Best SSD for your Mac: Top choices by MacPaw

When we think about where everything is stored on a Mac, people usually say “the Hard drive.” In older Mac’s, this usually means an actual HDD, where data is read and written onto a physically spinning disk. In newer models, data is normally stored on a Solid State Drive. 

On a Solid State Drive (SSD), there is no spinning disk. No moving parts, which makes an SSD more reliable, efficient and faster, with superior heat management capabilities compared to HDDs. 

But what happens when we run out of space, or your Mac starts to slow down? In this case, whether you’ve got a MacBook Air or Pro, you can either replace the SSD within the Mac, or plug in an external SSD through one of the open ports. 

Mac’s are compatible with almost all third-party SSDs and there are some fantastic ones on the market. Before we take a look at some of the best options around, let’s look at why people use SSDs and what to consider when getting an SSD. Price is of course one consideration, and it’s always worth reading reviews before buying any technical product, especially when it will become a core component of your Mac. 

Why buy an SSD? 

  • You often work with large files and current storage capacity is no longer feeling like enough or you are starting to run out of space 
  • You don't want to invest in a brand new computer, but would benefit from additional storage while continuing to use the one you've got 
  • Your Mac, once a reliable workhorse is now starting to struggle. It goes slow. It overheats. It clearly needs more space to take the pressure off the current built-in storage 
  • Read and write processes which were once fast on the internal hard drive are starting to slow down, which could be a sign that it’s getting to a terminal stage and needs replacing 
  • Frequent work with resource and space-intensive apps, even when they're cloud-based, such as Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro could be taking up a huge amount of space and causing your Mac to slow down (extra space should help with this problem)
  • Overheating and other negative speed related problems keep happening which is slowing down work or playing games or causing streaming movies and TV to buffer too often (again, more storage should help solve these issues) 

If you are experiencing some of the problems mentioned, but aren't sure about buying and installing a new SSD, or having one always connected to your Mac to provide the storage you need (and you’d prefer an SSD to cloud-based storage), then there is another solution for those who want to keep using the storage they've already got. 

How to make the most of your current Mac drive?

Over time, a Mac gets full of everything you put into it, everything you download, everything you create. 

As hard drives clog up with data, files, folders, images, apps and videos, a Mac will naturally start to slow down. They overheat. You start to see the spinning wheel of doom more often. Over time, a Mac stops being the smooth, fast, wonder machine you first bought and starts becoming something that causes regular annoyance and frustration. 

Buying an SSD is one solution for this problem, but not the only one. 

Clean your SSD from digital garbage  

Another way to get the most of what you already have is to give your Mac a thorough clean and do some serious decluttering and system optimization. You can either attempt to do this manually, or you can save some time and effort this way: 

  1. Open CleanMyMac X (download a free edition here)
  2. Run a Smart Scan
  3. CleanMyMac X will identify systems junk, large unused apps, folders, images, and outdated cache files. Now you can safely and quickly pick what stays and what goes; 
  4. Once that is done, shut your Mac down, restart it, and start enjoying an upgraded performance 
Clean your SSD from digital garbage

Something else worth doing with CleanMyMac X is to Run Maintenance scripts to speed up your drive and macOS. Get your Mac running as good as new again, with significantly less junk, clutter and files you don't need taking up space. 

Now ask yourself whether an SSD is still needed? If this is the case, read on for a quick overview of what to look out for an and an assessment of the best Mac SSDs on the market. 

What to look for in an SSD? 

Storage 

SSDs are bought for storage, so if you need plenty of it, then aim to buy as much as you can. Many come in multiples of terabytes, so aim to give yourself more space than needed right now because there could come a time when you need to use that space. 

Speed 

SSDs have two speed formats to consider: Read and Write speeds. Top of the range SSDs usually advertise speeds of around 500MB/s and 550MB/s, so the higher the advertised number the better. It is also worth noting that what is advertised isn't always how it works in the real world, so you are likely to experience a real read-write speed of around 2/3rds of the advertised speed.

Memory Type

SSDs have two types of memory built into them: multi-level cell (MLC) and single-level cell (SLC). MLC is more common as this is cheaper to make and stores more data. SLC is more expensive, stores less, but there are fewer errors associated with SSDs that include SLC storage. However, some MLC-based drives now come with error correction, so either could work well for your Mac. 

Reliable 

You need reliable storage. This is a pretty crucial part of your Mac. So judging based on brand names and reputations and online feedback is a perfectly valid way of seeing whether an SSD is right for you. 

Top MacPaw Mac SSDs 

#1: SanDisk

One of the world’s most well-known storage companies, SanDisk have solutions for any number of storage problems. Photographers will know this brand well. 

For Mac’s, the Ultra 3D NAND SATA III from SanDisk has 560 MB/sec read and 530 MB/sec write speeds. Super fast, compared to some options on the market. It is cool and quiet when operating and has some awesome caching features that makes it work even smoother, and it comes with a range of size options. Only downside is this one doesn't come with cloning features, so a manual transfer is required when moving data from one hard drive to this SSD. 

SanDisk SSD

#2: Samsung

This SSD also comes with 560 MB/sec read and 530 MB/sec write speeds, and an impressive 5-year warranty and brand name. It also comes with cloning software, making it easier to transfer data over from an existing hard drive to this one. It uses 3D V-NAND to increase speed and can store up to 150 terabytes of written data. Some people have reported some issues with the migration and cloning software. 

Samsung SSD

#3: Crucial

Crucial has a range of size options, from 20GB up to 2TB, with 500GB suitable for most Mac users.  It comes with 560 MB/sec read and 530 MB/sec write speeds. It isn't the fastest one on the market, but it’s solid, secure and reliable. Depending on where it is going, some Mac users may need a spacer within the Mac to make it fit correctly. 

Crucial SSD

Picking the right SSD can make a huge difference to your Mac experience. It will give you more space, make it faster, and make using your Mac more enjoyable again. 

Whichever one you pick, you can always gain extra benefits when it comes to speed and Mac efficiency with the assistance of an app such as CleanMyMac X. It is a powerful ally for everyone wanting to improve the performance of their Mac. 

CleanMyMac X
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.