Time Machine backup drive

russell_314

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I'm looking to buy an external Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) drive for Time Machine backups. Since I don't see how speed of the backup would be an issue I'm guessing a traditional hard disk would work as well as an SSD. I don't use my Mac mini for time critical tasks so if a restore took hours that wouldn't be an issue. I'm looking for suggestions for what brand, type, model, whatever would work best and be reliable. I think reliability would be my most important factor since it's for backup. This drive will not be used for external storage (not sure if Time Machine even allows this) because I will have a separate drive for this. I want to keep it exclusive for backups.

SSD vs HD, Other than speed and maybe drop survival, is there any advantage with spending extra $$$ for an SSD?

External powered vs USB powered, is one more reliable or better? I won't be taking the Mac or drive with me so portability is a non issue.

Brands, does anyone have a favorite for quality?

Build your own with a desktop drive and enclosure, is that a good option?

Size, I TB, 2 TB, larger, is there a preferred size for backups? Right now I'm using 128 GB on the internal 512 GB SSD but that will likely increase.



Sorry if this topic has been discussed before. I'm just trying to get a current opinion on what is good for the
 

IngerMan

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Feb 21, 2011
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Ive used a western digital HDD for a long time and find it works well with Time Machine. I have a 1TB HDD for my 500GB SSD . No need to use SSD for Time Machine. I do use a SSD external for Carbon Copy Cloner, which I can use as a boot disk as well. And I occasionally boot to it for downloading games.

If you go double the size of your internal drive that should be plenty for the future TM backups. I would get a USB Micro B to USB-C cable then you won't need an adapter. They are less than $8 on Amazon.
 
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treekram

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There's widespread confusion on USB-C ports. Those on the 2018 Mini can output Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort and a variety of USB protocols. Even though it's commonly referred to as a Thunderbolt port, most devices connected to it are not Thunderbolt devices. You do not want a Thunderbolt drive if it's going to be used for Time Machine backups. This is because Thunderbolt 3 drives are expensive. It would take quite a while to explain the dynamics of the marketplace but really for a Time Machine backup(s), you can get a conventional USB 3.0 external hard drive - typically sold by Seagate, WD and Toshiba.

So for the USB external HDD, I would suggest at least 2TB, but maybe you want 4TB - that's fine. 2TB because it doesn't cost that much more than 1TB. I would suggest bus-powered because for most people it's the most convenient but if you have the space, available USB-C port and power so that you're not having to plug and unplug an external drive every time you need to do a backup, then an external-powered HDD is fine as well. I have both types and of the drives I've bought over the last 5 years, I haven't had one fail yet. Externally-powered drives may be a bit faster but that advantage may be lost if you're doing Time Machine backups.

Most external USB 3.X HDD's will not come with a USB-C cable. So you need to buy a cable to connect the external HDD to the 2018 Mini. Something like:
https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Type-C-Micro-B-Gen2-Cable/dp/B01GGKYIHS

Most external HDD's will have the Micro-B connector. Check the specs on the HDD to be sure that's the case with the one you want to buy. Make sure the cable you get is one that works with USB 3.X. Notice the "ditch" in the picture of cable of the Micro-B connector. Those that only have the bigger connector (to the left of the "ditch") only support USB-2 (slow). So make sure you get one that has the "ditch" and connectors on either side of it - one that works with USB 3.X (3.0, 3.1, 3.2). Make sure you get an appropriate length as well - make sure it's long enough if you use an external but if you get a portable HDD, maybe you want one with a short length as well. I just bought one recently (for my 2018 MBP) and I bought a 6-inch length which made sense for me but these are less numerous than the longer cables.

An alternative would be to get a USB-A to USB-C adapter and attach it to the end of the cable that comes with the HDD. However, the problem with these is that the size of them can interfere with putting a cable adjacent to it. On my 2018 MBP, you can use the adapter if you have a regular USB-C connector adjacent to it but two of the USB-A/USB-C adapters don't fit next to each other.
 
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russell_314

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Any particular recommendations on a specific drive. I will never unplug it except if I move my desk or something. The non powered drives feel like portable USB thumb drives to me but that may be just showing my age lol. The plug in ones are much bigger so I figured they must have an advantage but maybe that's just due to an older design. That wide USB cable brings back memories from when I had a Samsung Galaxy S5
 

niji

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Feb 9, 2003
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for TimeMachine i use a Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD.
extremely fast time machine backups.
reliable.
it comes in sizes up to 2TB.
its an amazing device.
native USB-C connection that supports USB 3.2 transfer speeds.
 
