drive.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

Connection:USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt (also USB 2.0 compatible)
Weight:0.77 lb
Size:5.5 x 3.5 x 0.9 inches
Warranty:3 Years
Capacity We Recommend:1TB
Capacities Available:1TB, 2TB, 4TB

LaCie has made a name for itself in the portable external hard drive space by making very good drives that can withstand a bit of a beating! With its distinctive bright orange protective cover, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is rated as 6.6 ft Drop Resistant, and IP 54 Water & Dust Resistant, making it the ideal choice if you're likely to put stress on your drive, or find yourselves in environments where getting the drive wet or dropping it could compromise your precious data!

The LaCie's resistance comes at a steep price, coming in at effectively twice the price as the Western Digital and Seagate, for only half the storage. We categorize the LaCie as more of a specialty drive, and for home and office use, there's not really a need to spend the extra money for it.

Don't get us wrong - it's a fantastic drive overall, there's nothing really wrong with it. Transfer speeds are plenty fast. It has the option of being connected via Thunderbolt interface, which is theory is much faster than USB 3.0. Be careful of the marketing hype, though. The transfer speed is not all that different than USB 3.0, since the hard drive itself is the speed bottleneck, not the USB 3.0 interface. The LaCie also comes with AES 256-bit encryption, and using the included LaCie Private Public software, you can password protect your precious data.

As far as the look and feel goes, the bright orange protective cover is an acquired taste - we personally think it looks very cool. It's not a shock that it's both thicker and heavier than the Seagate and Western Digital. It makes up for that by being much more rugged and resistant to being thrown about and dropped, so rest assured your data is safe as you shove this drive in your travel bag. The ruggedness of the drive makes it the best choice for people who are frequently on the road and expose their drive to the elements. The road warrior lifestlye of famous music producers and DJs comes to mind, as can be seen in this photo posted by music producer and DJ Audien, or Russian musician Arty in this Instagram.

Bottom Line: The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt comes at a rather steep price. Make sure the ruggedness of the drive (and the speed boost of the Thunderbolt connection) is something you truly need before putting down the cash for it. Having said that, if you need your data with you on a portable external drive at all times, often find yourself in extreme conditions like jungles and deserts, and/or much like a traveling DJ you're prone to knock around your drive and spill liquids on it, the LaCie is probably the perfect choice for you.

Seagate Expansion Portable External Drive

Connection:USB 3.0 (also USB 2.0 compatible)
Weight:0.4 lb
Size:4.8 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches
Warranty:1 Year
Capacity We Recommend:2TB
Capacities Available:500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB

We wanted to make a recommendation that not only was the Best Bang for the Buck choice for external portable hard drive, but one that had killer speed and would serve as a nice alternative option to the WD and Seagate drives we recommended above. The Seagate Expansion Portable External Hard Drive fits the bill very nicely.

What we like about the Seagate Expansion is how no-frills it is. For better or worse, it doesn't come with any fancy-schmancy Seagate backup software (we tend to prefer this lean approach). One small downside is that its warranty is only 1 year. We really like the way it feels and looks - kind of a slick plastic feel. It's reasonably well-built, but it certainly can't take too much of a beating like the LaCie Rugged can.

The Seagate Expansion is very well suited not just as a portable backup drive for your laptop, but also a drive for use with your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One console, as many of the reviewers on Amazon have done. Just like the others, it comes formatted with NTFS for immediate use with a Windows computer (you'll need to do a quick reformat of it to use it with a Mac). Perhaps surprisingly, in speed tests the Seagate Expansion actually edges out the three drives we covered above. Not by a large margin, but hey, every little bit counts!

Bottom Line: Does it have fancy bundled software? No. Encryption and password protection? Nope. Is it an inexpensive, thin, sharp looking, fast, no-frills drive to fulfill your backup and/or PS4 and Xbox needs? Absolutely! If its simplicity is something you see as a plus, or you just need something to plug into your videogame console and have it just work, this is the external drive you should get.

