Mac Formats For Hard Drives

After you plugin your new hard drive and attach it to your Mac via a FireWire cable, the hard drive will mount on your desktop. Open Disk Utility. Applications folder Utilities folder Disk Utility. Select the hard drive in the left hand column and click on the Erase tab. In the Volume Format drop-down menu, select Mac OS Extended. HFS+: This MAC propriety file system and is used in iOS and MAC. If you format your external hard drive to HFS, you can use it on MAC and Linux (by removing journaling). However, to use it on Windows you can HFS explorer (read only). Ext4: This is a default file system for linux OS (including Raspberry Pi). Since formatting your Mac's primary hard drive will erase all of the data on it, you'll need to make sure you have a backup of anything important before you continue. Use this method if you want to completely erase and reformat your Mac's internal boot drive.

Most external hard drives are designed to work for Windows computers. So if you’re trying to connect an external hard drive to a Mac, you might have to format the drive before you can use it. Here’s how to do that:

If you want to write to NTFS formatted hard drives in Mac OS X, you’re going to need the help of a third-party driver. However, if you’re working primarily with Mac computers, you’re probably better off using HFS+, which stands for Hierarchical File System, for native support. Also known as Mac OS Extended or HFS Extended, HFS+ is an. The top 5 disk formatting tools for Windows and Mac can help you securely format hard drive or external device under Windows/Mac OS. AweEraser is the outstanding one among the 5 disk formatting tools. It will securely format the hard drive and permanently erase the data. Then your hard drive is able to donated, resold, lent, or abandoned. Format Hard Drive (Mac) 1. Connect the external hard drive to the computer. Click Go on the top tool bar, and select Utilities. Open Disk Utility. Select the external hard drive on the left-hand side. Click the Partition tab. Change the Partition Layout from Current to 1 Partition. File system formats available in Disk Utility on Mac. Disk Utility on Mac supports several file system formats: Apple File System (APFS): The file system used by macOS 10.13 or later. Mac OS Extended: The file system used by macOS 10.12 or earlier. MS-DOS (FAT) and ExFAT: File systems that are compatible with Windows. Open Disk Utility for me.

How to Format a Hard Drive for Mac

Note: If you already used your external hard drive on a PC, be sure to back up any files on it. Formatting your drive will wipe out all the data in it.

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. Some external hard drives need to be plugged into an outlet to work.
  2. Go to Spotlight Search, type in Disk Utility, and click the first option. This will open the Disk Utility app, where you will find all the internal and external drives that are connected to your Mac.
  3. Then click View in the top-left corner of the window and select Show All Devices.
  4. Click the external hard drive you want to format. You can find this on the left-hand side of the screen under External Hard Drives. For the best result, select the disk (the highest option in the external tree).
  5. On the top menu, click Erase. This will open a small pop-up window with a warning that erasing the drive will delete all data stored on it and that it can’t be undone.
  6. Choose a name, format, and scheme for your drive. You can choose whatever name you want, and you should choose GUID Partition Map for the Scheme in most cases. However, you can choose between the following formats:
    • Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is the best option for most Mac users since it is compatible with all Macs.
    • APFS (Apple File System) is only for newer Macs running macOS 10.13 or later.
    • exFAT is compatible with both PC and Mac.
    • MS-DOS (FAT) is also compatible with Mac and PC, but you can only transfer files smaller than 4GB.
  7. When you’re done with providing the setup details, click Erase. This will immediately wipe the entire drive.

If you get an error message that states, “Erase process has failed. Click done tocontinue,” don’t freak out about it. This is an issue caused by Time Machine running on your externaldrive.

You will need to turn off Time Machine. You can do this by opening System Preferences and unchecking the boxnext to “Back Up Automatically”.Then click Options beside “ShowTime Machine in menu bar.” This will open another window. Click Cancel and it will turn off the Time Machine.

After you turn off the Time Machine, redo steps 4 to 6.