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treekram

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Any particular recommendations on a specific drive. I will never unplug it except if I move my desk or something. The non powered drives feel like portable USB thumb drives to me but that may be just showing my age lol. The plug in ones are much bigger so I figured they must have an advantage but maybe that's just due to an older design. That wide USB cable brings back memories from when I had a Samsung Galaxy S5
Hard drives have become a commodity product. More so for external drives. You don't hear people saying "Oh, this Seagate (or WD) X35 hard drive is the best thing since sliced bread." If you buy a specific external HDD model today, 3 months from now it may have a different HDD in it. You can search for studies that have been done of hard drives in data centers. The following is one such study:
https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-stats-for-q1-2018/

But if you find a specific drive attractive, you'd have to buy the bare drive and put it in an enclosure.

This observation may have changed since I don't typically open up the external HDD's but if you're interested you can search. Seagate tends to use standard-connect bare drives in their external drives whereas WD does not. So if the drive is good but the electronics in the USB interface go bad, you can't just swap it out and put it in a regular USB enclosure. Again, I don't know how much this has changed, if any.

External-powered drives under 4TB are not common any more. So if you want these and you buy it new, you'd probably get one 4TB or larger.

When I shop for external HDD's, I tend to prefer Seagate, but have no problem with people who like WD or Toshiba. I have bought WD's as well. The warranty period is something I look at as well.

To complicate matters further, the more careful people tend to have two backups with the other backup being a clone - so no incremental changes are saved. With the clone, there's more of a speed advantage to using a SSD vs. a Time Machine backup, IMO. Also, the smaller size (<= 500GB) SSD's are pretty economically priced.
 

Nihilvor

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Jan 25, 2010
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for TimeMachine i use a Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD.
extremely fast time machine backups.
reliable.
it comes in sizes up to 2TB.
its an amazing device.
native USB-C connection that supports USB 3.2 transfer speeds.
I like that the SSDs produce a somewhat faster backup process and don't slow the machine down under heavy loads. They're not necessary for this, but I put an SSD out for time machine backups (USB-C), which is especially nice as they use up less space on the desk. I tend to do more selective backing up on the time machine disk and pull out a HDD once a month to do full bootable clones of the main drive.
 
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PianoPro

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Sep 4, 2018
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The Wirecutter has a couple of up to date overviews on what’s available, and has done testing using Time Machine.

Desktop drives: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-external-desktop-hard-drive/
They recommend the WD My Book over the WD Elements. I prefer the Elements because they do not have hardware encryption. There is no way to turn off hardware encryption in the My Book, and therefore if the interface/controller electronics fails your data is lost forever. You can always put an Elements drive in another enclosure, external or internal, to recover its data.

It's probably bigger than what the OP is looking for but I just bought a 8TB Elements from Amazon Prime for $140, which $40 off their normal price. Sale still running at this moment.
 
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russell_314

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This is a lot of information. From what I'm gathering there is no preferred brand but that Wirecutter review site did pick WD for all three of their desktop drives. Then I looked at the backblaze site and WD had higher lifetime failure rates although the test sample size for WD was lower than other brands. It looks like their 4 TB desktop and portable models are about $100. I've heard WD used to put their better drives in external enclosures to the point people were buying them just to get the drive. I don't think they do this anymore. Maybe because people were buying them for that reason. It kind of worries me that their cheapest WD Blue bare 4 TB desktop drives are about $100 so either their profit margin is higher on bare drives or they're really going cheap with the drives that we can't see. I did find one WD OEM drive for $70 but some of the reviews said that it might be used.

An SSD seems like a good alternative to a spinning disk but the cost looks about $185 for 1 TB vs about $100 for 4 TB. Maybe the extra cost is worth the added reliability though. It would probably go on top of my desk vs the big external under my desk but either way for me one wouldn't be better because of that.


Hmm..

I could spend $100 for an external 4 TB spinning drive, $185 for a smaller 1 TB SSD but maybe that's enough, or buy an external enclosure and a premium 4 TB desktop drive for about $150. Decisions LOL
[doublepost=1553392936][/doublepost]
They recommend the WD My Book over the WD Elements. I prefer the Elements because they do not have hardware encryption. There is no way to turn off hardware encryption in the My Book, and therefore if the interface/controller electronics fails your data is lost forever. You can always put an Elements drive in another enclosure, external or internal, to recover its data.

It's probably bigger than what the OP is looking for but I just bought a 8TB Elements from Amazon Prime for $140, which $40 off their normal price. Sale still running at this moment.
Just saw your post... 8 TB wow that's a lot of space!
 

