Hard Drive Format Compatible With Mac And Pc

  1. Mac Os Format Usb Drive
  2. What Is The Best Format For External Hard Drive Mac And Pc
  3. Format Hard Drive Windows 10
  4. Hard Drive Format Compatible With Mac And Pc Windows 10
  5. Hard Drive Format Compatible With Mac And Pc Software
By Juno Posted to NTFS for Mac Tips, updated on November 18th, 2020
Hard drive format compatible with mac and pc windows 10

Though the default hard disk file system (also known as format) of Windows and Mac are different, there should be some ways to format an external drive for both Mac and PC. This post will conclude these tutorials:

Mac OS Extended (HFS+) Best for mechanical drives and drives used with macOS 10.12 or earlier. MS-DOS (FAT) Best for external hard drives shared with Windows computers. But, if the file’s size exceeds 4GB or the volume exceeds 32GB, this file system is not supported. Some third-party solutions can read data in Mac format on Windows and vice versa, but some solutions are expensive and may not provide 100% compatibility for all files. The best solution is to set up an external hard drive to make it compatible with Windows machines and Macs instead of buying one of these programs.

  • A comparison of common File Systems for Mac and PC
  • Guide to format external hard drives for Mac and PC
  • Guide to partition an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC
  • Make external hard drives compatible with Mac and PC without formatting

Then, after reading this post, you'll know what is the best file system for your camera's SD card and what is the best format for your Mac and PC. More importantly, you will know how to format flash drives for Mac and PC and make hard drives compatible with macOS and Windows.

Want to format a hard drive for Mac and PC compatibility? You have to set it up correctly before getting starting. Mac OS Journaled is the formatting option. Mac OS Extended. Choose one of the following Mac OS Extended file system formats for compatibility with Mac computers using macOS 10.12 or earlier. Mac OS Extended (Journaled): Uses the Mac format (Journaled HFS Plus) to protect the integrity of the hierarchical file system. Choose this option if you don’t need an encrypted or case-sensitive.

Common File Systems for Mac and PC

The file system is one of the most important part for an external hard drive because it manages how your files are stored and retrieved. So, every hard disk needs a proper file system, including desktop drives and portable storage devices like external hard drives, USB flash drives and SD cards. However, different file systems have different advantages and disadvantages. So before you know how to format a hard drive, you should know the pros and cons of each file system.

1. FAT32

Best External Drive for Mac and PC Interchangeable: Our Picks in 2020 1. G-Technology Portable External Hard Drive 2TB. This drive is preformatted just for you, offering a high transfer. LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 compatible, Drop Shock Dust Rain Resistant, for Mac and PC Computer Desktop Workstation Laptop, 1 Month Adobe CC (STFR2000800).

FAT file system includes three major file system variants but the majorly used one is FAT32. FAT32 is commonly used in floppy disks, SD memory cards, USB flash drives, digital cameras, as well as many portable and embedded devices.


  • Works universally with all versions of Mac, Windows, Linux, game devices, as well as other devices supporting a USB port.


  • Doesn't support a file size larger than 4GB and a drive partition size larger than 32GB on Windows.
  • Doesn't support the drive partition larger than 2TB on macOS.

2. exFAT

exFAT is a good option for external hard drives (e.g. Seagate Backup Plus Slim), especially for large-capacity removable storage devices. It also is frequently used in flash memory drives such as USB flash drives and SD cards. exFAT is easily often implemented in firmware that has low memory and low power requirements, such as cameras, mobile phones, media players, etc.


  • Supports the largest partition and file sizes by today's standards.


  • Not compatible with too much old operating systems.
  • Not a good option for drives less than 32GB because it can't maximize space utilization.


NTFS is a proprietary journaling file system developed by Microsoft. It is used as the default file system of Windows system hard drive (e.g. Windows 10). NTFS does well in data security based on its encryption, access permission control, and log file.


  • Improved performance, reliability, and disk space use.
  • Performs better in protecting data security, data management.
  • Compatible with all versions of Windows and latest hardware.


  • Read-only in macOS and the disabled-by-default write support for NTFS in macOS is unstable.

4. Mac OS Extended (HFS+)

HFS Plus or HFS+ is a journaling file system developed by Apple Inc. It's the startup disk’s default file system before macOS High Sierra. It also frequently used as Time Machine backup external hard drives of WD, Seagate, etc.


