The best external storage: jump straight to…

Choosing the best external hard drive or SSD for your Mac or PC is essential. As any designer or artist knows, it doesn’t take long for creative files to start filling up the internal hard drive of your machine – but it’s important to pick the right one, and there are a number of considerations to make before pulling out your wallet.

First, a quick recap of the basics. An external hard drive or SSD (which stands for Solid State Drive) is a device that can be easily plugged into your machine, giving you almost-instant storage space, without having to prise open your computer and make complicated upgrades.

Not only does an HDD or SSD give you more capacity for large files, but because the devices are portable, they can be taken with you on the go and plugged into different machines – handy if you swap between PCs and Macs regularly. Also, in the event that something bad happens to your machine, your files will still be safe and accessible.

Right now, we think the overall best external hard drive for Mac and PC is the Western Digital My Passport 4TB. It offers the best balance of speed, reliability, portability and price. But there are many options out there – scroll down to see our full list of recommendations, and the best external hard drive prices too.

Storage considerations

There are a number of things to consider when looking for an external hard drive or SSD for your Mac or PC. First, is storage. You’ll want to make sure you buy an external storage device that has enough capacity for your needs – without paying for high capacities you’ll never use.

Around 500GB is a good sweet-spot for external storage, though you can buy smaller capacities, as well as larger ones at 1TB or greater.

Hard drive vs SSD: which is best?

Another consideration is whether to get an external storage device that uses a traditional hard drive, or one with an SSD. Usually, external hard drives with traditional drives are more affordable and come in larger capacities. There are external SSDs that come with large capacities – but these can be expensive. 

SSDs are much faster than traditional hard drives, and because they don’t have any mechanical or moving parts, they’re generally more robust and smaller in physical size as well.

So, if you want to store huge amounts of data while keeping prices low, an external hard drive is the way to go. But if speed is your top priority – for example, if you move a lot of large files, or want to run programs off the drive – then choose an SSD.

The right connections

The connection between the external hard drive and your Mac or PC is also important. The first generation rectangular USB-A ports are slowly being superseded by the newer, smaller reversible USB-C ports. These are now found on all modern PCs, and Macs. 

Some high end PC and Macs, such as the new iMac  and MacBook Pro,  come with USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3. This is the fastest external storage connection there is, and it provides very fast data transfer speeds, though Thunderbolt storage is considerably more expensive than plain old USB.

Best external hard drives and SSDs for Mac and PC

Western Digital My Passport 4TB

01. Western Digital My Passport 4TB

The overall best external hard drive for Mac or PC

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB 3.0