External Hard Drive Recommendation

Feb 1, 2011
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Sacramento, California
I often hear from Macintosh users who are asking for a recommendation for an external hard drive. Folks use external hard drives to backup their internal hard drive, and often to offload data so that their internal hard drive doesn't become too full. This is an area where my recommendation has changed a few times over the last few years as technology, and market prices, have evolved. (Caveat: All of the proceeding may be out of date several months in the future. I'll update it as the need arises. But don't take this article as cast in stone if you come across it in late 2023 or beyond.)

Especially when one is using their external hard drive to create a bootable clone backup to use as an emergency drive, or a recovery drive, it's important that one's external hard drive have good performance. See:

Six Lessons Learned from Dealing with an iMac’s Dead SSD
See: "Lesson #1".

Solid State Hard Drives (SSD's) have come down in price to the point where they are now price competitive with rotating disk hard drives. At least in the most popular sizes, if not at huge capacities. SSD's are fast compared to even the fastest rotating disk hard drives. If you have a Mac made in the last few years, with a Thunderbolt 3 or 4/USB-C port, your Mac can provide excellent performance from an external SSD.

But SSD's tend to run hot, and when hot they slow down precipitously.

How fast SSDs slow to a crawl: thermal throttling

Safe SSD Operating Temperature: Is Your SSD Running Too Hot?

Manufactures of external hard drives, presumably to save money, usually offer little, or nothing, in the way of cooling for their drives. It's not unusual for an external SSD hard drive, even one from a respected manufacturer, to come in a plastic case with no fan and no heatsink. Even when they offer an external case made of metal, often the external case offers no cooling as a heatsink because it is not in thermal contact with the SSD within.

Years ago, the best, most cost effective way to assure that you had a really good external hard drive was to purchase an excellent rotating disk internal hard drive mechanism, and to pair it with a high quality external hard drive kit, and to assemble those together yourself. Well, things have come full circle, and with the latest SSD's, the best external SSD is likely to be one that you put together yourself. There are external SSD case kits that will house the latest NVME SSD's (which are tiny and extremely fast) which include both a hefty heatsink and a fan!

For about $140 you can build a reasonably fast, reliable 1TB external SSD, and putting it together is easy enough for anyone to do.

Here are the components that you need, along with relevant links:

Samsung - 970 EVO Plus 1TB Internal SSD PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe

ineo M.2 NVMe (PCIe) SSD Enclosure Built-in Cooling Fan and Write Protection Switch [C2605-NVMe]

Info and installation instructions:

Chip heat-sink plate install video:

Caveats: Only use high quality USB cables. Don't use cheap USB cables that you get at the drug store. In fact, if you can, only use the short high quality cables that come with the hard drive kit. Also, I've heard that longer cables won't perform as well as short ones.


Well-known member
Staff member
May 20, 2008
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Your Mac's Specs
2011 17" MBP 2.2ghz, 16gig ram, OS 10.11.6
Thanks Randy. Awesome info!:)

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