  • Supported by all versions of Mac OS X and macOS.
  • Has journaling, compression, and encryption features.


  • Has no access permission control.
  • Perfoms slow or crash in dealing with a large number of files.
  • Harder for data recovery when an HFS+ hard drive is corrupted.

5. Apple file system (APFS)

APFS is the new proprietary file system of Apple. It has been known to increase read/write speeds on solid-state drives (SSDs), as well as increase storage space due to the way in which it calculates the available data on disk.


  • Allows full-disk encryption with single or multi-key encryption for added security.
  • Efficient in management of free storage space


  • Not good for Time Machine backup due to no support for hard links to directories.
  • Can only be used on macOS 10.13 and above.

After knowing their unique specifications, it becomes easier to choose the best file system for your storage device. For instance, you would know why exFAT is better for camera SD cards, or why NTFS is better for external backup drive on Windows 10. In a word, you can format or reformat your external hard drive per your requirement, either for Mac and PC.

Warning: Formatting will erase data on this drive. So, make sure you have a backup. However, if you have formatted this drive and lose files, you can recover lost data from formatted external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

How to format external hard drives for Mac?

To format external hard drives on Mac, you'll need the built-in disk management tool called Disk Utility. Then, you need to choose the best file system for your external hard drive when erase it.

Tips: Remember to back up the files on the external hard drive if you have saved anything important on it.

• Guide to format external hard drive on Mac computer.

How to format external hard drives for Windows computer?

Similarly, you can also format your drive on Windows computers with a utility called Disk Management.

Tips: To prevent data loss during formatting, make sure you haven't saved important files on the drive. If you have, backup them first.

• Guide to initialize and format external hard drive on Windows computer.

How to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC?

It's important to know how to format an external hard drive for your Mac and PC before you use it to free up space and transfer files between computers. If you don't format the external hard drive correctly, it won't work to the utmost extent. For instance,Windows uses NTFS, while Mac uses HFS+ or APFS. Out of the box, Windows can't read or write to HFS+/APFS drives and Macs can't write to NTFS drives either.

Best External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable Tool

Sometimes, users need to use the same external hard drive interchangeably on Mac and PC. To make it compatible with both macOS and Windows, you need to reformat the external hard drive.

Whether you are using an APFS/HFS+ or a Windows NTFS formatted external hard drive on Mac, you can reformat the external hard drives for both Mac and PC. File systems like FAT32 and exFAT can make the external HDD compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs.

Warning: Reformatting will wipe files off the external hard drive. So, you should make sure you have backed up your files on the external hard drive before you continue any steps.

When should you choose FAT32 file system?

FAT32 works with almost any operating system as well as video game consoles, Android USB expansions, media players, and other devices. However, FAT32 can only support files up to 4 GB in size. So, If all your files on the external hard drive are smaller than 4 GB, and the drive itself is smaller than 2 TB, then FAT32 is a better choice for you to use the hard drive on Mac and PC.

When should you choose exFAT file system?

Similarly, exFAT is also a widely compatible file system. The difference is that exFAT has no limitations on file size and hard drive size. So, when the external HDD you want to used for both Mac and PC is larger than 2 TB, exFAT is the best choice.

After you choose the best format for your drive, you can format or reformat the external hard drive in Disk Utility as it was introduced. Then the external hard drive will work both for Mac and PC.

When should you choose NTFS file system?

Some users would prefer to the features of Windows NTFS file system. However, naturally, Disk Utility can't format external hard drive to NTFS. If you want an hard drive that you can only read on Mac but have full access on Windows, NTFS is the best choice. You can also use iBoysoft NTFS for Mac to reformat the external hard drive with NTFS on Mac.

  • 1. Download and install iBoysoft NTFS for Mac on your Mac.Then, restart your Mac.
  • 2. Connect the external hard drive to your Mac and launch this software.
  • 3. Find Disk Management in its main menu and click on it.
  • 4. Locate the volume you want to reformat, select it, and then click on Erase to NTFS.

What to do if you can’t format the external hard drive on Mac?

