While Apple does so many things right with its Macs, there is one major sticking point: The standard configurations don’t provide enough onboard storage. Most of the affordable Mac models come with an internal 256GB or 512GB SSD, and that’s too small. Sometimes you don’t realize you need more storage until after you bought your Mac and used it for a bit.
You can’t upgrade the internal storage after purchase, so you have to look to solutions outside of your Mac. You can use cloud storage, such as iCloud, Dropbox, and others, but then you become dependent on an internet connection, and you have to abide by any policies put forth by those services.
Or you can take matters into your own hands and get an external SSD. They’re easy to use—just plug them into one of the Thunderbolt/USB-C ports on your Mac, and you’re ready to go. You can also do some SSD management, like use Disk Utility to reformat the drive and create separate volumes. And if you want to use Time Machine for backups, you need an external SSD.
There are a lot of drives available and it’s a competitive market, so it’s easy to get a good deal. In this guide, you’ll find links to our latest reviews, as well as our top picks and the latest prices. We’ll update this guide as review more drives, so if you’re in the market, you’ve found the right place to help you make the right choice.
Best portable SSDs reviews
1. OWC Envoy Pro FX
OWC’s Envoy Pro FX isn’t just a good-looking external SSD. It also is a great performer, with Thunderbolt 3 reads and writes rated at 2GBps, and USB Gen 2 reads and writes at 1GBps. You won’t spend much time at all twiddling your thumbs while you wait for it to do its thing. It has non-skid runners on the bottom to keep it stable on a desk and its metal case distributes heat nicely—the Envoy Pro FX was barely warm to the touch under heavy use. It has one Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port and is available in capacities of 240GB, 480GB, 1TB, or 2TB.
Read our full Envoy Pro FX review
2. LaCie Rugged SSD Pro
The LaCie Rugges SSD Pro isn’t as fast as other SSDs, but for the adventurous few, the peace of mind it will bring when you’re out in the world might well be worth the extra expense. The outer silicone provides a very reliable grip and also insulates against heat. The metal case underneath the silicon is completely sealed from dust and can withstand two tons of pressure. It’s available in capacities of 1TB or 2TB.
Read our full Rugged SSD Pro review
3. OWC Envoy Pro EX with USB C portable SSD
The Envoy Pro EX USB-C is one of those products that actually lives up to the “Pro” in its moniker. Available in capacities up to 8TB, it has more space than the competition, and also just happens to be a hair faster. The pièce de résistance is IP67 certification, meaning the drive can survive 30 minutes under 3.3 feet of water. That’s sweet, though we don’t recommend you put that to the test.
Read our full Envoy Pro EX with USB C portable SSD review
4. OWC Envoy Pro Elektron
If good things come in small packages, then the truism reigns supreme in the case of the Envoy Pro Elektron. It’s small, it’s good– it’s rugged, fits easily in a shirt pocket, and delivers 1GBps reads and writes over SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. (If you’re not up to speed to the latest USB naming conventions, that’s USB 3.X Gen 2.) If you’re looking for something small and speedy, it’s a great choice.
Read our full Envoy Pro Elektron review
5. Sabrent XTRM-Q Thunderbolt 3/USB SSD
Sabrent leverages the power of their Rocket Q NVMe SSD in this small but fast, dual-interface (Thunderbolt 3/USB) speedster. It’s also available with up to 8TB of capacity. It runs a bit warm, but it solves the cross-platform conundrum and is a good performer.
Read our full XTRM-Q Thunderbolt 3/USB SSD review
6. Samsung Portable SSD X5
If Samsung had included an AC jack so that the SSD X5 would work with Apple’s Thunderbolt adapter, this blazingly fast drive might have garnered 5 stars. As is, it’s the fastest portabe storage available for your Thunderbolt 3 Mac–by a lot.
Read our full Portable SSD X5 review
7. OWC Envoy Pro SX
The Envoy Pro SX is Thunderbolt storage for your Mac that performs very well. However, it’s Thunderbolt only, and its USB-equipped sibling, the Envoy Pro FX, is only $20 more than the SX.
Read our full Envoy Pro SX review
Got your own SSD module and you need a case for it? Here are a few enclosures you can consider.
SSD Thunderbolt docks
Some companies have made a Thunderbolt hub built with SSDs. The hub provides extra port connectivity if you have many external devices.