Format Flash Drive To Work On Mac And Pc

Step 1: Connect the USB drive or external drive to Mac and launch the Disk Utility from Applications. Step 2: From the left side panel, pick the volume or the drive that you want to format and switch to the Erase tab. Step 3: As you click on the Erase button, you will see several fields in the section. To read an ext4 drive on Windows, you can Ext2Read and OSXfuse for MAC. However, I have not really use this format much, so we just skip it. FAT32: This oldest file system and work with all OS i.e. Windows, MAC, Linux, Android, even TV, and PS3 etc. This is why it’s used in all small flash drive. 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.

By Nicole Sioni

Most USB flash drive users do not ever think to format their drives. Most do not even realize it is possible to manipulate their file storage in this way. However it is an easy way to make the most out of your data storage experience. You don’t have to be a technological wiz to reformat your USB Drive; you just need your drive and your computer. We’ve provided step by step instructions for both PC and MAC users below!

Why does an average user need to format their USB drive? We cover the subject pretty well in a previous blog here but in short, formatting your USB drive erases data, restores the drive to full capacity, and increases efficiency. Who wouldn’t want that?

In general, most people are going to choose their file system based on capacity and performance. The size and quantity of files you need to transfer or store will help you decide which filing system to choose when you reformat your USB drive. A filing system is a system that organizes data into a specific way so it’s not just one big pile of incomprehensible data. Much like physical storage, individuals have preferences and requirements for storage of important information. A user may tailor their flash drive so that it can work with their needs.

File System Options

Before you begin to format your drive, you should know which file system option you wish to use. Keeping in mind that most users will be looking at storage and performance, we’ve summed up for you the major ones you’ll likely come across:


NTFS is not recommended for flash drives, even if you’re working with large data. It’s preferably only used for Windows system drives. This is the default system that recent Windows version utilize. It stands for “New Technology File System.” It has a limited compatibility with other OS besides modern Windows. It’s meant to transport files larger than 4GB. It’s great for working with Operating Systems because of its modern features not found in the FAT group. Typically found with regular sized hard drives. It can be easily restored in case of failure.


This system is quite old; it was introduced in 1977! It’s no longer the default for Windows. It stands for “File Allocation Table.” You won’t see FAT or FAT32 if your drive is larger than 32GB. Unlike NTFS types, FAT file systems cannot be recovered or restored in case of failure. Technically, all FAT types are referred to as FAT in one big umbrella term. FAT and FAT 32 use less memory and work faster than NTFS.


Don’t use this for internal drives; it doesn’t have the components and other safety features you want to do that. Use it instead for a removable drive that requires high compatibility but with small files (less than 4GB each). You won’t see FAT or FAT32 if your drive is larger than 32GB. It used to be the standard before NTFS came along. This is a highly compatible system as it works with all versions of Windows. However, it limits transactions at 4GB so you won’t be able to transfer large files like movies.


You should use this format when you need high compatibility with large file sizes. It’s great for flash drives. This file system incorporates FAT32 in a more light weight system that avoids all the messy overhead of NTFS. It manages space better and with less fragmentation that FAT and FAT32. exFAT is often preferred over NTFS. It can read and write files larger than 4GB. Note that exFAT is not backwards compatible with other FAT systems.

This quick guide to file systems is not exhaustive; there are lots more details about each that you might want to compare between. These file systems all have their pros and cons. However, most people won’t need to bother with those details. Instead, let’s focus on how to reformat your USB drive.

Steps to Formatting Your USB Drive

Steps for PC/Windows

  1. Connect USB drive to computer
  2. Open Computer window (Or This PC, depending on your OS)
    1. For Windows Vista and 7:
      1. Click Start
      2. Click Computer
    2. Windows 8/8.1:
      1. Type “Computer” in search area of Start screen
      2. Click Computer
    3. Windows 10:
      1. Type “This PC” in search area of Start screen
      2. Click on This PC
  3. In which ever window you used in step 2, right click the drive icon that shows your USB device
  4. In the menu, click Format