Usually, to format the external hard drive as FAT32 or exFAT, you are advised to do this on a Mac computer via Disk Utility. But if you have formatted the external hard drive under the Windows system, it would cause some inconvenience. You can't add or re-partition volumes of the external hard drive again on Mac. In this case, your only choice is to backup your files and reformat the whole disk.

How to partition an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC?

Except for having the whole external hard drive formatted, you can also split this disk with two partitions. One is formatted with the file system that is compatible with macOS, another partition is compatible with Windows conversely. By this means, you can use all the advantages each format has on the respective system.

Warning: Still, you need to back up files on this drive before you begin to create two separate partitions to work for Mac and Windows PC.

For some Mac models, the partition option would be greyed out in Disk Utility. So, we suggest that it's better to use a PC to partition an external hard drive for macOS and Windows. Here are the steps to partition an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC, which is a little tricky.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to your PC and then launch Disk Management.

Step 2: Check if the external hard drive is initialized or not.

If the drive is not initialized, you need to initialize the external hard drive with Master Boot Record (MBR). Then you can create two new partitions. You need to format one of them as NTFS for Windows use and format the other as your wish.

If the external hard drive is initialized, you need to right-click the disk to check if it's an MBR external hard drive.

  • If you see Convert to GPT Disk in the context menu, be it greyed out or lighted, it’s an MBR hard drive. Then you can create two or more partitions. And you need to prepare one partition for NTFS file system, and reformat with any file system.
  • If you see Convert to MBR Disk in the menu, it's an GPT hard drive. In this case, you need first backup files, delete the existing partitions, then click the Convert to MBR Disk button. Then, you can create two new partitions. You need to format one partition as NTFS for Windows use, and then format the other randomly.

Mac Os Format Usb Drive

Step 3: Up to now, there should be at least two partitions on the external hard drive. And one of them (the NTFS one) is ready for Windows use. Then, you need to safely remove the external hard drive and plug it into a Mac.

Step 4: Open Disk Utility and select the other partition (not the NTFS one) under the name of your external hard drive.

Step 5: Click Erase on the top, choose Mac OS Extended format when it asks, and chose Erase to finish.

Up to now, the external hard drive will have two partitions. One is HFS+ formatted for Mac, and the other is NTFS formatted for Windows.

By creating two separate partitions, you can use this external hard drive on both Mac and Windows. You won't be able to write to the Mac partition from your Windows computer, and vice versa. Thus, it's a good solution for people who need to swap between two operating systems but with separate work.

Best External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable Monitor

Make external hard drives compatible with Mac and PC without formatting

Many famous external hard drives like Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch and WD My Passport are pre-formatted with NTFS. However, the NTFS file system is a hassle for users who need to use the same external hard drive on both Mac and Windows. The external hard drive is not letting you add files if you use an NTFS external HDD on Mac. It will be read-only and you can't write to this drive normally in this case.

Many users don't know this and use the external hard drive directly. And when they want to reformat the hard drive to use it interchangeably, only to find that files on the drive are erased as well.

Then, can you solve external hard drive read-only without formatting?

Definitely! If you want to use NTFS formatted external hard drives on Mac, software like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac that might be helpful.

iBoysoft NTFS for Mac - professional NTFS driver for Mac

iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is a professional NTFS for Mac software, which can automatically mount NTFS drives in read-write mode on Mac. It supports macOS Big Sur 11/Catalina 10.15/Mojave 10.14/High Sierra 10.13.

With this useful tool, you'll have full access to NTFS drives on Mac and make your external hard drive interchangeable between Macs and PCs without formatting. Also, you can mount and unmount NTFS drives from the Mac menu bar with advanced and optimized options.

What's more, iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is also a handy tool to manage NTFS external drives. You can use it to easily mount, unmount, repair, erase NTFS external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, CF cards, pen drives, etc. on Mac.

Best External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable Windows 7

Tutorial to mount NTFS external hard drive on macOS with read-write mode with iBoysoft NTFS for Mac

  • 1. Free download, install, and launch iBoysoft NTFS for Mac on your computer.
  • 2. Connect your NTFS external hard drive to Mac, and iBoysoft NTFS for Mac will automatically mount it.
  • 3. Write to NTFS external hard drive after the disk has been mounted in read-write mode successfully.

