Storage Options for Newer Macs?

Looking in to upgrading my ageing 2011 MacBook Pro to a newer Mac.

As the newer M1 ones are somewhat impossible to upgrade and I currently have a 3/4 full 1 TB drive…what are the options for adding external storage to a new Mac? What can you shift to external storage and what should remain on the main drive?

Something I’ve never really had to think about before as I was able to upgrade the drive quite easily.

Been looking at possibly getting a Mac Mini M1, but also strangely tempted by a lot of well priced trash can Mac Pros that have been popping up lately. I know that that model Mac Pro will not support Ventura when it ships, but I’m sure Monteray will be fine for a while.

What do folk recommend?

Not a pro here, but I teach at a design school and asked one of my colleagues (he teaches Final Cut Pro, motion graphics, etc) that same question a few years ago when I was in a similar position. He said to use the main dive (500GB SSD) for the OS and apps, mostly. Documents are kept on an external drive. That drive gets cloned nightly - I like Carbon Copy Cloner - and Time Machine is on an external drive as well. A complete backup solution would involve the cloud (Backblaze, etc) but that wasn’t your question, was it? :)

It has certainly worked for me - I keep all of my large files (movies / music / digital drawings, etc on my external drives. Smaller documents are ok on my main drive. Curious to see how others deal with this issue. Good luck!


I have a 512GB M1 MacBook Air and use a three tier solution:

1 internal drive for the OS and apps and a specific set of files (the ones that I’m currently working on and their resources)
2 those items are mirrored to iCloud (in case someone grabs my MacBook, I’ll still have my files)
3 some lesser used resources also reside on iCloud until I need them

Other than that, I have a two 1TB Sandisk Extreme Pro USB-C SSDs: one for offloading files I no longer need direct access to and one for Time Machine. Those SSDs are blazing fast, so offloading and a Time Machine backup are a matter of seconds.

The “offloading” SSD also gets backed up to a slower mechanical 4TB drive overnight, which is stored in a a different location, as well as onto a TransIP cloud storage solution that is confusingly marketed as “Stack”.

I do have to say that I’m in a luxury position to always have fast and unlimited internet access, even on the go. Not everyone has that, which would make tier 2 and 3 of my solution useless.



I would add one remark to the above comments (which I agree with). If you have any catalogs or libraries (for example, a photo-catalog), keep them on your internal SSD. They will perform much better.

As far as the specific hardware is concerned, I buy all my externals from the OWC store.

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Thank you all.

So looks like trying to get a good internal size and hookup an external for most files.

Do libraries like iTunes/Photos run ok from an external drive or should they be local?

I’ve stopped using iTunes all together and switched to Apple music; so I stream everything. I do use Photos, but that too resides on iCloud.

That saves an enormous amount of data on the internal drive. Both Apple Music and Photos do cache to the local drive, which improves performance, but that’s nowhere near as much data as storing the libs locally would be.