  1. Under Format Device Name (Drive Letter) window, click File System, and use the drop down arrow to select your preferred filing system
  2. Click Start
  3. Click OK on the warning message
  4. Click OK on the Format Complete message
  5. Click CLOSE on the Format Device Name (Drive Letter) window
  6. X out of the Computer or This PC window

Steps for Mac

  1. Connect your UBS drive to your computer
  2. Open Disk Utility
  3. Press Command + Space to open Spotlight search box, then type in “Disk Utility” then enter to launch
  4. Click to select your USB drive from the left panel
  5. Click to change to the Erase tab
  6. In Volume Format selection box, select the file system you want


  1. Confirm you want to Erase
  2. Close the Disk Utility window

Apple products have several other file systems available in addition to the ones already mentioned that won’t be discussed here.

Data storage technology is developing rapidly all the time and it won’t be long before users can store data in quantities previously unthinkable. When that time comes, you’ll be happy to be able to tailor your USB drive to your data storage needs.

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Summary: This article tells how to format a USB flash drive on Windows 10/8/7 and Mac when you want to reformat a new or second-hand removable storage device to make sure it doesn’t contain any malicious files or fix the logical errors.

What is Formatting?

Formatting is the fastest way to prepare the USB flash drive for the initial use. It wipes all the data stored on your flash drive and allows full use of the storage capacity. Meanwhile, it also creates a filing system that can help organizes your data on Windows or Mac.

Which File System Should I Choose for a USB Flash Drive?

We can’t talk about formatting without talking about file system as it differs when we are using the different computers; the common file systems are FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS for Windows, APFS, HFS+, and exFAT for macOS, here we will only talk about the most common file systems when formatting a USB flash drive:

  • FAT32: It’s compatible with all major operating systems and uses less memory usage. But it cannot handle single files larger than 4GB and has a limited partition size (up to 32GB).
  • NTFS: It can create partitions larger than 32GB and read/write files larger than 4GB. Besides, it supports on-the-fly file encryption. The disadvantage is that the Mac computer can only read the data from the NTFS drive.
  • exFAT: It provides an unlimited file and partition size. It serves no matter the Windows or Mac users who want to work with files larger than 4GB.

We strongly recommend that you use exFAT, which is considered the best choice for both Windows and Mac computers, whereas the exFAT file system works better than FAT32 and can handle the file size up to 16GB.

How to Format a USB Drive on Windows 7/8/10?

After deciding which file system you are going to apply, let’s explore the formatting methods. Generally, On Windows 10, 8, 7, there are some common ways you can format a USB flash drive.

Format Flash Drive To Work On Mac And Pc Computer

Method 1: Format a USB Flash Drive Using File Explorer

This is the easiest way with which many users are familiar. Refer to the following steps to learn how.

Step 1: Connect your USB flash drive and open press Win key + E to open File Explorer.

Step 2: Right-click on the drive and choose the Format option.

Format Flash Drive To Work On Mac And Pc Software

Step 3: Expand the File system drop-down menu and select the exFAToption.

Step 4: Click on the Start button.

Note: Uncheck the Quick Format means full format; it goes with a thorough scanning and wiping your data on the USB flash drive, you will have no chance to get back your data after using this option.

Method 2: Format a USB Flash Drive Using Diskpart

Using diskpart to format a USB flash drive is another useful method, and even it works for the computer user who has no exFAT options in File Explorer or Disk Management. However, the user should select the correct volume before carrying out a quick or full format on your USB flash drive:

Step 1: Enter Command Prompt in the search bar and then right-click it, choose Run as administrator.

Step 2: Enter below-written commands in the same order and same diskpart window:

  • diskpart
  • list volume
  • select volume NUMBER (Replace NUMBER to the exact number of your USB flash drive)
  • format fs=exFAT quick (Don’t enter quick if you want a full format)

Note: Replace exFAT if you choose another file system, for example, enter the command format fs=fat32 to format the USB flash drive into FAT32 format.

Drive To Work Podcast

Method 3: Format a USB Drive Using Disk Management

This is a method similar to the one performed by using File Explorer, and here are the steps you can follow:

Step 1: Press Win + Q, type in Disk Management and open it.

Step 2: Right-click on the desired USB flash drive and select Format.

