Cannot Format Usb Drive Mac

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Step 2: Right-click on the USB drive shown in My Computer and select “Format”. This will open a dialogue box displaying the formatting options. Step 3: Select the desired file system from NTFS, FAT, FAT32 or exFAT from the “File System” drop-down, then punch in the name that you wish to assign to the USB drive under “Volume label. Not all USB drives can be immediately used once you take them out of the package. Sometimes, the format is incompatible on your Mac. Fortunately, there’s a format that can be used in lots of operating systems, and that is the FAT32.

If you need to format a USB flash drive, HDD, SDD, or some other form of storage to FAT32, you've come to the right place.

However, if the USB flash drive is not mounted on Mac, you will lose access to the USB flash drive as well as to the data stored on it. But don't worry, this page talks about the reasons for this issue, and how to fix 'USB flash drive not mounting on Mac' without data loss even if external hard drive is not showing up on Mac. Set the format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled.) Click on the Partition button and wait until the process has completed. Next step: Select the volume you just created (this is the sub-entry under the drive entry) from the left side list. Click on the Erase tab in the DU main window. Set the format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled.). If you are unable to format or can't complete the format process on your USB flash drive, hard drive partition, external hard drive, SD card, etc., don't worry. Follow the guide below, we'll show you how to fix USB format failure errors by using a free format utility, CMD, or other tools successfully. The terminal command line in Mac can be used to format USB devices. This method can be used when you are unable to format the USB device through Disk Utility. As always, having a backup option will save you when plan A fails for some reason. Let us go through the exact steps in formatting your USB drive to FAT32 on Mac using the command line.

In this article we'll go over what a file system is, the FAT32 standard, and several ways to format a storage device to FAT32 on Windows 10.

What's a file system?

A file system is a standardized way of organizing data on a computer storage device like a flash drive or HDD.

A file system divides a storage device into virtual compartments, almost like a wall of post office boxes, and keeps track of all the information that gets stored in each box.

The overwhelming majority of USB flash drives you buy are going to come in one of two formats: FAT32 or NTFS.The first format, FAT32, is fully compatible with Mac OS X, though with some drawbacks. Nov 24, 2021 The key reason to format USB on Mac as Fat32 is that you need to have the option to use the drive on a Windows PC. It is required to move files between the two Operating Systems. You may likewise be setting up the drive for use as a media player or to record TV programs on a TV with a USB port. Check it in Windows Explorer and follow the steps to format the drive to FAT32 as you want. Press Windows + E keys and open File Explorer. Right-click on your USB drive and choose Format. Choose FAT32 as the target file system, tick Quick Format and click Start.

Some of the most common file system formats for portable storage devices are FAT32, NTFS, and ExFAT.

FAT32 compared to other formats

Of those three common formats, FAT32 is the oldest and most widely supported. Every major operating system will allow you to read and write from a USB flash drive that's formatted to FAT32.

Meanwhile, macOS can only read NTFS drives, and you would need to install third-party software to write back to the drive.

However, though FAT32 is well supported, its maximum drive and file size is severely limited when compared to newer formats like NTFS and ExFAT:

Max drive sizeMax file sizeWindowsmacOSLinux
FAT3232 GB (Windows), up to 16TB (Other OSs)4 GBRead/WriteRead/WriteRead/Write
NTFS8 PB*16 EB**Read/WriteReadRead/Write
ExFAT128 PB*16 EB**Read/WriteRead/WriteRead/Write

* 1 petabyte is about 1 thousand terabytes
** 1 exabyte is about 1 million terabytes

Note that the maximum drive and file size of NTFS and ExFAT is so large that there's basically no limit. (But it would be nice to have a 128 PB USB drive, wouldn't it?)

On the other hand, FAT32's max file size of 4 GB is almost nothing now that phones can record 4K videos. Also, it's a little more difficult to format a drive larger than 32 GB to FAT32 on Windows 10.

These days, the only reason why you'd choose to format a drive to FAT32 is for compatibility. For example, if you need to boot up an old computer, maybe with a different operating system, and backup some of its files. But you'd need to be sure that none of those files are greater than 4 GB.

If you're sure you want to go with FAT32, here's how to format a storage drive on Windows 10.

Important note: Before you format a drive, make sure that you backup all of your important files. In fact, make two backups, and keep one on a remote service like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Formatting a drive will delete all of the data that's currently on it.

How to use Windows File Explorer to format a USB drive to FAT32

A quick note about this method: it only works on USB flash drives that are less that 32 GB. If your USB drive is larger than 32 GB, check out one of the later methods.

With that out of the way, plug your USB drive into your computer and open Windows File Explorer.

Next, right-click on the drive on the left hand side of the File Explorer window and click 'Format':

In the window that pops up, ensure that 'FAT32' is selected. Also, feel free to rename the USB drive whatever you'd like:

You can leave the rest of the options alone. Just click start to format your drive.

Once it's done, your USB drive should be formatted to use the FAT32 file system.

To double check this, open File Explorer, right click on your USB drive, and click 'Properties'.

A window will pop up and you should see that the file system is now FAT32:

How to use Rufus to format a USB drive to FAT32

If your USB drive is larger than 32 GB, you'll need to use a third-party program like Rufus to format it.

There are lots of other programs that can format USB drives, but Rufus is really small and portable. This means you can stick Rufus right on a USB drive, plug it into any Windows computer, and format other drives on the go.

After you download Rufus, double click on the .exe file to start the application.

Make sure your USB drive is selected. Then, click the 'Boot selection' dropdown and select 'Non bootable':

Next, click the 'File system' dropdown and select 'FAT32'.

Cannot Format Usb Drive Mac Computer

Also, feel free to change the name of your USB drive under 'Volume label':

Then, click the 'Start' button to format your drive. After a few seconds it'll be formatted to FAT32.

How to use PowerShell to format a USB drive to FAT32

While this method works with drives larger than 32 GB, it's really slow – even formatting a 32 GB drive can take up to an hour depending on your computer.

But, if you aren't able to use the previous two methods for some reason, this will work in a pinch.

First, click on the Windows Search Bar and type in 'powershell'. Then, click 'Run as administrator' to launch PowerShell with elevated privileges:

In the PowerShell terminal, enter the following command:


Use the File Explorer to double check your drive letter. My drive letter was D, so I entered format /FS:FAT32 D:.

Press Enter, make sure your USB drive is plugged in, and press the Enter key again to start the process:

Then go run some errands or something – it will take awhile.

Once the format command is finished, your drive should be formatted to FAT32.

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In closing


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Now you should be able to format a USB drive of any size to FAT32 on Windows 10. And with just a little modification, any of these methods can be used to format your drive to another file system like NTFS or ExFAT.

Unable To Format External Hard Drive Mac

Usb Not Formatting To Fat32

Cannot Format External Hard Drive Mac

Now get out there and format all your USB drives. (But only after you backup everything important!)


Cannot Format Usb Drive Mac Big Sur

How To Format A Usb Flash Drive Into Fat32 Mac

Was this helpful? Is there a better method that you know of? Tweet at me and let me know how you format things on Windows 10.