If you want to use HFS+ or APFS formatted external hard drives on Windows, you can also attempt to install HFS+ for Windows software or APFS for Windows software on your PC to get read and write access to this external hard drive.


Best External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Interchangeable Monitors


To sum up, it is easy to format an external hard drive for both Mac and Windows PC. You can either choose to format the whole disk as exFAT/FAT, or you can create two separate partitions of HFS+ and NTFS if you prefer. But compared with formatting, an NTFS for Mac driver like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is a better and feasible solution.

Sep 14, 2021 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

'How to format hard drive for Mac and PC? I want to resell my computers and would like to get rid of my data beforehand, but can't seem to format my system!'

It doesn't matter what kind of situation you are in, it is important to learn how to format HDD for Mac and Windows. You might want to resell your system, get rid of something, or simply want to make more free space on it.

While it might sound complicated, both Mac and Windows give us dedicated features to manage our disk space. You can use it to manage your storage, merge partitions, and even do a disk format for Mac and PC. In this post, we will cover dedicated solutions on how to format your hard drive in Mac and PC.

Part 1. Why should you consider formatting your hard drive?

You might already know the consequences of formatting a hard drive. It will erase all the data stored in it, making it empty in one go. Therefore, before you format Mac/PC drive, make sure that you have taken a backup of your important data. Once it is done, you can do a hard disk format for Mac and PC to enjoy the following advantages.

  • It will help you get rid of any sensitive data from your hard drive so that the other user can't access it.
  • Once the disk is formatted, it will make it empty and let you store new content on it. Therefore, you can consider formatting a partition if you are running low of space.
  • In case if the hard drive has been corrupted by a virus, then you can format it entirely to get rid of any malicious activity.
  • By formatting a partition, you can manage the storage on your PC/Mac and merge the free space with another sector as well.
  • It will automatically defragment the disk, which will let you reclaim the lost space on the storage unit.
  • You can also resolve any disk issue by formatting your hard drive.
  • After formatting a disk, you can reassign a file system to it, and make it compatible with your PC/Mac.

Part 2. Major Formats of Hard Drive for Mac and PC

Over time, more than a hundred different kinds of file systems and formats have been developed for Mac and PC hard drives. Though, here are some of the most commonly used and compatible formats.

  • exFAT: It stands for Extended File Allocation Table and is developed by Microsoft. The file system is mostly used to allocate space on external storage units like USB drives or SD cards.
  • NTFS: The New Technology File System is used by Windows NT operating systems. It is the common format for the native hard drive of the system and is equipped with tons of new-age memory allocation techniques.
  • FAT32: The File Allocation Table format is used to store data on units that have a capacity of more than 32 GB. It mostly works on external storage units like flash drives and is compatible with both Mac and Windows.
  • APFS: The Apple File System is the native technique for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and even watchOS. It provides high-end encryption and is a replacement for the age-old HFS+ system developed by Apple.

There are different other kinds of file systems that your hard drive can support. To check it, just select the partition or the external disk, right-click, and visit its 'Properties'. Go to the 'General' tab to know details about the file system of the disk.

Part 3. How to Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC on Windows?

If your Mac or PC has a Windows OS installed, then you won't face any trouble managing it. Every major version of the operating system provides a dedicated solution to format hard drive as well as external storage units. Also, you can manage the internal partitions, merge them, create new ones, and do so much more. Here's how to format hard drive on your Windows PC.

  1. First, you need to access the Disk Management tool on your Windows. To do this, just click on the Start menu and look for 'disk management'. Alternatively, you can also access it from the Control Panel.
  2. This will open a dedicated window for various disks on your system. Simply select a partition that you wish to format and right-click it. Choose the 'Format' option to proceed.
  3. As the formatting wizard will open, select the kind of file system that you wish to convert it to. For instance, it can be NTFS, exFAT, and so on.
  4. You can also allocate it to the relevant size or label it here as well. If you have less time, then you can choose to quickly format it by enabling the relevant option.
  5. In the end, you will get a confirmation prompt like this. Just click on the 'Format' or 'Yes' button and wait for a while as the disk would be formatted.

Important Note: Formatting an external device

Windows also let us format an external device like SD card, pen drive, etc. quite easily. Simply right-click its icon from My Computer and from the context menu, click on the 'Format' option. Choose a file type and formatting option and click on the 'Start' button to format the disk.

