4 types of backup hard drives for your Mac

“Backups are a lot like insurance: it’s imperative to have it, and you hope you never have to use it. Likewise, if you need to use a backup hard drive to restore your data, it can save you hours of time, money and headaches,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Intego. “We often remind you how important it is to back up your files, but it’s not just the backup that matters. The media you use to store your data is critical!”

“There are different types of backup hard drives available for Mac,” McElhearn writes. “You can use external hard drives connected to your Mac, portable hard drives that you connect when needed, or network devices. You have lots of choice, but each of these devices works best in specific situations. So how can you tell which type of hard drive is best for you?”

“Choosing a hard drive to back up your data can be a quest in and of itself,” McElhearn writes. “This post highlights the different types of hard drives for Mac that you can use, and how to choose the best backup hardware for your needs.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Always remember: The soundest backup plans have both on-site and off-site storage (in case of fire, flood, or other natural disaster).


  1. Backup hard drives are the worst peripherals for iMacs. The first Seagate I had was a disaster; The last one I had, a WD, didn’t work as promised when I upgraded from 2006 to 2016 iMac (had to go USB route);now, it doesn’t work right with Time machine, to backup I have to reinstall every time and backup manually…NEVER a problem with DVD drives, Printers, mouses, keyboards, etc.

    1. I have had an iMac since 2007 and it is still running (updated to macOS 10.9.5). I have had very few problems with external HDDs used for Time Machine or clone backups (used to use CCC, but now use SuperDuper). I recall having to wipe a HDD and restart Time Machine a couple of times, but have not had to do so for a long while.

      After four years or so I replaced the original 500GB drive with a 2TB drive for more storage. Last year that 2TB HDD failed, so I replaced it a WD Blue 2TB HDD to keep that iMac going. Great machine and still quite usable for many things. I even produced a pretty decent retirement video for my boss a couple of years ago using iMovie.

      1. I should have stated that for Time Machine I use an external HDD from Other World Computing (macsales.com) connected via FireWire. The OWC Mercury Elite has been rock solid for many years.

        For cloning, I purchased a HDD dock with FireWire connectivity. I can (and have) used the dock to boot my iMac when the internal 2TB HDD failed last year. I replaced the internal HDD and restored my clone to the internal HDD using SuperDuper, then repaired permissions. Quickly back to full working order!

  2. I have been using an outboard USB HARD Drive to back up my MAC’s with Time Machine since 2008. It always works effortlessly. Since 1TB HDD’s have got so cheap, I replace the HDD every two years to make sure I replace it before it fails. This I right the start and end date right on the HDD a file them like books. The WD’s have always worked great for me…YMMV

    1. You backup your Media Access Controller?

      I’ve never done that. Can you explain how?

      I’m one of those paranoids. Two onsite backups and one offsite, rotated. I’m just glad the days of nightly incremental backups are over, and, of course, backing up my huge 30 MB Warp 9 Photon 30 drive to 800k floppies. (There was, of course, no really practical way to backup anything on the Thin Man. You just duplicated the 400k floppies and went with that.)

  3. I am long time user of CCC by Bombich. Its a backup software which is simply awsome. One click bootable copy of system drive and all data is just bulletproof. It saved myass couple of times. Worth every buck.

  4. I have on computer, nearby USB, Household NAS, Dropbox for financial files, and Smugmug for unlimited photo archiving. I do networked Time Capsule also, but in a couple of attempts to restore a computer I find it insufferably slow, so I really try to do Time Capsule to USB.

  5. I use a drobo. Houses my iTunes library plus a separate space for time machine backups.
    I have replace two drives so far and increased storage since the drives get cheaper
    Also use iCloud to back up my doc folder offsite.

  6. Buy two 4+ terabyte drives and a waterproof & fireproof chest big enough for one drive. Rotate backups on each. Cost about $250. If one drive fails you will lose little if you do frequent backups.

  7. 2010 Mac Pro. One internal drive day dedicated to Time Machine backup. Other drives partitioned and dedicated to photos, home videos, etc. External drives used extensively for projects & sharing. Works great. Cannot get interested in a Cloud at all.