Step 3: Select exFAT from the File System drop-down menu.

Step 4: Click on the OK button.

Method 4: Format a USB Flash Drive Using PowerShell (Windows 10 Only)

PowerShell is a task and configuration management platform which was first appeared in 2006; it’s powerful than Command Prompt that can be used to automate many different system administration tasks, and of course, for formatting a USB flash drive:

Step 1: Right-click on the Start menu at the lower-left corner and choose Windows PowerShell(Admin).

Step 2: Enter the following command to view the USB flash drive you want to format:

Format Flash Drive To Work On Mac And Pc
  • Get-Volume
  • Format-Volume -DriveLetter F -FileSystem exFAT (Replace F to the exact drive letter of your USB flash drive)

Note: In this method, you should note that after entering the format command, it goes to format the USB flash drive to exFAT directly, and if you want a FAT32 drive, just replace exFAT to FAT32, that’s all.

How to Perform a USB Drive Format on Mac?

Reformatting a USB flash drive in exFAT on Mac is easy than you imagine; we should thank the Disk Utility that can make the reformatting easy to complete; Likewise, follow with the same steps if you would like to reformat an SD card, internal or external hard drive:

Step 1: Connect the USB stick to the PC with one of the USB ports and then press Command + Space to search Disk Utility.

Step 2: After selecting the drive on the left part of the Disk Utility window, click on the Erase button lying at the top of the window.

Step 3: Now, select exFAT from the drop-down menu of the Format.

Format Flash Drive Windows 10

Step 4: Click the Erase and wait for the reformatting process to complete.

Note: Please back up your data before the formatting of your USB flash drive as Erase will wipe all of the stored data!

What if you were not intended to format the USB flash drive, and there are lots of the vital photos, videos, documents, or any other files stored on the drive that have been lost due to the reformatting. What should we do to retrieve lost data? Don’t worry, a quick format won’t cause all of the data to lose, the file contents still exist on the USB flash drive, and you will have a big chance to get back your data as soon as you launch the third-party data recovery program – Bitwar Data Recovery to perform a full scan.

Recover Files From a Formatted Drive Using Bitwar Data Recovery

No matter how carefully or gradually backing up the USB flash drive, the data loss is still inevitable, such as the USB flash drive turns to a RAW drive suddenly, or you might unplug the drive without safely removing from the computer; moreover, the backup files are out-to-dated when the accident happens.

We have experienced many of the users encountered the same frustrating issue that causes the works to stop, and most of them finally chose to start the work again as they didn’t know how to restore the data. Right now, you’ll be all set if using Bitwar Data Recovery with the steps below:

Step 1: Go toBitwarsoft Download Center to download and install Bitwar Data Recovery.

Step 2: After completing the installation, open the Bitwar data recovery software and then select the formatted USB flash drive.

Step 3: Choose a recovery mode. We strongly recommend you choose the Quick Scan for the first time since this mode scans the whole drive in just a few minutes. However, if this mode can’t work to find your data, try with the Deep Scan mode next time.

Step 4: Choose the File types and then press the Scan button.

Step 5: Double-click on wanted files to preview them. After that, click on Recover to save the files to a safe place.

Why Can't I Format My Flash Drive

Note: Please be careful not to save the recovered files to the formatted USB flash drive. The reason is to prevent the data from being overwritten again.


Like many other storage devices, The USB flash drive can be easily failed without any concerns. There are many possible causes behind the happening of this accident, such as the unstable flash chip, disconnect the USB flash drive before safely removing from the computer, virus attack, or Trojan infection. Some of the failures are just logic errors that can be fixed easily by reformatting the drive. Some failures prove that your USB flash drive was physically damaged, and that means you may have to consider buying a new one.

If you purchase a brand-new USB flash drive and want an initial usage or the USB flash drive has encountered any logic errors as told, this article serves you very well, as it tells how to format a USB flash drive with different methods on Windows or Mac. What if there were vital data stored on the USB flash drive, it is suggested to retrieve the data using Bitwar Data Recovery before starting the formatting.

Follow with the steps mentioned above and hope that you can finally reformat the USB flash drive or get back the wanted data.

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