If you need to format external hard drive Mac or Windows, you may also consider the exFAT files system. Developed by Microsoft, this modern file system is optimized for situations where the NTFS file system is not a feasible solution, and the file size limit of the standard FAT32 file system is unacceptable. While many newer drives come formatted to work on both Mac and PC, it's best not to choose one that is single-system compatible as it will limit the drive's versatility (though you could manually format an external drive for both PC and Mac compatibility, it's an extra effort and requires you to be a bit geeky). If you are going to use an external hard drive to backup your Mac data, then you should start by formatting it for the macOS extended file system — except for a few exceptions, most external. If you can use one external hard drive for your Mac and a separate drive formatted for a PC when your working with a Windows computer. But if you must use the same drive with both types of computer then you need to install some additional software. Here's how to format a drive if you are planning to use it with a Mac. Launch Disk Utility. Either head to Applications > Utilities, or tap Command + Space and start typing Disk Utility.
Looking to share an external hard drive between a Mac and PC? The best way to do it is with a drive formatted as FAT32. Though this format has some limitations, it enjoys nearly universal support from active platforms, including Mac and Windows operating systems, and many gaming and Linux OSs.
The chief drawbacks of FAT32 involve file and partition size limitations. FAT32 imposes a size limit of 4GB on single files. So if you work with bulky video clips, for example, adopting FAT32 may not be a good idea. When formatting partitions, Windows 7's Disk Management utility won't let you create one that's larger than 32GB, whereas Mac OS X Lion can create partitions as large as 2TB using its Disk Utility application. Finally, Mac OS X's Time Machine backup utility won't work with FAT32.
Windows prefers to use NTFS (which stands for New Technology File System, though it has been around for nearly 20 years now). Macs running Snow Leopard or Lion can read from drives formatted as NTFS, but they can't write to such drives unless you install a third-party driver or muck about in the Terminal. Conversely, Windows 7 can't read and write to drives formatted as HFS+--also known as Mac OS Extended (journaled)--unless you install third-party software such as Paragon's.
Major Formats of Hard Drive for Mac and PC exFAT: It stands for Extended File Allocation Table and is developed by Microsoft. The file system is mostly used to. NTFS: The New Technology File System is used by Windows NT operating systems. It is the common format for the native. FAT32: The File.
Formatting From a Mac
To format a drive as FAT32 from a Mac, follow these simple steps.
1. Set up your drive following the manufacturer's instructions. Connect the power supply (if necessary), connect to the Mac via USB or FireWire, and turn on the drive. The drive should automatically mount on your Mac's desktop (if the finder preferences are set to show external drives). If the drive is not formatted, you may get a message saying that the drive is unreadable by Mac OS X and asking you whether you want to format it via Disk Utility. We're going to do this anyway, so open Disk Utility from the prompt or by navigating to /Applications/Utilities.
2. Mac OS X won't let you create a FAT32 partition larger than 2TB; so if your drive is larger than that, you'll need to divide the available drive capacity into multiple partitions. You can format the remaining space as a second FAT32 partition or as an HFS+ partition, or you can leave it as unallocated space. To create a new partition, click the drive in the list on the left side of the Disk Utility menu. Click the Partition button in Disk Utility's main window. By default, Mac OS X will use the GUID partition table to format the drive. You can use this and still share FAT32 volumes with a PC, but if you'll primarily be using the drive with Windows, and if the full capacity of the drive doesn't exceed 2TB, the wiser course is to wipe the drive and then use Windows' Master Boot Record (MBR) partition scheme.
3. Click the Partition Layout drop-down menu in Disk Utility, and select the number of partitions you want to create. By default, Disk Utility will divide the available space in half. You can resize the partitions by clicking the line between the partitions and dragging it up or down to increase or decrease the capacity of one or the other side.
4. Click on whichever partition segment you want to format as FAT32. Type a name for that partition in the Name field and choose the FAT32 option from the Format drop-down menu. Once everything is arranged as you want it, click apply. A progress bar will appear at the bottom right of the window as Disk Utility creates the requested partitions. Once it finishes creating them, you can move the drive between Macs and Windows PCs, and move files back and forth easily.
Formatting From a PC
Here's how to create a FAT32 partition from a Windows 7 PC.
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1. Open the Disk Management utility. To do so, select Start, Control Panel, System and Security, Create and format hard disk partitions. Alternatively, press the Start button and start typing partitions.