Samsung T1 Portable SSD

Connection:USB 3.0 (also USB 2.0 compatible)
Weight:0.07 lb (1.1 oz)
Size:2.8 x 2.1 x 0.4 inches
Warranty:3 Years
Capacity We Recommend:500GB
Capacities Available:250GB, 500GB, 1TB

We felt compelled to include a premium portable external drive on this buyer's guide, and we think there is none better than the Samsung T1 Portable SSD. This drive is seriously tiny, and seriously fast!

When you first take it out of the package you'll marvel at how sleek, tiny, and light this thing is. It's almost more in thumb drive territory. There's some glossy, black, shiny carbon-fiber stuff going on here, and it's marvelous. A small 5-inch USB cable is included, which you'll use to connect the drive to a USB 3.0 port (if all you have is USB 2.0, you shouldn't spend the money on this drive, since you'll miss out on the speed benefits). When you plug it in, a minor annoyance is Samsung sort of forces you to use their included software to format and set up the drive. The DIYers might want to look at this helpful review that details how to make this SSD work without the Samsung software.

Performance-wise, this thing screams, largely due to the fact that it's a Solid State Drive. While it's mostly agreed upon that all hard drives will sooner or later be Solid State, as of today they are still pricier than their HDD counterparts. Make sure you'll really benefit from the Samsung T1's speed for whatever your applications are. If you just need a drive to passively backup your laptop, go with our top recommendations (WD and Seagate), and not this one.

In terms of features, the T1 supports the strongest encryption standard available today, AES 256-bit. It borrows a lot of its technology from the best-selling Samsung 850 EVO Internal SSD, which is a really good thing considering how popular and extremely fast the 850 EVO is.

Bottom Line: The Samsung T1 is the only SSD we've included in this buyer's guide - this is by design, since we want you to get a great drive and not spend a ton of cash. Because of this, we strictly recommend this drive for power users on the go (or users with cash burning a hole in their pocket). If you're working with audio or video, or regularly transfer very big files, the Samsung T1 is your best choice.

Did we miss something? Tell us your favorite portable external hard drive in the comments below.

Similar Gear Guides

  • 10 Best Studio Headphones of 2019

  • Best Studio Monitors

  • Best DJ Headphones

  • Best USB Microphones

  • Best Digital Pianos

  • 7 Best MIDI Keyboards of 2019

Comments 0

Your guide

  • Justin Krajeski

After 20 hours of new research and testing, we found that the best external desktop hard drive for most people is Western Digital’s 4 TB My Book. The My Book is reliable, fast, and less expensive than the other desktop drives we tested, plus it has enough space for your future storage needs and a long, three-year warranty.

Our pick

4 TB Western Digital My Book

The 4 TB My Book is reliable, fast, and cheaper than the competition.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.

But all of the desktop drives we tested this year were good. We found the speed differences between them to be small: All but one of our finalists performed within about 20 seconds of one another when transferring a Blu-ray movie, and all completed a Time Machine backup within 4 minutes of one another. Because they perform so similarly, we recommend getting the cheapest desktop hard drive you can find from a trustworthy maker. Right now, that means the 4 TB WD My Book.



WD Elements (4 TB)

Western Digital’s 4 TB Elements is about as fast as our top pick, but its warranty doesn’t last as long.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.

If the 4 TB My Book is out of stock or the price goes up, Western Digital’s 4 TB Elements is a great and dependable alternative. The Elements is about as fast as our top pick: In our tests, its average write speed was 7.7 MB/s slower, and it took about 5 seconds longer to transfer a Blu-ray film, but those differences were within the margin of error. At this writing, it costs only 46¢ more per terabyte, but prices fluctuate; if you find the Elements for less than the My Book, it’s a better buy. This model lacks backup software, though, and it has a shorter, two-year warranty.

Also great

WD My Book (8 TB)

The 8 TB version of the Western Digital My Book offers reliability, fast transfer speeds, and more storage than our other picks.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

If you need more storage, we recommend the Western Digital 8 TB My Book. The 8 TB My Book is just as reliable as our top pick, and it was about as fast in our Blu-ray and HD Tune tests, but about 4 minutes slower in our Time Machine testing. It’s cheaper per terabyte than the other My Book models, but it still costs around $170 at this writing, so we recommend it only if you know you need that much space.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

4 TB Western Digital My Book

The 4 TB My Book is reliable, fast, and cheaper than the competition.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.