How to Partition anExternal Hard Drive on Mac

Format Drive On Mac

If you have formattedyour drive, you can then partition the drive, which will splitthe drive into two formats. This is perfect for anyone who uses Macs and PCsand wants to transfer files between the different operating systems with anexternal drive. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Open Disk Utility and select the drive that you want to partition. It is best to click View > Show All Devices so you can selectthe disk rather than a container.
  2. In the top menu, select Partition.
  3. Then click the plus sign at the bottom of the pie chart. Every time you click this plus sign, a new partition will becreated.
  4. Choose a name, format and size for each partition. You can also change the size of each of the partitions bydragging the white dots at the edge of the circle.
  5. Finally click Apply.

Mac Format Hard Drive On Windows

Why Partition a Hard Drive?

Partitioning an external hard drive allows youto have separate drives for Mac, PC, and any other operating system. Now youdon’t have to go out and buy hard drives for every computer you use.

A partition also gives you a dedicated space foryour Time Machine back-up files or a bootable backup of your operating system.It also helps protect your data if your drive gets infected with malware, as itwould be contained within one of the partitions.

Now that you know how to format an external drive for Mac, check out our blog on the difference between an HDD and an SDD.

Cannot Format Drive In Use

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But using a third party all the time for accessing a hard drive on windows is not good. A user has to know how to convert Mac formatted hard drive to Windows formatted. The Windows system uses a hard drive with a different file system than the Mac systems. Windows-formatted hard drives have either NTFS file system of an FAT32 file system.

There are many reasons why you may want to format an external HDD or small flash drive. For instance:

  • You brought a new unformatted hard drive
  • If the drive is not properly formatted, it won’t work
  • You want to use your external hard drive in both MAC, PC and Linux (use FAT32)
  • Before you sell your SDcard or Pendrive, you should format it to erase its data
  • Your camera’s SD card (FAT32) can only hold a file up to 4GB file. To get larger file size format it to exFAT.
  1. Insert your NTFS drive or USB stick and click to highlight the disk name in the white box on the left-hand side of the window. Select the ‘Erase’ tab. Under ‘Format’ choose ‘ (MS-DOS FAT.
  2. Dec 07, 2021 How to Use HFSExplorer to Read Mac Hard Drive on Windows. HFSExplorer is a good tool to help you read your Mac-formatted drive on your Windows PC. Connect the Mac-formatted drive to Windows 10 PC. Run HFSExplorer as administrator. Select File from the menu bar. Choose Load file system from device; Click Autodetect to load the connected hard drive.
Mac Formats For Hard Drives

Warming: Formating a drive, also erase its data. Although you can still get it back, but it’s much harder after formatting. So if you can’t afford losing you data, take backup.

Which Format to choose?

Choosing a right file system is a bit tricky, so here are some pros and cons of all file system.

NTFS: This is windows propriety file system. Most external drives come preformatted in NTFS so that they can be used easily with Windows. However, NTFS drives are read only in MAC, but you can get write access by using software like NTFS-3g. It also works in Linux. And to support NTFS on Android use Stick mount or Paragon NTFS, HFS and exFAT.

HFS+: This MAC propriety file system and is used in iOS and MAC. If you format your external hard drive to HFS, you can use it on MAC and Linux (by removing journaling). However, to use it on Windows you can HFS explorer (read only).

ext4: This is a default file system for linux OS (including Raspberry Pi). 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. Although it lacks all modern features and comes with 4 GB limit for single file size.

exFAT: is the extended version of exFAT. It works fine with Windows and MAC (all the modern version). For Android, you can use Stick mount app (root needed). However being a windows propriety file system, it does not play well in open source environment. But unlike FAT32, it does not have 4GB limit for single file size. Thus making it ideal for SDcards of the high-end camera.

How to Format an External Hard drive or Pen drive

Now that we know the good and bad about every file system, let see how to format a drive in Windows, MAC, and Linux.


Formatting a drive on Windows is quite simple. Plug in your external HDD to the USB port of your computer> then go to my computer > find your external drive > right-click it > and select format.