2. Find the drive you'd like to format; in my case, it was Disk 5. Click the disk number, and select Convert to MBR Disk ('MBR' stands for 'Master Boot Record'). Right-click the unallocated segment in the next field over, select New Simple Volume, and click Next when the wizard launches. Change the value in the Simple Volume size field to 32,768MB or less--it needs to be under 32GB, to satisfy the format's file limit. Assign a drive letter, and click Next.
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Best Hard Drive Format For Windows And Mac
3. Choose the drive letter to be assigned and click Next. Select FAT32 from the File System drop down menu, label the volume however you like, check the box next to Perform a quick format, and click Next. The resulting window tells you that you have successfully completed creating the volume. Click Finish and you're ready to go.
Game consoles today come with 1TB drives (equivalent to approximately 1,000GB of hard drive storage), but the drives get full quickly if you aren't good about taking games off the drive as you add more. And most new computers don't come with much internal hard drive storage space unless you're splurging on a high-end model -- they usually have 256GB or 512GB. One way to manage it all is to find the best external hard drive and SSD for your needs.
A traditional hard drive or mechanical drive that uses 'old' hard drive technology (mechanical platters and a moving read-write head to access data) is adequate for the majority of users, thanks to speedier USB-C and USB 3.0 (as well as 3.1/3.2) interfaces. Prices have dropped significantly in the last few years, with even the high-capacity external hard drive models tipping the scales at 5TB but costing just over $100. A solid-state drive doesn't have moving parts and the external SSD drive has up to four times faster read and write speed, but it costs a lot more per gigabyte.
Most of the options on this list of the best external hard drive models will work across platforms -- whether you have a Windows PC, Mac computer, PlayStation 4 or Xbox -- so long as the drives are correctly formatted for the right platform. But a lot of times they'll be designated as working with a specific platform out of the box and sometimes come with backup software that's platform-specific. Unless otherwise indicated, all the PC drives mentioned here are compatible with Windows but can be formatted for a Mac. Many of them include cables or adapters to accommodate USB-C and USB-A ports. But if they don't happen to be included, you can easily buy dongles for about $10.
And remember: A single backup doesn't cut it. Ideally, you'll want redundant backups either off-site or using cloud storage for key data and large files (such as family photos) in case of theft or fire. And make sure to encrypt your data, too.
One important note for console gamers is that the newer PS5 and Xbox Series X (and Series S) consoles are much more restrictive about using external drives. The PS5 can store and play PS4 games from an external drive, but not PS5 games; the Xbox Series X can store Series X games, but you'll have to transfer them to the main SSD to actually play them. The Xbox Series X does offer a proprietary Seagate-made storage expansion card, but it costs $220.
With those caveats noted, our current top picks for the best external hard disk drive and external solid-state drive are below. These (or nearly identical models with less storage capacity) have been used or anecdotally tested by CNET editors. We'll update our list of the best external hard drives and SSDs as we test new products.Sarah Tew/CNET
Western Digital, which owns SanDisk, sells its WD My Passport SSD as well this SanDisk External Portable SSD for basically the same price. I like the design of this model a little better and it's technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, meaning it can withstand a sustained spray of water. It's also shock-resistant and has a USB-C interface.
The cheaper 'older' version has transfer speeds up to 550MBps while the next-gen version nearly doubles that speed with up to 1,050MBps (just over 1GB per second) and only costs slightly more for the 1TB version. The price for the 2TB model of this external drive jumps to $280 for the newer version.
Your speed will vary if you're moving a mishmash of files to or from the USB drive, but when copying a single large file you should be able to get close to those fast transfer speeds.Amazon
If you're looking for a high-capacity external drive for your Xbox One, the WD Black P10 2TB portable hard drive is a good value at around $80 (The 5TB version is about $140). It gives you portable storage for your coveted game collection. This external drive also comes with a digital code that gives you one month of Microsoft's Game Pass Ultimate if you're a new subscriber. There's also a standard version of the portable hard drive, which also works with PCs and the PS4 for slightly less (it's missing the Xbox branding but is otherwise the same drive). The portable drive can deliver speeds up to 130MBps.Amazon
For $115, you can get an external drive so you don't have to worry about managing the storage space on your PS4 (you can play games without lag directly from the portable hard drive). The 2TB version of the Seagate Game Drive is about $30 less at $80. But you might as well spend the extra dough and get 4TB for this portable external hard drive.