WD Elements (4 TB)

Western Digital’s 4 TB Elements is about as fast as our top pick, but its warranty doesn’t last as long.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.

Also great

WD My Book (8 TB)

The 8 TB version of the Western Digital My Book offers reliability, fast transfer speeds, and more storage than our other picks.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

The research

Why you should trust us

Wirecutter has researched and recommended hard drives since early 2012, and our PC team has over eight years of combined experience testing hard drives and solid-state drives—as your guide, I’ve spent the past two years reviewing hard drives and portable SSDs, too. We’ve collectively put in hundreds of hours researching and testing hard drives over the past few years.

Who this is for

If you’re not backing up the important documents and photos on your computer, you should start. Your computer’s internal drive will stop working someday, and unless your data is backed up, it’ll be gone forever. Fortunately, backing up your data is easy, and getting started takes only a few minutes: Read our advice and set up a system that will back up your files automatically both to an external hard drive and the cloud. Just backing up to one or the other isn’t enough; having both on-site and cloud backups ensures that your data stays safe from localized threats such as fire, theft, or natural disaster, as well as Internet outages or disruptions to the cloud backup provider. A desktop external hard drive is a great local backup for a computer that mostly stays parked on a desk.

You should consider replacing your backup drives between the third and sixth year of use. If your drive dies and you have a cloud backup, you won’t lose data, but restoring from the cloud will take a very long time. According to statistics from cloud backup service Backblaze, hard drives are most likely to fail either within the first 18 months of use or after three years. About 5 percent of drives fail in the first 18 months of use, with the failure rate dipping to about 1.5 percent for another 18 months. At three years of service, the failure rate jumps to almost 12 percent. At four years, the failure rate is 20 percent. Judging from five years of data, Backblaze estimates that more than half of hard drives will last six years.

If you spend most of your time working at one desk, you should get a desktop external drive. But if you frequently move between locations, a portable external drive is the better choice. They’re more expensive per terabyte than bigger desktop models, and they’re a bit slower, but portable hard drives are smaller and lighter than desktop drives and don’t need an additional power adapter. They’re also designed to withstand a little more abuse (although one bump can still lead to failure).

How we picked

A great external desktop hard drive, like the three we found, should be reliable, fast, and inexpensive.Photo: Rozette Rago

Ideally, an external hard drive is something you don’t notice much. It should sit on your desk, quietly spinning away, storing and backing up your data without a lot of setup or ongoing maintenance. These are the features you should look for in a desktop hard drive, in rough order of importance:

  • Reliability: Although reliability is the most important factor for any storage device, solid information on drive reliability can be hard to come by. Only three companies still manufacture hard drives—Western Digital (which also makes HGST drives), Seagate, and Toshiba—and all of them make reliable drives. But all hard drives die. The vast majority of drives from these major manufacturers will be fine, but it’s still possible to buy a bad egg that will die too soon.
  • Speed: Most of the drives we’ve tested in 2018 are about the same speed, and we haven’t seen major speed increases in desktop hard drives over the past few years. This round, we considered only those drives with USB 3.0 connections. Anything faster isn’t necessary for hard drives, because they’re limited by disk speed, not the USB interface.
  • Price: We found that most people buy 4 TB and 8 TB drives by looking at Amazon reviews for our top picks. Although a higher-capacity drive is more cost-effective per terabyte, 8 TB external desktop hard drives are nearly twice as expensive as 4 TB drives, for more storage than most people need. Since many desktop drives nowadays offer similar performance, the less expensive they are, the better.
  • Capacity: We focused on 4 TB hard drives because of their balance of value and total cost. We also have an 8 TB pick for people who need more storage.
  • Warranty and customer service: A good warranty is important in case you get a lemon. Most of the external hard drives we tested have two-year warranties, but some have three-year warranties. Responsive customer service is important too, in case you have trouble backing up your data.
  • Useful software: Backup software is a nice perk, but you can find lots of free alternatives and other great options for online backup services. If you don’t need the extra features such software provides, setting it up on every computer you use isn’t worth the time and effort. Dragging and dropping files works just fine for manual backups, and your OS’s built-in backup utility suffices for automatic ones.

