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Best external SSD for Mac in 2024

Best external SSD - Samsung T9 SSD attached to a MacBook Pro

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If you're short on storage in your MacBook Pro, you should add more capacity by buying one of these portable external SSDs.

Mac users frequently discover that the amount of extra storage capacity they configured at the time of purchase just isn't enough for their needs down the road. Part of this is due to Apple's steep storage charges, but there's also the gradual accumulation of data that users tend towards.

Since you can't physically open up and add more storage to a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, you therefore have to look into other storage options. Cloud storage is a possibility, but it doesn't beat having actual local storage.

Most external SSDs are a good compromise on storage capacity since they are often far cheaper to purchase than Apple's storage upgrades. It also offers the possibility of having multiple physical drives with maximum performance at your disposal, depending on your working needs.

For creative users, there's the tendency to work from external storage, with the project kept on solid state drives. It can mean the entire project can be quickly handed off to another member of a team, for example.

And, keeping boot drive space free is a good way to keep up system performance. If there isn't enough free space on that drive, because of music files, video editing libraries, or even just text, the operating system can slow, lacking swap space.

You can get an external hard drive instead of an SSD to save on money and to increase the capacity, but an external SSD provides you with speed and ruggedness. For hard drives, check out our top pick for the best external hard drive for Mac.

Here are AppleInsider's recommendations for finding the best external SSD for extra storage for multiple devices, including the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, other Macs, or even iPad models with USB-C connections.

Best all round external SSD — Samsung T9 SSD

Samsung is well known for its SSDs, and the T9 is one you should seriously consider. Housed in a discrete square-ish box with rounded edges and a textured coating, the T9 will fit in with pretty much anyone's computing setup.

It's quite compact too, at 3.46 inches long, 2.36 inches wide, and 0.55 inches thick. Its 122-gram (4.3 ounces) weight is also equally easy to carry around.

Portable black Samsung solid-state drive with a textured surface and rounded edges, featuring a USB-C port.
Best all round external SSD - Samsung T9

As a portable drive, it can handle up to 2,000MB/s data transfer speeds through its USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 interface. While you could plug it into both USB-C or Thunderbolt interfaces, you do get cables for USB-C to USB-C or USB-A for older setups.

Using Samsung's Dynamic Thermal Guard, the drive is protected from overheating, which maintains performance and transfer speeds. It's also protected from drops of up to 3 meters (9 feet) in height, so accidents won't be an issue.

You can get the T9 Samsung Portable SSD with 1TB on sale for $129.99 at Amazon and Samsung directly. The maxed-out 4TB version is on sale for $367.49, down from $549.

Best external SSD for outdoor use — Lacie Rugged SSD

Lacie is probably best known for being an extremely protective drive, thanks to its use of a bright orange case. While original rugged portable hard drives were chunky and contained an HDD, the design has considerably improved to something smaller, but still recognizable as a Lacie drive.

The Lacie Rugged SSD, as the name suggests, provides you with IP67-rated water and dust resistance. There's also three-meter drop resistance and a two-ton crush resistance, so the drive will withstand whatever you can throw at it.

A person wearing a smart watch holds an orange, rugged external hard drive close to the camera.
Best external drive for outdoor use - Lacie Rugged SSD

Able to connect over USB-C, it uses Seagate FireCuda NVMes to provide data transfer speeds of up to 1,050MB/s. Even better, if your outdoor activities somehow damages the drive, there's five years of coverage for data recovery services too.

You can pick up the Lacie Rugged SSD from Amazon from $119.99 for 500GB, rising to 4TB for $599.

If you like the idea of a Lacie drive but want something with more speed, there's another option for you. The Lacie Rugged SSD Pro is the same in terms of protection but in a black housing.

The key change is performance, as the Pro version can handle transfers up to 2,800MB/s, making it a great option for creatives.

The Lacie Rugged SSD Pro is also available from Amazon, starting from $204 for 1TB, rising to 4TB for $629.99.

Best external SSD for creators — SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2

Continuing the theme of the well-known and popular drives, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 is a creative's favorite external drive. Slimline, the SanDisk Extreme V2 can slip into many gaps in your bag to be taken on journeys.

It's 3.9 inches in length and 2.1 inches in width, with a thickness of 0.4 inches. At 1.8 ounces, it is also extremely light for a drive.

External SanDisk SSD connected to a laptop with a black keyboard and purple screen displayed.
Best external SSD for creators - SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2

While thin, it is still protected form the environment, including drops of up to 9.8 foot, and an IP65 dust and water resistance rating. Adding to its ruggedness is a carabiner loop, so you can hang the drive from a bag or, more likely, your keys.

