Best external SSDs for Mac or iPad in 2024


Best external SSDs for Mac or iPad
The best external SSD options add terabytes of storage, and are designed for portability.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Adding high-speed plug-in storage capacity to your computer is so easy it’s something every Mac user should consider. Here are some of the best consumer-oriented external SSDs that are designed for portability.

Today is World Backup Day, which seems a good opportunity to explore external storage options. Especially as there are deals on some of the best SSDs available.

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External storage offers advantages

Apple charges an arm and a leg for additional built-in storage capacity. Configuring a MacBook Air with an additional 256GB costs a whopping $200, for instance. An external SSD it’s a lot more affordable — you can add terabytes of storage for that same amount.

True, the plug-in accessory isn’t quite as convenient, but it’s close. And it’s the better option for Time Machine backups because you can leave the drive at home where it’s not at risk.

To make a a “best of” list, any portable SSD has to include USB-C. That means you can use it with multiple Macs but also your iPad and maybe even your iPhone.

Plus, think about the future. When you switch to a newer computer in a couple of years, the portable SSD you buy now is still useful. Built-in storage goes with the Mac.

Table of contents:

Samsung T9

Samsung T9 portable SSD
The Samsung T9 SSD is small but holds terabytes of data.
Photo: Samsung

The best external SSD I’ve tested is the Samsung T9. The solid-state drive is small enough and tough enough to go almost anywhere. And it’s available in capacities up to 4 terabytes.

It’s 3.5 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.6 inches, and covered in a layer of rubber. That allows it to survive drops up to 9.8 feet (3 meters), and it’s much less slick than aluminum.

For Mac or iPad users, the external SSD supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 over its USB-C port. Using this standard, it offers speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

Don’t miss my Samsung T9 review, and also don’t miss the Amazon sale on the accessory going on now.

Buy it on sale:

Kingston XS1000 or XS2000

Kingston's tiny new SSD puts 2TB in the palm of your hand
Add up to 2TB of storage to your Mac or iPad with this pocket-size SSD.
Photo: Kingston

Two more of the best SSDs on the market are the Kingston XS1000 and XS2000. Each is about the size of pack of gum.

The XS1000 holds up to 2 terabytes of data, and is 2.75 inches by 1.3 inches by 0.5 inches. It has a plastic exterior, and Kingston makes no promises about drop survivability. The Cult of Mac review goes into more detail.

Prices start at $84.99 for the 1TB version.

Buy it from: Amazon

The Kingston XS2000 comes in capacities up to 4TB. It is about the same size as its sister model, but comes bundled with a removable sleeve for drop protection.

The 1TB version is $114.99, and some capacities are currently on sale.

Buy it from: Amazon

On either version, the USB-C port supports USB 3.2 Gen 2, so Mac and iPad users can move data at up to 1,050 MB/s read and 1,000 MB/s write.

Kingston DataTraveler Max

The high-speed Kingston DataTraveler flash drive comes in sizes up to 1TB.
The high-speed Kingston DataTraveler flash drive comes in sizes up to 1TB.
Photo: Kingston

Those who need a bit less storage capacity can appreciate the Kingston DataTraveler Max. It’s the smallest option on this “Best SSD” list, and the only one to come with a built-in USB-C connector so it plugs directly into a Mac or iPad, no cable necessary.

It tops out at 1TB of capacity, and offers USB 3.2 Gen 2.

There’s a Cult of Mac review of the Kingston DataTraveler Max. The 1TB version is currently $89.99.

Buy it from: Amazon

Samsung T5 EVO

Samsung T5 EVO SSD in use
There’s room for years of images and videos on the Samsung T5 EVO solid state drive.
Photo: Samsung

Some of the best SSDs top out at 2TB of storage, but the that’s where the Samsung T5 EVO starts. It goes up to 8TB.

The chassis is 3.7 inches by 1.6 inches, and a ring is integrated into the design so the accessory can be easily clipped to a backpack.

The drive isn’t the fastest on the list, though. It supports USB 3.2 Gen 1 so it can transfer data at up to 5Gbps.

The Samsung T5 EVO is on sale now, with discounts up to 18%.

Buy it from: Amazon

Note on USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

The Samsung T9 and the Kingston’s XS2000 support USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, which means they can transfer data at up to 20 Gb/s . However, Macs and iPads do not currently support the standard. Apple’s focus is more on Thunderbolt, which is up to twice as fast.

Because Apple users get no benefits from USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, it’s not highlighted on this list. But it’s worth a mention for anyone who’ll use either of the drives with a Windows PC that does support it.


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