PianoPro

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I've heard WD used to put their better drives in external enclosures to the point people were buying them just to get the drive. I don't think they do this anymore. Maybe because people were buying them for that reason. It kind of worries me that their cheapest WD Blue bare 4 TB desktop drives are about $100 so either their profit margin is higher on bare drives or they're really going cheap with the drives that we can't see.

Just saw your post... 8 TB wow that's a lot of space!
The 8TB Elements usually ship with WD White drives (mine did), which is essentially the same as the WD Red. (Some Elements in the past have also shipped with HGST drives, which are also good.) I'd stay clear of the Blue internal drives. The Whites/Reds are good drives and yes lots of "us" shuck the external drives to use as NAS drives. The external drives are cheaper (even though they cost WD more) simply because of marketing and volumes, and the willingness to pay of many internal drive customers thinking they are getting better drives. Google "shucking WD Elements".

I've never bought a drive that was "too big", only too small. They always fill up. I've got a cMP full of SSDs and hard drives, NAS, and several external hard drives connected right now. I may not be typical, but I have TB's of video files and also like multiple backups of everything else that is important to me.
 

Wig321

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Sep 13, 2018
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Any particular recommendations on a specific drive. I will never unplug it except if I move my desk or something. The non powered drives feel like portable USB thumb drives to me but that may be just showing my age lol. The plug in ones are much bigger so I figured they must have an advantage but maybe that's just due to an older design. That wide USB cable brings back memories from when I had a Samsung Galaxy S5
I use a WD my passport for Mac which comes with a usbc cable. Formatted the drive and now use time machine.

https://www.amazon.com/Passport-Portable-external-Drive-WDBP6A0040BBK-WESE/dp/B0792FVB88/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?crid=1R2ZVNRRBSURA&keywords=wd+my+passport+for+mac&qid=1553418730&s=gateway&sprefix=wd+my+p&sr=8-3&th=1&psc=1
 
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Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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"I'm looking to buy an external Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) drive for Time Machine backups"

There's no point in buying a "thunderbolt 3" drive for... backups.
Expensive overkill.

USB3 will do fine.
 

adamk77

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Jan 6, 2008
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This is a lot of information. From what I'm gathering there is no preferred brand but that Wirecutter review site did pick WD for all three of their desktop drives. Then I looked at the backblaze site and WD had higher lifetime failure rates although the test sample size for WD was lower than other brands. It looks like their 4 TB desktop and portable models are about $100. I've heard WD used to put their better drives in external enclosures to the point people were buying them just to get the drive. I don't think they do this anymore. Maybe because people were buying them for that reason. It kind of worries me that their cheapest WD Blue bare 4 TB desktop drives are about $100 so either their profit margin is higher on bare drives or they're really going cheap with the drives that we can't see. I did find one WD OEM drive for $70 but some of the reviews said that it might be used.

An SSD seems like a good alternative to a spinning disk but the cost looks about $185 for 1 TB vs about $100 for 4 TB. Maybe the extra cost is worth the added reliability though. It would probably go on top of my desk vs the big external under my desk but either way for me one wouldn't be better because of that.
Something that happened to me. I used to back up my data to 2 external HDDs (duplicated data). Then they both failed on me nearly at the same time. My whole life was on it. I’ve since moved to duplicating it across 4 external HDDs, all connected to a smart UPS.

Backups need to be duplicated to multiple places. And I know I should also have another backup offsite on the cloud (in case my house burns down, theft etc) but I am paranoid about privacy.

So it’s worth considering multiple drives and factor that into your cost. I personally use 4x external platter based Western Digitals. I figure that the chances of them all failing at the same time is less than one SSD failing.
 
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a2jack

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Feb 5, 2013
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Here's the way I did it, as I anticipate a new computer shortly. This covers most bases and is a low cost solution.

I pulled an almost new Seagate SATA HDD out of my old 09, dead, 27" iMac.

Purchased the "Plugable" Adapter from Amazon $54. Covers 2.5" and 3.5" and ports in C connectors with cables for HDMI and C to C. (sea to shining sea LOL). Runs SATA spinners and SSDs.

Drive I pulled is a Seagate Barracuda 7200-12 1TB. Loaded fast and Runs great as a TM back up.

