You don’t need a special external hard drive for Mac, but it can improve your performance and let you do a few special things if you have one. Previously we have written an article external hard drive buying guide which will also help you find an external hard drive for Mac, but here we will solely focus on Mac buyers.
An External Hard Drive For Mac Filesystems
Modern Macs use the Hierarchical FileSystem Plus (HFS+). This is also the same filesystem found on other Apple devices, such as the iPod. But most other computer manufacturers don’t support this filesystem.
For example, if instead of an external hard drive for Mac you buy a drive for Windows, you’ll get a File Allocation Table (FAT) filesystem or, more rarely, a New Technology FileSystem (NTFS).
External hard drives mostly use FAT because it’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and many mobile devices. But FAT has a few problems which make it less than ideal for Mac users.
Why You Want An External Hard Drive For Mac Only
The FAT filesystem is old—nearly 30 years old, which is ancient in the computer technology world. It’s extremely inefficient compared to Mac’s own HFS+ or Windows’s NTFS and—worse—it lacks several of the features later filesystems added to prevent file corruption.[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B008R7EXD8″ locale=”us” height=”250″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31g5hp7odgL.jpg” width=”250″]
If you unplug an external hard drive for Mac using the FAT filesystem without unmounting it first, it could corrupt the entire filesystem, making the whole drive unusable without special tools.
If you do the same thing with an HFS+ drive, the worst that would happen is that you’d lose any files you saved on it recently.
How To Find An External Hard Drive For Mac
Search product listings for HFS+ to find external hard drives for Mac. As of this writing, there are over 200 product listings on Amazon, so you should have no problem finding one.
Make sure the product listing says it’s pre-formatted with HFS+ and not that it “supports HFS+”.
If all else fails and you can’t find a drive that meets your needs, you can buy an FAT-formatted drive and reformat it with HFS+ on your Mac. It will only take a few minutes even on a large drive—but, be warned, you’ll lose all of the data on the drive when you format it.
As with most Apple-compatible products, you can often save some money by buying a Windows-compatible drive and using the formatting technique to make it an external hard drive for Mac.