Best External Hard Drive Backup Choices?

Hi all,

I’m looking at upping my backup game. I currently back up my files through iCloud, and also use a 1 TB

I’d peruse BackBlaze’s quarterly reports giving stats on how their (thousands of different) drives have survived:

It looks at drive mechanisms, not external drives themselves, but that’s still useful in winnowing down your choices.

FYI a couple of years ago I ended up purchasing two external Seagate 8Tb drives for backups because of the mechanisms used, and they’ve been great so far. And prices have only gone down - they are $149.99, and I got mine on sale in September 2016 for $180, I think.

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Do a search for 3-2-1 backup strategies; it is arguably the minimum belt-and-suspenders strategy for back ups. Maybe consider, in addition to your cloud back up, 1) a “clone” of your primary drive, and 2) a time-machine back up of all your data.

IF you have 3 copies of your data, the “best external HD” make becomes less important. But to answer your question, you might have a look at e.g, Backblaze’s HD longevity stats. Over time in interpreting their data I settled on HGST drives. Of course, the problem here is that past performance is not necessarily an indication of future performance, and anyway Hitatchi’s drive business was bought by Western Digital, and they’re phasing out that brand.

Another way to ask your question therefore might be “what’s the best/cheapest way to get 3-2-1 coverage for my data?” In my case, I bought some WD easystores when they were on sale (10 TB for $162 … crazy) not because I love the drive/enclosure, but because with multiples I can “spread the risk” of one particular drive failing.

Finally, I think it’s a good idea that no matter what drive(s) you buy, you test them out. I use SoftRAID’s “certify” mode: it writes data to all the sectors of a disk, multiple times. If there’s a problem, you know about it before you’ve put back up data on it. Certifying takes days, but it’s worth it to potentially avoid hassle down the road.

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A lot deoends on how much you have to backup. The drive should be 2 to 3 times the size if your used space. In my case a 1tb drive is plenty (320gb used out of 512). I find drives on sales or at Costco. I prefer usb powered drives for backup so I don’t have to chase down the power bricks.

The mentioned 3-2-1 strategy is a minimum. Best to have more more than that. Drives are cheap, your data is not. Don’t forget to test your backup periodically.

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I second @bowline’s recommendation of Seagate drives. There are a number of negative comments on this forum WRT Western Digital.

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I really like these SanDisk drives. As you can see, they are tiny, capacious (this one is 1TB), rugged, and fast. Backups run about 1GB a minute, 4x faster than my spinning external HDs.


I will echo @Timo statement. It’s best to have the best backup strategy and the “best” external drive becomes less important.

I am a creature of habit, I always go with Western Digital. 20 years of drives and I never had a real issue that wasn’t due to just normal wear and tear. It’s been solid for me at least.

As far as upping up your backup game, the 3-2-1 strategy is the best.

My macbook pro does the following just to give you an idea.

  1. 4TB External Drive - Time Machine Backups (Daily)
  2. 4TB External Drive - Carbon Copy Cloner (Daily)
  3. Synology NAS - 2nd Time Machine backup that goes to my NAS. (Daily) This eventually gets to the cloud for my offsite.

Synology NAS

  1. Backblaze
  2. Crashplan
  3. Local External Drive

Thank you everyone! I apologize that my initial post was somehow cut short (no doubt due to an error I caused). I do backup to time machine, but am getting errors on that external drive and now time machine won’t even back up as it says it cannot access the hard drive.

Any suggestions on how to deal with that - perhaps a way to check the disk? I have DriveGenius but frankly feel a little intimidated by it so I haven’t done much with it yet.

I think I will do a deeper dive on the 3-2-1 strategy, as well as looking at the Backblaze stats too. Thank you @bowline for that suggestion.

I hadn’t thought of testing the drives before hand, so thanks @Timo for that suggestion.

@glenthompson, how would you suggest testing the backup data? Is it as simple as accessing some files on the drive?

Thanks to everyone else who suggested drives and backup strategies. I appreciate the help!

The easiest way to test a backup is to rename or move a file then try to restore it. Open it with the associated app and verify that it works. Also use a file you change frequently and see that you can restore different versions.

One of the scenarios we tested in corporate disaster recovery was to bring up the backup data center without access to designated people. In a home situation the it might be good to see if your spouse can restore a backup without your help.

My philosophy is that if you don’t test the backup, you don’t have a backup.


@glenthompson your last comment reminds me of this website!

The Tao of Backup

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I would avoid the cheap 2.5” Seagate backuo Drives. After many failing I finally moved to more robust 3.5” Toshiba drives and an external SSD.

G-Technology has proven to be the most reliable.

High rate of failures:
Western Digital

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Do you have a citation for that definitive claim?

Which specific models/capacities, and which mechanisms are used in them?

10+ years of work experience.
G-Drives are the best (nothing is perfect) no matter what model.

WD and Seagate are the ones to fail.

When I was working at the Apple store and Apple had WD on the floor to demo time machine these drives were already failing in the store…

Since G doesn’t manufacture their own drives, you’re saying that mechanisms chosen for those cases - of unknown provenance - all are somehow superior overall to any other branded mechanism and case? For me that’s a bit difficult to wholeheartedly accept without any supportive evidence from other sources. I’m glad those drives worked out for you, though.

Its about the construction of the enclosure, ventilation, cooling, and the chipset used.
Then the quality of the USB / FW etc connections. For example the WD passport Mini USB connection is a very weak spot. And when it breaks you are dead in the water since its integrated into the 2.5" drive therefor you cant put it in a drive dock.

As for the internal drive, there are many doors on the backside of each factory. Each speweing out a similar looking drive but with diffeent quality.

For example the WD Black and Red are my go-to drives for Mac’s and Servers.
For a while Apple used Seagate in their iMac’s, no longer for a very good reason.

Recently I attended a Synology workshop. Seagate was a guest speaker and offered a lottery to win their drives. Most of us did not even bother to sign up. Non of us cared about their generous warranty program. The headage of replacing a failed drive is not worth it…

According to Wikipedia:

[G-Technology] is owned by HGST, a subsidiary of Western Digital.[2]

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"It … "? Are you referring to G-Technology?

Yes, G-Technology is just a subsidiary brand of Western Digital, with good marketing :sunglasses: since even MacExpert wrote WD drives" are the ones to fail"

The fact is that different models of drives have different case designs over time, and those cases sometimes are of varying (or improving, or decreasing) quality. It’s therefore incumbent on people to not make overarching claims, especially without any supportive evidence.

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Howdy Everyone,

To replace my aging mid-2011 Macbook Air, I’m going to be getting a new Mac Mini in the spring with 512GB internal SSD. I plan on getting an external harddrive for various types of backups, with the following planned (though not final) setup. I’m considering possibly:

  1. Time Machine partition (between 1 and 1.5TB)
  2. Clone partition (500GB)
  3. Misc storage partition (rest of the drive space) - this would house backups of various Synology folders, clone of my wife’s windows laptop, misc archived storage, etc.

The internal drive and the misc storage partition will be backed up via Backblaze.

I’m considering either the G-Technology G-Drive USB C 8TB drive or an OWC Mercury Pro Enclosure with a 6TB WD Blue drive. Based on this thread, I’m assuming I couldn’t go wrong with either?

Also, the Mac Mini will always be on and the external drive always plugged in and on. Would I be ok to leave the external drive sitting on top of the mac mini to save some desktop space? Or would that make either too hot?