We also made note of drive noise and extra USB ports as we tested the external desktop hard drives. These factors aren’t dealbreakers, but they are good to keep in mind.

How we tested

After narrowing our list of finalists by price and capacity, we tested four 4 TB desktop hard drives and three 8 TB models. For each one, we ran HD Tune Pro, a benchmarking program that tests transfer speeds and access time across the entire disk. You can read a more in-depth explanation of the program at the HD Tune website. We also timed the file transfer of a 45.5 GB rip of a Blu-ray movie from start to finish, running each transfer three times and determining the average to rule out performance hiccups. Finally, we timed how long each external hard drive took to back up with Time Machine on a 2016 MacBook Pro.

To spot any widespread reliability issues, we read through Amazon reviews for each of the drives we tested, and we counted the number of reported drive failures. This method has shortcomings: For one, people are more likely to post a review when they have a problem. Also, because of the limited information available in some reviews, it can be hard to differentiate between hardware failures and software issues or user errors that could cause problems with a drive. About half the drives we tested for this update are new, so they didn’t have many Amazon reviews. But this approach is the best we have for now.

We also looked at Backblaze’s hard drive reliability ratings from 2017, which are based on more than 90,000 drives the company uses in its cloud backup servers. Backup servers are a very different environment than a box on your desk: Bare drives in servers are accessed more often and are subject to more vibrations and more heat, whereas drives in desktop enclosures have more potential points of failure between the power connector, the USB connector, and the USB-to-SATA logic board. Even so, the Backblaze study is the largest, most recent sample of hard drive failures we have access to, and it’s always a fascinating read.

Our pick: WD My Book (4 TB)

Photo: Rozette Rago

Our pick

4 TB Western Digital My Book

Best external hard drive for mac cneter

The 4 TB My Book is reliable, fast, and cheaper than the competition.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.

Western Digital’s 4 TB My Book is the best desktop hard drive for most people because it’s reliable and it offers the best balance of speed and price. It was about as fast as the competition in all of our tests, it’s the least expensive drive we tested at this writing, and it has a longer warranty (three years) than the other contenders.

Although no hard drive is immune from failure, the WD My Book has proven reliable. We found just 21 reported failures out of 358 Amazon reviews of the 4 TB model, or 6 percent. Backblaze’s 2017 report notes that WD’s 4 TB drives had a low, 2.2 percent annualized failure rate. Neither of these research methods is a perfect indicator of the My Book’s reliability, but they are the best we have.

We tested how fast our 4 TB and 5 TB desktop hard drive contenders could transfer a Blu-ray movie. They all performed similarly, although the Toshiba Canvio was a bit faster than the competition. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

Most of the drives we tested performed similarly, with the 4 TB WD My Book having a slight edge in most of our tests. In our Blu-ray transfer test, all of the 4 TB drives we tested were within the margin of error of one another, but the 5 TB Toshiba Canvio was about 30 seconds faster than the competition. (That drive, however, costs considerably more.)

The 4 TB WD My Book performed a little better than the 4 TB competition in HD Tune read and write tests. The Toshiba Canvio was the fastest (and most expensive) drive we tested. Longer bars indicate better performance.
The 4 TB WD My Book was the fastest drive we tested at creating a backup with Time Machine, although all of the drives we tested were pretty quick. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

In HD Tune testing, the 4 TB WD My Book had a read speed of 143.8 megabytes per second and a write speed of 138.4 MB/s, operating a little faster than most of the competition. And it had the fastest Time Machine backup score of all the 4 TB drives we tested. Most of the drives performed similarly in these tests, except for the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Hub, which was notably slower.

The 4 TB My Book is the most cost-effective drive we found at the time of our research and writing. Although prices on hard drives fluctuate frequently, our pick was the least expensive in its competitive field: At the time, it cost around $96, or $24 per terabyte, while the majority of the drives we tested cost more than $100. Because all of the drives we tested are good, though, we recommend you buy the cheapest option available if prices change.

WD backs the 4 TB My Book with a three-year warranty, longer coverage than the competition offers. The drive did not get hot during our testing, and although this My Book occasionally made a low humming noise while we moved files around, we don’t think that’s cause for concern; all of the drives we tested make some noise.