I will now buy more Barracuda drives from amazon @ $23 each for all my backups. a2 PIX
IMG_1780.jpg
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View attachment 82
 
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niteflyr

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Nov 29, 2011
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The 8TB Elements usually ship with WD White drives (mine did), which is essentially the same as the WD Red. (Some Elements in the past have also shipped with HGST drives, which are also good.) I'd stay clear of the Blue internal drives. The Whites/Reds are good drives and yes lots of "us" shuck the external drives to use as NAS drives. The external drives are cheaper (even though they cost WD more) simply because of marketing and volumes, and the willingness to pay of many internal drive customers thinking they are getting better drives. Google "shucking WD Elements".

I've never bought a drive that was "too big", only too small. They always fill up. I've got a cMP full of SSDs and hard drives, NAS, and several external hard drives connected right now. I may not be typical, but I have TB's of video files and also like multiple backups of everything else that is important to me.
The 8TB version of this drive comes with a WD Red NAS drive inside. Excellent drive. They occasionally go on sale for as low as $129. Just picked up another one last week.

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/wd-easystore-8tb-external-usb-3-0-hard-drive-black/5792401.p?skuId=5792401
 
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PianoPro

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The 8TB version of this drive comes with a WD Red NAS drive inside. Excellent drive. They occasionally go on sale for as low as $129. Just picked up another one last week.

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/wd-easystore-8tb-external-usb-3-0-hard-drive-black/5792401.p?skuId=5792401
The WD Easystore's are a private label for Best Buy version of the WD Elements (which is good because they don't have HW encryption). The 8 TB Easystore's come with either Red or White drives, like the Elements. The only known difference between the Reds and Whites is that the Whites have a newer version of the SATA spec which allows the drive to be disabled via pin 3 of the SATA power connection. If you shuck a White and put it into computers or enclosures without the newer SATA spec the drive ususally won't be recognized. But that's easy to fix. Google that issue.
 
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Dezlboy

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Sep 10, 2008
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FWIW: A family member has used Western Digital MY PASSPORT 3TB HDD, USB-C for several years, no issues. I recently bought the same drive, but 1TB for $50 Amazon. Cable is included. My thinking was SDD not needed as the backup drive is not "active" very often, so need for long term reliability should not be an issue.

https://www.amazon.com/Black-Passport-Portable-External-Drive/dp/B01LQQHI8I/ref=sr_1_5?crid=26G7HFH5EX2PX&keywords=wd+hdd+2tb&qid=1553376016&s=gateway&sprefix=WD+hDD+,aps,152&sr=8-5&th=1

It's very doubtful that your Apple computer hard drive would break the same time any backup drive would also. Thus you would never be without a backup or the "real" data.
 

F-Train

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Right now I'm using 128 GB on the internal 512 GB SSD but that will likely increase.
I look at this a bit differently from others.

If the drive is going to be used solely as a Time
Machine backup for your internal drive, a drive more than 1TB is a waste. Indeed, depending on how much of the internal drive you intend to use to store data, a 500GB drive may well do the trick. One question is, how many back versions of your data do you actually need? It's hard for me to understand why most people would need a 4TB drive, let alone an 8TB drive, for a Time Machine backup of a 512GB Mac mini.

If, as a practical matter, you only need a 500GB Time Machine backup, I would be inclined to purchase a Samsung T5 solid state drive. The 500GB version is about US$100. In absolute terms, that is cheaper than the drives that have been discussed in this thread. For that matter, a 1TB SSD isn't far off the cost of those drives.

There is also the advantage that these SSD drives are current, very fast technology if your needs change down the road and you want to use the drive permanently, or indeed temporarily, for another purpose. The cost of SSDs keeps coming down, and their size (you can fit two T5 drives in a shirt pocket), speed and native USB-C connections are very attractive.


To me, a large mechanical drive makes sense if you are going to use the drive to make a Time Machine backup of not just the internal drive, but also of one or more external drives. Yes, this can be done.

A large drive also makes sense if you are going to partition the drive so that part of it is used for Time Machine and part of it as ordinary external storage. The first post in the thread asks whether this can be done. The answer is "Yes".

There is also the issue of desktop vs portable drives. To me, the first question is "If I need to leave my home immediately, is there computer data that I need to take with me?" If the answer is yes, it seems to me that a portable drive is the answer.

This question is tied up with how many backups there are. Personally, I have a desktop backup with my mini and a portable backup that I keep elsewhere. That said, when my desktop drive dies, I won't be replacing it. Given where the technology is going, including cloud
storage, for my needs desktop drives are becoming obsolete. Indeed, I have purchased a couple of SSDs (including a T5), and it is just a matter of time before I retire the desktop drive. Others, especially those who have a large amount of data that they want to store on site, may of course have different needs.