Part 4. How to Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC on Mac?

Just like Windows, macOS also gives us a seamless option to format the hard drives for Mac (and PC). The operating system has an inbuilt tool, which is known as Disk Utility. Using it, you can erase a hard drive, create new partitions, and even repair your disk as well. To learn how to format in Mac your hard drive, follow these steps:

  1. To start with, just go to Finder > Applications > Utilities to view all the available tools and features. From here, you can launch the Disk Utility application.
  2. Here, you can view all kinds of storage units available on your system (both internal and external). Simply go to the left panel and select the disk you wish to format.
  3. On the right, you can view details about the selected disk. Go to its toolbar and click on the 'Erase' option.
  4. This will display the following pop-up on the screen. You can give the partition/drive a label, select its partition scheme, and specify its file format as well.
  5. Click on the 'Erase' button in the end and confirm your choice as Mac would format the selected disk.

In no time, the entire disk would be emptied and you can manage it the way you like. You can follow the same drill to format an external device on Mac as well.

Part 5. How to Recover Formatted Hard Drive on Mac?

By following the above-listed methods, you would be able to format hard drive for Mac and PC seamlessly. Though, if you have formatted a hard drive accidentally, then you might end up losing your important files. In this case, you can take the assistance of Recoverit Data Recovery software to get back your lost or deleted content from Mac. The data recovery tool is available for free and supports all the major macOS and Windows versions. Following a simple on-screen process, you can easily extract your data from your Mac's hard drive or an external device.

Recoverit - The Best Word File Recovery Software

  • Recover Word documents from all storage devices like Mac.
  • Recover 1000+ types and formats of files in different situations.
  • Scan and preview the files before you recover them from MacBook hard drive.

If you have deleted a partition on Mac or have lost it due to any other reason, then you should use Recoverit Data Recovery. It can help you restore partition data on Mac by following these easy steps.

Step 1: Select a Location

Firstly, launch the Recoverit Data Recovery application on your Mac and from its home, pick a location. A list of all the available locations will be displayed. You can just pick a source and start the scan.

Step 2: Scan the Location

What Is The Best Format For External Hard Drive Mac And Pc

This will commence the data recovery operation on the selected location. You simply need to wait for a few minutes for the scan to finish successfully.

Step 3: Preview and Recover

Once the process is completed, you can just preview the extracted data on Recoverit's interface. Make the needed selections and click on the 'Recover' button, so that you can save your files to a safe location.

Important Note:

If you are running the latest version of macOS, then you should consider disabling its System Integrity Protection feature first. This will allow third-party apps like Recoverit to access the partitions and file system on your Mac. Restart your Mac and press the Command + R keys to boot it in the Recovery mode. Launch the Terminal app by visiting the utility menu and enter the command: csrutil disable. In the end, restart your Mac in the normal mode and launch Recoverit again.

Part 6. Tips for Formatting Hard Drive

If you want to get positive results while formatting your hard drive on Mac or PC, then consider following these steps:

Format Hard Drive Windows 10

  • Since formatting will erase all the existing data on your hard drive, make sure you have taken its backup beforehand.
  • When your system is formatting the drive, don't halt the process in between as it can make the storage unavailable.
  • As both Windows and Mac provide native solutions to format the hard drives, you should avoid using any unreliable third-party tool.
  • While formatting, you would be asked to pick a file system for the disk. Therefore, make sure that the file system is supported by your Mac or Windows.
  • Instead of a quick format, you should follow the standard process. This will save the empty space on your system and avoid disk fragmentation.


Hard Drive Format Compatible With Mac And Pc Windows 10

Now you can easily format hard drive for Mac and PC like a pro, without facing any trouble. Apart from formatting the internal drive, we have also listed a smart solution to format external devices as well. Not just that – the guide has also included a working solution to recover data from a formatted drive. If you have accidentally formatted a drive, then use Recoverit Data Recovery. An excellent recovery tool for Mac and Windows, it will make sure that you never suffer from an unwanted loss of data again.

What's Wrong with Mac

Hard Drive Format Compatible With Mac And Pc Software

Recover Your Mac
Fix Your Mac
Delete Your Mac
Learn Mac Hacks