Using the included WD Discovery app, you can import your data from a cloud storage or social media account to your drive. You can also use WD Drive Utilities to check for potential drive failures, major performance problems, and bad sectors on the My Book. (In addition, you can use it to permanently erase all the data on your drive.) You can activate 256-AES encryption by downloading WD’s Security software, enabling it, and setting a password.

Wirecutter staffers have used the WD My Book (in varying capacities) with no issue. Senior editor Nathan Edwards has owned the 6 TB version of the drive for about a year: “It's quieter than my old backup drive and relatively good-looking,” he said. “I don't bother it and it doesn't bother me, and my computer is backed up, so that seems good.”

Runner-up: WD Elements (4 TB)

Photo: Rozette Rago


WD Elements (4 TB)

Western Digital’s 4 TB Elements is about as fast as our top pick, but its warranty doesn’t last as long.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $95.

If the 4 TB My Book is unavailable, or if its price goes up, WD’s 4 TB Elements desktop drive is a great second choice. It’s a reliable drive, although it isn’t quite as fast as our top pick. The difference in transfer time wasn’t substantial in any of our tests, though, and it costs about the same as the My Book per terabyte. It has the same software as our top pick too, but its warranty is only two years—one year less than the My Book’s coverage.

The Elements is about as reliable as the 4 TB My Book. We found just five reported failures out of 168 Amazon reviews for the Elements 4 TB option, giving this external hard drive a 3 percent failure rate. That’s a lower failure rate than our top pick has, but the Elements has roughly half as many reviews at this writing, so the reported failure rate may not be comparable.

In our testing, the Elements was about as quick as the 4 TB My Book, falling behind in our Blu-ray transfer test by only 5 seconds. In HD Tune tests, the Elements had a slightly slower write speed compared with our top pick, but the two models’ read speeds were even. And when we backed up to the Elements with Time Machine, it was the second-fastest drive we tested, falling just behind our top pick.

The WD Elements has a two-year warranty, one year less than our top pick, and it doesn’t come with any backup software. But that omission isn’t a dealbreaker because dragging and dropping files or using some other free backup program is an equally good option. Like our top pick, this drive did not get hot during testing, although it did make a little humming noise from time to time.

If you need more storage: WD My Book (8 TB)

Photo: Rozette Rago

Also great

WD My Book (8 TB)

The 8 TB version of the Western Digital My Book offers reliability, fast transfer speeds, and more storage than our other picks.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

If you want more space—say, you have a ton of large photos or videos or an existing media library and need room to expand in the future—Western Digital’s 8 TB My Book is the best option. Like our top pick, the higher-capacity WD My Book has a low, 6 percent reported failure rate (judging from Amazon reviews), and it performed the best of the three 8 TB options we tested. It’s also less expensive than the other 8 TB drives we tested, and it has the longest warranty. Currently the 8 TB My Book costs about $70 more than our top pick, though, so we recommend it only if you want the extra storage.

(We recommend the similarly performing WD 8 TB Easystore if it’s the same price as—or cheaper than—the 8 TB My Book. Because the Easystore is usually more expensive, we think the My Book is the better 8 TB choice for most people’s needs.)

While reading through 326 Amazon reviews of the 8 TB My Book, we found only 20 reviews—or 6 percent—that mentioned drive failure. This result was better than that for the 8 TB Seagate we tested, which had an 11 percent reported failure rate, or 62 noted failures out of 570 reviews on Amazon. The 8 TB Easystore had a mere 1.25 percent reported failure rate on Best Buy’s site—34 noted failures out of 2,708 reviews—but these results aren’t directly comparable because they’re from different retailers with different demographics and customer review systems.

Although the 8 TB WD My Book was the slowest in our Blu-ray read and write tests, all of the models we tested performed similarly. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

In our Blu-ray transfer tests, the 8 TB WD My Book was quick—it read a large Blu-ray video file in 4 minutes, 28 seconds and wrote that file in 4 minutes, 27 seconds. Although it was technically the slowest of the three 8 TB models we tested in this regard, all three performed within 15 seconds of one another in this test.

The 8 TB WD Easystore was faster than the 8 TB WD My Book in the HD Tune tests—but not by much. Longer bars indicate better performance.

