ARD DRIVES MIGHT be unfashionable right now, but for less than half the price of most equivalent external solid–state drives (SSDs) these products deliver two terabytes (TB) of versatile mobile storage. Whether you’re commuting your documents between home and office, out on the road with your MacBook Pro, or just need somewhere convenient to keep your backups safe, the portable hard drives in this test will do the job efficiently and at significantly lower cost.




> LaCie Mobile Drive 2TB

> SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE ArmorATD 2TB

> Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB

> Toshiba Canvio Flex 2TB

> Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go Alu Slim 2TB

> WD My Passport 2TB

At best, hard drives are only about one third the speed of a basic USB–C SSD, so they’re too slow to start your Mac up from regularly, although they can do so in an emergency. You also would not want to use them for heavy, disk–intensive tasks like editing high–res video, when they can’t compete against fast but much more expensive SSDs.

But when you need to move a great many documents around and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars to do so, there’s still nothing to beat a good portable hard drive. Assembled here are six of the best to suit your pocket in both size and cost.

How we tested

Measuring hard drive performance isn’t simple, as speed varies across the disk platter, and Macs now use two file systems. We used Stibium to measure read and write rates on randomly–ordered test files from 2MB to 2GB in size, with both HFS+ and APFS volumes.

To allow for variation across the platter, we also measured speeds in the outermost and innermost 10% of each disk. Overall performance is given as the average between those two extremes.

Things to consider…

>>> Speed

Do you need to start your Mac up from this drive? If so, you’d be better off with an SSD. Hard drives are fine in a pinch, but slow for frequent use as a boot disk.

>>> Performance

Will you use this drive as your working storage? On hard disks, the APFS file system can cause falling performance due to fragmentation of constantly changing files. Use an SSD instead.

>>> Robustness

Slimline cases are easily slipped into bags and pockets, but provide little protection from impact, water or dirt.

>>> Connectivity

Most drives have USB Micro–B ports, so you’ll probably need the cable that comes with the drive. If that has USB–A at the other end, you may need an adaptor.


LaCie Mobile Drive 2TB

$ From lacie.com

This reassuringly solid drive from the Seagate family is unusually thin and designed with flair, coming with angled “diamond cut” faces forming its bevelled sides rather than traditional perpendiculars.

Its aluminum case makes it slightly heavier than most, and comes in a choice of Moon Silver or Space Gray to match many Macs. Use either of its supplied cables to connect its USB–C port to a USB–A or C port on your Mac, and next to that on its case is an unobtrusive activity light.

In use LaCie’s Mobile Drive worked flawlessly in both file systems, but proved one of the slower disks on test, with average read and write rates of 99MB/s, and an innermost read speed down to as little as 62MB/s. It’s also available in a range of capacities, ranging from 1TB to 5TB.

If you’d like a bit more robustness short of a fully ruggedized drive, and its design appeals, LaCie’s Mobile Drive should be on your short list, particularly if you can find it on offer.

+ USB–C port on its case

+ Reassuringly solid

+ Distinctive angular design

– Slower speed



SanDisk ArmorATD 2TB

$ From westerndigital.com/brand/sandisk

One of the few ruggedized drives, SanDisk’s ArmorATD is housed in an anodized aluminum case with rubber impact protection wrapped around it. Together these give it resistance to rain and dust to IP54, and a claimed 1,000lbs crush resistance.

1 Its USB–C port is covered and sealed with rubber to keep water and dirt out, and comes with a single USB–C to A cable, although you can readily provide your own cable to connect it to a USB–C or Thunderbolt 3/4 port on your Mac.

Testing confirmed that it’s fully compatible with Macs, and works fine in both file systems. However, in return for its robustness, it proved to be the slowest on test, with an average read/write performance of 95/93MB/s, falling to an innermost read speed of only 58MB/s.

It comes in one color and a range of capacities from 1TB to 5TB. If its protection is important to you, shop around for the best deal on this or its rival from LaCie.