Cheers
 
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russell_314

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I look at this a bit differently from others.

If the drive is going to be used solely as a Time
Machine backup for your internal drive, a drive more than 1TB is a waste. Indeed, depending on how much of the internal drive you intend to use to store data, a 500GB drive may well do the trick. One question is, how many back versions of your data do you actually need? It's hard for me to understand why most people would need a 4TB drive, let alone an 8TB drive, for a Time Machine backup of a 512GB Mac mini.

If, as a practical matter, you only need a 500GB Time Machine backup, I would be inclined to purchase a Samsung T5 solid state drive. The 500GB version is about US$100. In absolute terms, that is cheaper than the drives that have been discussed in this thread. For that matter, a 1TB SSD isn't far off the cost of those drives.

There is also the advantage that these SSD drives are current, very fast technology if your needs change down the road and you want to use the drive permanently, or indeed temporarily, for another purpose. The cost of SSDs keeps coming down, and their size (you can fit two T5 drives in a shirt pocket), speed and native USB-C connections are very attractive.


To me, a large mechanical drive makes sense if you are going to use the drive to make a Time Machine backup of not just the internal drive, but also of one or more external drives. Yes, this can be done.

A large drive also makes sense if you are going to partition the drive so that part of it is used for Time Machine and part of it as ordinary external storage. The first post in the thread asks whether this can be done. The answer is "Yes".

There is also the issue of desktop vs portable drives. To me, the first question is "If I need to leave my home immediately, is there computer data that I need to take with me?" If the answer is yes, it seems to me that a portable drive is the answer.

This question is tied up with how many backups there are. Personally, I have a desktop backup with my mini and a portable backup that I keep elsewhere. That said, when my desktop drive dies, I won't be replacing it. Given where the technology is going, including cloud
storage, for my needs desktop drives are becoming obsolete. Indeed, I have purchased a couple of SSDs (including a T5), and it is just a matter of time before I retire the desktop drive. Others, especially those who have a large amount of data that they want to store on site, may of course have different needs.

Cheers
There are a lot of interesting products mentioned here. Even if I don't use it for Time Machine that docking station looks nice. I've never really messed with Time Machine so how far will a 512 GB SSD take me back when it comes to backups? I've always done my backups manually on an external drive but the thought of having it done automatically gives me some comfort just in case I happen to forget to do it manually.
[doublepost=1553480873][/doublepost]
"I'm looking to buy an external Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) drive for Time Machine backups"

There's no point in buying a "thunderbolt 3" drive for... backups.
Expensive overkill.

USB3 will do fine.
I just meant one that would connect to one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports. My keyboard and mouse are using the two old school USB-A ports. That might change if I get a Bluetooth mouse but I like my mechanical keyboard.
 

F-Train

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Apr 22, 2015
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There are a lot of interesting products mentioned here. Even if I don't use it for Time Machine that docking station looks nice. I've never really messed with Time Machine so how far will a 512 GB SSD take me back when it comes to backups? I've always done my backups manually on an external drive but the thought of having it done automatically gives me some comfort just in case I happen to forget to do it manually.
.
Given what you're saying, I think that you should just get a Samsung T5 500GB SSD. At $100, it will cost less than what several people are recommending, and Time Machine will automatically back up the data that is on your internal drive, which is what you want.

There is no point in a Time Machine drive that is larger than the amount of data that is on your internal drive unless you want Time Machine to store copies of earlier versions of your data. You might want it to do so if, for example, you are writing a presentation and want to go back to an earlier draft that you have accidentally deleted. In some situations, Time Machine can also be used to restore your computer to an earlier state if something has happened to it, such as a virus, that is damaging, but we are now into pretty esoteric scenarios.

If you have, say, 150GB free on a 512GB internal drive, there is still lots of room for Time Machine to keep old versions of documents. If you want even more old versions, think about a 1TB SSD.

In your situation, 4TB and 8TB Time Machine drives don't make any sense unless you have some reason to want to go back to the state of your data many, many months, if not a couple of years, ago. For that "privilege", you can wind up with a big drive on your desktop that requires separate power, and that you’ll need to purchase and use an adapter for (given that your USB-A ports are spoken for), instead of a drive that fits in your shirt pocket, is significantly faster, can easily be repurposed and natively connects to one of your USB-C ports.

To me, it's pretty clear what the better option is.

Alternatively, I think that you should get an adapter and the cheapest 1TB portable mechanical drive, by any of the main makers, that you can find on sale.
 
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