The 8 TB My Book performed well in our HD Tune read and write tests, with results of 134 MB/s and 139.9 MB/s, respectively. It was significantly faster than the Seagate model in this test, but a little slower than the WD Easystore, falling short by 12.3 MB/s on reads and 5 MB/s on writes. The My Book also landed in the middle of the pack when backing up via Time Machine, storing 37.8 GB in 25 minutes, 49 seconds. The Easystore was about 2 minutes faster in this test.

The 8 TB WD My Book was about as fast as the 8 TB Seagate in our Time Machine backup test. The 8 TB WD Easystore was faster than both models by about 2 minutes. Shorter bars indicate better performance.

The 8 TB My Book is cheaper, as of this writing, and available at more retailers than the 8 TB WD Easystore. If you see the price on the Easystore come down, though, it’s worth buying.

The 8 TB My Book includes the same backup software as our top pick. It also comes with a longer warranty than the other 8 TB options we tested, three years of coverage.

The competition

We considered seven external desktop drives for our 2018 round of testing. (Not pictured: WD Easystore.)Photo: Rozette Rago

Every hard drive we tested is adequate for the task of backing up your computer; only minor differences in speed, price, warranty, and included software differentiate them.

The WD Easystore is available in both 4 TB and 8 TB capacities; it’s also available only at Best Buy. While the 4 TB version’s price is often double that of our top picks (around $200), the 8 TB model’s price appears to fluctuate: The 8 TB Easystore cost around $140 while we were researching for this guide, but it costs $300 as of this writing. If you can find it for less than our current 8 TB pick, we encourage you to buy it; this model was the fastest 8 TB external hard drive in our HD Tune tests and Time Machine testing. If not, the small speed difference isn’t worth spending $15 to $130 more than what you would for the 8 TB My Book.

Best External Hard Drive For Mac Cnet

Although Toshiba’s 4 TB Canvio for Desktop is a great desktop hard drive, it’s quite expensive. It outperformed the WD My Book in most of our tests, but it costs nearly $20 more as of this writing. We don’t think the jump in speed is worth spending that much more money for most people, because it didn’t offer a noticeable improvement.

Seagate discontinued our previous top pick, the 4 TB Backup Plus Desktop, in favor of the new Backup Plus Hub.

Seagate’s 4 TB Backup Plus Hub fell behind our top pick in HD Tune testing by 15.8 MB/s on reads and 7 MB/s on writes. Although other external hard drives we tested (such as our runner-up pick) were similarly slow when writing files, none of them were as slow as the Seagate at reading them. The Seagate fell behind our top pick by 3 minutes in our Time Machine testing, and it was around 2.5 minutes slower than our runner-up in that regard. This model is a fine external drive, but because it costs about the same as our main pick and runner-up for slower performance, our picks are a better value.

The 8 TB Seagate Backup Plus Hub faced problems similar to those of the 4 TB model. It performed well in Blu-ray testing against our other 8 TB options and did fine in Time Machine tests, but it was notably slow during the HD Tune test. Compared with our 8 TB pick, it was 17.4 MB/s slower in the HD Tune read test, and 31.2 MB/s slower in the write test.

At the time of our research, the Seagate Backup Plus Hub for Mac was around $30 more expensive than the regular Seagate Backup Plus Hub we tested (and $40 more than our top pick). Because the two drives appeared to be the same otherwise, we dismissed them.

The Seagate Expansion Desktop was significantly slower than our top picks when we tested it in late 2016. It also has a shorter, one-year warranty and lacks backup software.

Other drives from G-Tech, LaCie, OWC, and Transcend were too expensive, ranging from $170 to $420 for 4 TB models—1.7 to 4.3 times as much as our top pick. Many suffered from limited availability, too.


Best Portable External Hard Drive

  1. Brian Beach, How long do disk drives last?, Backblaze, November 12, 2013

  2. Andy Klein, Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017, Backblaze, February 1, 2018

  3. How to buy storage, CNET

  4. Lyle Smith, WD My Book Review,, October 11, 2016

  5. Dong Ngo, WD My Book (Fall 2016) review, CNET, October 11, 2016