Able to connect over USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, the drive offers read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s and write speeds of up to 1,000MB/s. This is more than enough for smart creatives to work their projects on portable drives, and to easily toss across the office to transfer files to other members.

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 starts from just $89.99 at B&H Photo and, with 1TB, 2TB, and a $299.99 4TB model also available at both retailers.

Best external SSD for travellers — Crucial X9

If you are looking for a small block of storage, the Crucial X9 is a decent choice for your external data needs.

Measuring 2.56 inches by 1.9, it's a highly compact square block. Its aluminum exterior is able to help deal with any fluctuations in temperature and keep it cool while in use.

Black rectangular external hard drive with rounded corners, featuring the Crucial by Micron logo in the center.
Best external SSD for travellers - Crucial X9

There's even an integrated lanyard hole, in case you want to attach it somewhere close at hand. The compact size even lends itself to being used as storage for recording video from an iPhone.

The drive has the capability to withstand a 7.5-foot drop to a carpeted floor without affecting the stored data. It can also easily handle other shocks and drops too.

As for speed, it can handle read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s over USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, and it's compatible with Time Machine for backups of your MacBook Pro while on the go.

The Crucial X9 Pro for Mac starts from 1TB for $102.99 on Amazon, rising to $289.99 for 4TB.

Best external flash drive for security — Kingston IronKey Keypad 200

It's one thing to keep your data stored within easy reach. It's another entirely to keep it secure.

The Kingston IronKey is a USB-C flash drive, making it compact compared to others in the list. Its storage capacities between 8GB and 512GB are also not super-sized, but still useful to work with.

Blue USB drive with a keypad and 64GB capacity label connected to a laptop.
Best external flash drive for security - Kingston IronKey Keypad 200

AppleInsider did see that transfer speeds can be quite low at times, with reads of around 145MB per second and lower write speeds. However, this drive isn't about performance, it's about security.

Unusually for a drive, it is secured with an FIPS 140-3 Level 3 military-grade hardware encryption rating using XTS-AES 256-bit encryption. This is all handled on the drive itself, not by the unsecured computer you're connecting it too.

The big party piece is that you have to unlock the drive by entering a pin and then connecting it to your host device within 30 seconds. If the admin PIN set for the drive is typed in incorrectly ten times in a row, it will crypto-erase all content on the drive and reset to factory settings.

The Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 starts from $74.99 for 8GB on Amazon, rising to $284.99 for 512GB.

Best budget flash drive — PNY Elite-X Type-C

Flash drives are extremely handy if space is at a premium. The PNY Elite-X Type-X certainly fits the bill here.

Checked out by AppleInsider as a quick and very portable storage solution, the flash drive is as thin as a pinky finger. It measures 2.22 inches by 0.5 inches and 0.25 inches thick, and has a small loop at one end for hanging it on your keys.

Black USB flash drive with USB 3.2 and 64GB markings, lying on a dark textured surface.
Best budget flash drive - PNY Elite-X Type-C

Available in three capacity options from 64GB to 256GB, it's not a massive data store. But it's more than enough to handle file transfers, or as emergency storage for an iPhone 15 Pro.

Connected up using USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1, it can read files at up to 200MB/s or write at up to 100MB/s.

You can pick up the PNY Elite-X Type-C from Amazon for $14.35 for 64GB, rising to $25.99 for 256GB. This makes it one of the cheapest external SSD options on this list.

Let's say you want to get more hands-on and have a fairly unique storage solution. One you can boast to others that you put together yourself.

The Orico ClearLink, also reviewed by AppleInsider, is a two-part SSD designed to be opened and used by end users. It also has a clear section for the solid disk drive itself, so you can see what's actually inside the enclosure.

USB cable connected to a transparent external SSD, resting on a laptop keyboard, wooden surface underneath.
Best external SSD for hands-on users - Orico ClearLink M.2

As a DIY device, you can insert your own drive, though you can also get it as part of a bundle with a drive. In the package selected here, it includes an Orico NVMe 2TB M.2 SSD with a heatsink.

With the drive in the tool-free case, you can get read speed transfers up to 3,100MB/s and write speed of up to 1,600MB/s. However, the enclosure is capable of a theoretical maximum of 10Gb/s using M.2 NVMe drives, 6Gb/s for SATA protocol drives.

The key part of this selection is that you're in control of what drive is actually used with the enclosure. In the future, you could use higher capacity or faster drives with the same enclosure, thanks to its easily disassembled design.

As a package with the 2TB drive, it costs $139.99 on Amazon. Separately, the drive is $119.99, and the enclosure is $24.99.