Note that Seagate makes an SSD Game Drive For Xbox but not PS4. The storage drive costs around $200 for 1TB.David Carnoy/CNET
You can use any SSD with your PlayStation PS4/PS5 or Xbox One, Xbox One Series X or Series S to store PS4 and Xbox One games and other content and pick up a nice speed bump when loading games compared with a standard external hard drive like the WD Black P10 above. Note that with the Xbox Series X, you can only archive Xbox Series X and S games to this drive, you can't store full games on it (the Seagate Storage Expansion Card is required for that). The PS5 has the same restriction -- you can only store full PS4 games on external drives.
On its surface, then, the WD Black D30 game drive isn't all that special (it has up to a 900MBps transfer rate, which is basically what a console's USB 3.1 connection caps out at). But it's really its design that sets it apart. It's thicker and more rugged-looking than your typical SSD or flash drive and includes a detachable stand with rubber feet to keep it from moving around wherever you place it. This is an NVMe SSD (Non-Volatile Memory Express) that provides efficient performance and interoperability.It essentially looks like a mini hard drive, which is kind of cool.
The standard version works with PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and One X and S consoles, as well as PCs. The Xbox version shown in the image simply includes an Xbox logo and a month of Game Pass Ultimate, a $15 value, for $20 more. Alas, only new subscribers can use the included code, so if you already have a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you're really paying the extra $20 for the logo.
The 1TB version starts at $150 while the 2TB version starts at $270.David Carnoy/CNET
SanDisk makes the Extreme Portable SSD (see above) that delivers speeds up to 1,050MB per second transfer rates. But if you're a photographer or videographer looking for an even faster SSD drive for your PC or Mac, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD is the way to go for extra storage space. The latest version is capable of delivering up to 2,000MBps (2GBps) read/write speeds if you pair it with the right equipment (in order to get the maximum speed, you need a host system that supports USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2x2 speeds).
Compatible with Macs and Windows PCs, it's technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, meaning this can withstand a sustained spray of water. It's also shock-resistant and has a forged aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It has a USB-C interface and includes both USB-C to USB-C and USC-A to USB-C cable. The 1TB version is around $230 while the 2TB model jumps to $364.Amazon
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is one of the more compact non-SSD drives, making it the best external hard drive for those who are looking to save some space. And at less than $60, this backup drive is also a good value. This Seagate external hard drive can also be connected to Macs that have a thunderbolt port. Available in a few color options, it also comes in 1TB ($55), 4TB ($93) and 5TB ($115) versions, but the higher-capacity drives are thicker.WD
This drive is about as future-proof -- and backward-compatible -- as they come. You pay a bit of a premium over the standard WD drive, but this newer model offers a USB-C connection, meaning it has the latest and greatest USB cable connectivity for Macs and PCs. No USB-C on your system? No problem: Western Digital also tosses in a USB-A to USB-C adapter, so this storage device will work with pretty much any computer straight out of the box.Amazon
The WD My Book desktop drive is available in up to a 18TB configuration, but the 8TB is the best value at around $200. Unfortunately, it's so popular it's out of stock.
Read our WD My Book (Fall 2016) review.Amazon
After Seagate acquired LaCie several years ago, LaCie became the company's premium brand and this external HDD 5TB model can be found on a lot of video editors' desks (including plenty at CNET). This rugged hard disk drive uses a USB-C interface, is compatible with Mac and Windows PCs and is water and shock-resistant. A 4TB Thunderbolt with USB-C version is available for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs for about $200.David Carnoy/CNET
Crucial's X6 external SSD is considered entry-level because it's just not as fast as higher-end models, which can offer read/write speeds that are twice or even four times as fast (the Crucial X8 is the step-up model). Even so, the X6 is about 4x faster than a non-solid-state drive, with transfer speeds of up 540MBps for the 1TB and 2TB versions and up to 800MBps for the new 4TB version, which has one of the lowest prices for a 4TB SSD at around $490.
Comparatively, the 4TB SanDisk Extreme SSD, which has a transfer speed rating of up to 1,050MBps, costs $700. So you're basically looking at a $240 savings if you're willing to take a bit of a speed hit (again, at least the 4GB version of the Crucial X6 has been bumped up to 800MBps from 540MBps).
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