    Offsite backup argument is weak and doesn’t require a Cloud service if you really are that paranoid. In case of fire, everyone in the household knows the procedure: grab the handles on the Mac Pro and take it with you when you run out of the building.

    1. The problem with my internal drive backups on my Mac Pros … is that a power surge (or lightning strike) can take them all out in a single point failure event.

      And while Cloud services notionally solve the lightning strike problem, ISP bandwidth limits can become problematic: “Hello FIOS? Yeah, my machine tanked … can I have a six month advance on my bandwidth so that I can do an “N TB”-sized restore?”

          1. Then don’t buy cheap surge protectors.

            Really, if you’re running pro machines (or are even using iMacs for pro work) you should be running everything through a very good (high end?) uninterruptible power supply. A very good UPS will protect against almost any lightning strike–even one directly to your incoming transformer. Yes, in extreme cases a direct lightning strike will fry your UPS, but better that UPS than your computer and data.

            If you’re truly paranoid look into Electronic Surge Arrestors. Worthwhile ones are specialty items and expensive, but if you live in a very lightning prone area over the long run they can pay for themselves.

            Just remember, sometimes cheap is just cheap.

            1. “Non-cheap” products?

              Just what do you recommend that’s less than $1000 which has been tested and passed the MILSPEC E3 ESD specs? Specific makes/model#s please.

              The reality for home computer users is that a $300 UPS and couple of hard drives for rotating off-site backups is still substantially cheaper than what it costs to configure their home office to really be able to withstand a full lightning strike.

            2. Really? And here I was thinking my 6-port surge protector I got at the dollar store was guaranteeing total and utter protection against anything up to and including angry thunder gods.

              If a lightning strike wants to take your machine out, it will.

  8. Use the WD Passport 1TB external USB drives. Never miss a beat. Use 2 drives in the Back Up rotation. Switch drive each week….

    Now for real fast disaster recovery you can have Samsung SSD’s installed and then simply clone the drive with another Samsung SSD once a week………
    Data and/or virus corruption you simply swap the drive and re-start……AMF…..!!!

  9. I wish LTO tape drives (with 30 year lifespans) weren’t so expensive, and the tape media too. I need one having many multiples of Tb’s to save. Planning on getting both but for now I see you can get a 4 drive RAID 5 12Tb TB2 RAID for $899 so plan to get one. Then the LTO for longer term storage as soon as I can afford it.

    1. LTO really isn’t for backup anymore. Hasn’t been for almost a decade.

      LTO is great for archiving, as long as you rigorously adhere to the storage and tape maintenance requirements.

      But, if you want real archiving, go with archive specific optical media. It’s shelf life is longer than LTO, and the storage of the media is much more compact. If you investigate that route, don’t be fooled into using optical media that just claims 30+ years (some claim 50+ years). Make sure you get true archival optical media. Accelerated life testing has shown that some should be good for 100+ years (even if in the real world it makes 30-40 years at a reliable BER of less than 10^-14 then you’re good to go).

  10. For MBP users: fastest thing would be a 1 terabyte SD card in the slot of the newest MacBooks. Easy to swap duplicates in regularly for your off site super secure deposit boxes in fire protected and alarmed bank vaults.

    Oh, wait …. Apple would rather cut off another 0.1 mm instead, then increase the price anyway.

  11. Major folders and my photo library are synced to the cloud using iCloud and dropbox.
    I currently have an old iMac into which I have installed a larger drive. This drive has 4 partitions, 1 is for that iMac, two are for my other macs onto which I do weekly full backups, the final one is used for Time Machine.
    The combined partitioned drive is then cloned to two external drives on a rotating basis one of which is kept off site and the other is kept in a firesafe. This drive and connected external drives storing my iTunes library and copies of my dvds is also backed up to the cloud with BackBlaze.
    Since all my music is on iTunes match and all my video is on dvd and a drive I don’t keep backups of those as they rarely change and Backblaze does the job (albeit it took a long time to originally upload).

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