+ Rugged rain–resistant case

+ Sealed USB–C port

– Slower performance

– Comes with only USB–A cable



Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB

$ From seagate.com

Don’t be put off by Seagate’s name for this hard drive: it’s not just for backups, and perfectly capable of anything you’d want to use external storage for. It also comes with a software bundle, including a year’s access to Mylio for photos, and a four–month Adobe CC Photography plan.

It’s one of the slimmest drives, and is light, making it convenient to pack in a bag. With a range of seven colors available, it will coordinate with anything, so long as you only want 1TB or 2TB of storage. However, it comes with only a single cable to connect its Micro–B socket to a USB–A port on your Mac. Its activity light is small, making it useful but not distracting.

The Seagate performed perfectly on all our tests with both Mac file systems, but was on the slow side, with average read/write speeds of 96/97MB/s falling to an inner read speed of only 65MB/s.

It’s a capable all–rounder. Shop around and you should see it at budget prices, so it’s good value for money.

+ Slimline and light

+ Low cost

– Slower performance

– Comes with only USB–A cable



Toshiba Canvio Flex 2TB

$ From storage.toshiba.com/consumer-hdd

This silver and white slimline drive surprised us with its turn of speed, proving consistently the fastest on test, whether using Mac OS Extended or APFS drive formats. Its average read/write performance was an impressive 115/113MB/s, with an inner read speed of 81MB/s, and an outer read speed of 149MB/s, or around half that of an ordinary SSD.

These were fast enough for us to install Monterey and boot a Mac Studio from it. Although that took 100 seconds instead of the 40 expected from an external SATA SSD, it should be fine for occasional use.

The drive’s Micro–B socket is supported by two cables for USB–C and A, making it easy to connect your Mac; though plugging the cable into its socket was fussy at first, that quickly eased. Its activity light is designed into a corner so it’s easy to see.

Available in capacities from 1TB to 4TB, if you look hard enough you should be able to buy one at a highly competitive price.

+ The fastest by far on test

+ Low cost

+ Both USB–C and USB–A cables

+ Well–designed activity light



Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go Alu Slim 2TB

$ From verbatim.com

Verbatim is known for removable media; although small relative to leaders like Seagate and WD, its slimline drive performed better than most and is the thinnest on test here.

Its brushed aluminum case has a Micro–B port, with a cable to take it to a USB–A port on a Mac; there’s also a USB–A to C adaptor supplied, which makes it suitable for use with Macs. The case has four small rubber feet, a neat touch if you want to rest it on your Mac. It’s also available with a black finish, and in both 1TB and 2TB capacities.

The Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go was second fastest on test, and completely happy with both file systems. Average read/write speed was an impressive 105/106MB/s, but its innermost read speed wasn’t so good at only 66MB/s, showing much of this performance comes from the outer zone of its platter. Verbatim has high confidence in its durability too: In the United States and Canada, the Store ‘n’ Go comes with a limited seven–year warranty.

+ Slimline case

+ Good performance

+ 7–year warranty

– Slow inner read speed



WD My Passport 2TB

$ From westerndigital.com

WD’s conventional My Passport drives have been among the world’s most popular portable hard disks, and come in various colors and capacities ranging from 2TB to 4TB, although their availability can be limited during the current supply shortage. When they’re available, they should be among the lowest–priced among the six we tested.

They’re light, slimline, have a Micro–B socket on the case, and come with a single cable to connect that to a USB–A port. If your Mac only has USB–C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, you’ll need to source your own cable or use a hub.

This My Passport drive worked perfectly in both file systems, but was among the slower of the hard drives tested. Average read/write speeds were 95/94MB/s, with the innermost tenth of the platter falling to a read speed of only 63MB/s.

If you’re on a tight budget, WD’s My Passport is highly affordable, and should fit your pocket better than most of the contenders.

+ Low cost

+ Slimline case

– Slower performance

– Comes with only USB–A cable

GOOD 3.5/5

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