How to Add Extra Storage to Your MacBook

The MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pros don’t allow you to swap out storage drives unfortunately, so here are a few ways you can add extra storage to your MacBook without any hassle.

The nice thing about older MacBooks is that they came with traditional laptop hard drives that you could swap out for a larger drive, making it almost a no-brainer to buy the lowest-capacity option and upgrade the drive yourself with more storage for less cost.

However, it seems Apple has caught on to that trend and introduced the MacBook Air a few years ago, which comes with flash storage that can’t be replaced. A couple years later, Apple started making their MacBook Pros the same way, by introducing flash storage that user can’t replace themselves.

At first, this was kind of annoying, since us tinkerers could no longer open up a MacBook and change things around, but the good news is that this made the MacBook Pros lighter and thinner, so we can’t complain too much.

However, if you’re still wanting to add extra storage to your MacBook, there are several ways you can do so, some of which involve simply plugging in a USB storage device (a flash drive or an external drive) or you can get specialized SD cards that add more storage to your MacBook while staying nearly completely hidden.

USB Flash Drives

Newer MacBooks come with USB 3.0, allowing for faster read and write speeds. Having a USB 3.0 flash drive around can be a great way to add extra storage to your MacBook, and while flash drives stick out from the body of the MacBook, you can easily remove them for storage purposes if you’re on the go.

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However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all USB 3.0 flash drives are equal. While USB 3.0 is significantly faster than USB 2.0, you’re not going to get much faster speeds if you’re using a cheap, low-quality USB 3.0 flash drive.

For example, this 16GB flash drive is only $8, but it’s write speed is only around 10 MB/s. However, this SanDisk Extreme 16GB flash drive costs three times as much, but it has an advertised write speed of a whopping 190MB/s, which is about as fast as some solid-state drives.

This is important if you plan on transferring a lot of files to and from the flash drive frequently, as a slow flash drive can be an awful experience.

SD Cards

If you need something that doesn’t stick out as much like a flash drive does, SD cards are a something to take advantage of. On newer MacBooks, SD cards stick out a bit from the side of the laptop, but definitely not as much as a flash drive would, making SD cards a good option if you’re wanting something more low profile.

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However, just like with USB flash drives, it’s important to get a high-quality card if you want the best transfer speeds. Unfortunately, SD cards don’t offer as fast of speeds as flash drives do, but they’re still pretty fast. The Wirecutter recommends the SanDisk Extreme Plus, which can deliver 80MB/s transfer speeds.

Plus, it’s available in multiple storage sizes up to an impressive 128GB, which can double the amount of storage you have on your MacBook in the first place, depending on how much flash storage you have to begin with.

Specialized Memory Cards

If you like the idea of using an SD card for extra storage, but don’t like how they stick out from the slot, then you might be interested in a specialized SD card called the Nifty MiniDrive. It’s essentially an SD card that’s cut off so that it doesn’t stick out, and it stays flush with the edge of your MacBook.

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It has a slot for a microSD card so that you can choose what storage size you want. I went ahead and used a 32GB microSD card that I had lying around and it works great.

The nice thing about the MiniDrive is that you can plug it in and forget it, so it’s essentially like adding 32GB of extra storage to your MacBook (or more if you choose to go with a higher-capacity microSD card).

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One thing to be aware of is that there are plenty of knock-off models of the Nifty MiniDrive and they don’t sit exactly flush with some MacBook models, so if you plan on getting one, be sure to buy one from the Nifty website┬áif you want the real deal.

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The card even comes with a removal tool that easily lets you pop out the MiniDrive, despite it sitting neatly flushed with the edge, so if you ever have another SD card that you want to access, you can simply pop out the Nifty drive and pop in the other SD card without a lot of hassle.

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