How to Choose the Right Hard Disk for Your Mac

Every computing device you own contains some sort of storage. An iPhone or iPad contains flash memory, and a desktop or laptop computer contains either a solid state drive (SSD), which is flash memory, or a hard disk. Macs are currently sold with two types of storage devices: SSDs and fusion drives. And you can buy external or internal drives of three types: SSD, hybrid (fusion) drive, or hard drive.

You might be curious to know, what’s the right hard disk for your Mac? Choosing which drive to use in a computer involves a trade-off between speed, capacity, and cost. In this guide, you will learn what the difference is between the different types of drives as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

10 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Hard Disk for Your Mac

  1. “Macs are currently sold with two types of storage devices: SSDs and fusion drives.”

    The base iMac 21.5 still comes standard with a (horribly slow) HD. I made the mistake of buying one for my wife. She doesn’t notice while browsing, but I notice (it drives me nuts) when doing system maintenance or updating software.

    My solution was to buy an external Samsung 1 TB SSD (USB 3) and using that as the boot drive. Performance is fine and it wasn’t too expensive. I backup the external drive to the internal drive so I can still boot the system if something happens to the SSD. No problems at all so far.

    David

    • I hadn’t noticed that, and I just bought one. I opted for the SSD, and just assumed that it was a fusion drive in the base configuration.

  2. “Macs are currently sold with two types of storage devices: SSDs and fusion drives.”

    The base iMac 21.5 still comes standard with a (horribly slow) HD. I made the mistake of buying one for my wife. She doesn’t notice while browsing, but I notice (it drives me nuts) when doing system maintenance or updating software.

    My solution was to buy an external Samsung 1 TB SSD (USB 3) and using that as the boot drive. Performance is fine and it wasn’t too expensive. I backup the external drive to the internal drive so I can still boot the system if something happens to the SSD. No problems at all so far.

    David

    • I hadn’t noticed that, and I just bought one. I opted for the SSD, and just assumed that it was a fusion drive in the base configuration.

  3. As usual you cut through the fluff to reveal easy to understand (and interesting) criteria. I have an old 2008 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz that I am using for my video library (via home sharing on my home network) to share with with my 4 Apple TV’s. Currently it has a 500GB hard drive (5400 rpm) whose storage is filling up fast as I rip my copy protected DVD movies and home videos to it. I will need at least 1TB more given my yet to be ripped collection. My question Kirk I would like to use an external hard drive SSD if for no other reason – longevity. But my question is will my old Core 2 Duo chipset be able to take advantage of any of the “speed” advantages of the SSD technology? The internal link speed is 3GB and I have USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 ports. I do have a limited budget but want to be smart about this. What is your recommendation Kirk. Thank you very much

    • Given the cost of 1 TB SSDs, and the fact that your Mac is so old, I would recommend against it. You can get a 4 TB external HD – a portable, that is self-powered from the USB port – for around $100. It’s hard to find Firewire enclosures these days, but you could probably find one; FW 800 is much faster than USB 2, but then you’d buy an enclosure and a bare disk and put them together (which is quite simple). Until you have a Mac that runs USB3, I’d say the SSD really isn’t worth it.

  4. As usual you cut through the fluff to reveal easy to understand (and interesting) criteria. I have an old 2008 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz that I am using for my video library (via home sharing on my home network) to share with with my 4 Apple TV’s. Currently it has a 500GB hard drive (5400 rpm) whose storage is filling up fast as I rip my copy protected DVD movies and home videos to it. I will need at least 1TB more given my yet to be ripped collection. My question Kirk I would like to use an external hard drive SSD if for no other reason – longevity. But my question is will my old Core 2 Duo chipset be able to take advantage of any of the “speed” advantages of the SSD technology? The internal link speed is 3GB and I have USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 ports. I do have a limited budget but want to be smart about this. What is your recommendation Kirk. Thank you very much

    • Given the cost of 1 TB SSDs, and the fact that your Mac is so old, I would recommend against it. You can get a 4 TB external HD – a portable, that is self-powered from the USB port – for around $100. It’s hard to find Firewire enclosures these days, but you could probably find one; FW 800 is much faster than USB 2, but then you’d buy an enclosure and a bare disk and put them together (which is quite simple). Until you have a Mac that runs USB3, I’d say the SSD really isn’t worth it.

  5. Kirk is correct – SSDs for data storage are just not worth it yet (unless you are processing video files). You can get reliable WD external USB powered 4 TB drives on Amazon for $105. Just buy two and keep two copies of everything – then drive reliability is less of an issue. These are USB 3 drives, however, and if you are limited to USB 2, it will be very slow coping files to the external drives. If this is just for archive purposes you can let it copy overnight – but USB 2 is really too slow for any active read/write work. You used to be able to get these drives that support Firewire, which will be faster, but I doubt if they are available any more.

    David

  6. Kirk is correct – SSDs for data storage are just not worth it yet (unless you are processing video files). You can get reliable WD external USB powered 4 TB drives on Amazon for $105. Just buy two and keep two copies of everything – then drive reliability is less of an issue. These are USB 3 drives, however, and if you are limited to USB 2, it will be very slow coping files to the external drives. If this is just for archive purposes you can let it copy overnight – but USB 2 is really too slow for any active read/write work. You used to be able to get these drives that support Firewire, which will be faster, but I doubt if they are available any more.

    David

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