A new window will open, select the desired file system, keep the allocation unit size to default and check mark quick format (or it will take more time). Once done hit the format button and that’s it. Within seconds, you will have your drive in the new format.

Note: While formatting a pen drive you will see FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS as the available file system. However for external HDD you won’t see the FAT32 (windows don’t suggest fat32 for bigger drives) However to get other format option you can use third-party software.


Start by connecting your external HDD to MAC’s USB port. Under the finder men, go to Go > utilities > Disk Utility or type disk utility in the spotlight and hit enter.

Once under disk utility. Select your external HDD on the left side and then select partition option.

Now in the Partition area, click under Partition Layout and select 1 Partition. Then, click on Options. A new window will open, here select Master Boot Record and then click Ok.

Now in the right side of windows, give a name to your drive, from the drop-down select desired file system format. Make sure the size is set to an entire volume of your external drive. And once done, click on Apply.

Note: Here you will also see an option to format a large hard drive to FAT32 which is not available in Windows.

See this animated gif (Imgur)


Unlike windows and MAC, Linux does not a have built-in partition tool. So, you will have ti install a GUI tool called GParted and then plug in your external drive in the computer.

Open your terminal and type in the following command to install GParterd.

sudo apt-get install gparted

Once installed, type the following command to launch the program.

sudo gparted

A new window will open. Click on the top right side, select the volume you want to format.

Once you see the volume you want to format, right click on the block and select format > choose the file system you want > and click OK to confirm.

Note: Since, I am running Linux in a virtual machine, in final step my Format to option is not highlighted, But in your case, you will be able to click it and select the file system you to format in. To see the final step, I suggest you check out this howtogeek article.


Say you don’t have any computer with you, now can you still format your external HDD? Well, if you have an Android (ROOT) then yes, you can still format your drive to popular formats like NTFS and HFS.

To do this, install Paragon exFAT, NTFS & HFS+from Play store. The main function of this application is to mount NTFS or HFS formatted HDD on Android, but there is another useful option hidden under settings — i.e. formatting a drive.

Once installed, open the app, mount your drive and then go to the settings, There select the new file system for your drive, give it a name and hit format.

Want to use NTFS drives on a Mac? In this guide we show you how to use those Windows-formatted drives in macOS.

The Mac versus PC debate isn’t going to be settled anytime soon but there’s no denying that Windows computers are more widespread. For this reason, many manufacturers of external hard drives and USB sticks pre-format their devices to NTFS.

This format was created for Microsoft and allows users to quickly plug their drives into Windows machines and work with files. As NTFS is proprietary, Apple would need a special license to use it fully on the Macs they sell.

Instead of doing this, macOS has been designed to read NTFS-formatted drives but not write to them. In other words, as a Mac user you can only open and view files on Windows drives: you can’t change them in anyway, nor can you copy new files to NTFS format disks.

In this guide, you’ll discover several solutions to this dilemma from formatting drives to a more universal file system to using third-party tools.

1. Format to FAT32

If you have an NTFS drive you can use macOS’ Disk Utility to reformat it to FAT32. This is simple to do and means the data on your drive/USB stick can be read and written on both Macs and PCs.

Be aware that the FAT32 format isn’t as efficient as NTFS: it only supports files sizes of up to 4GB. This may pose a problem if you’re using the drive to store high-quality videos. More information on FAT32 versus NTFS is available from Microsoft Support.

To get started, click the Spotlight icon at the top right of your screen and enter ‘Disk’ to launch Disk Utility. Insert your NTFS drive or USB stick and click to highlight the disk name in the white box on the left-hand side of the window.

Select the ‘Erase’ tab. Under ‘Format’ choose ‘(MS-DOS FAT)’. Enter a new name for the drive in the field above if you wish.

Click ‘Erase’ to continue. Read the warning carefully before proceeding, as this process will delete any existing data on the drive. From now on you’ll be able to move files to your drive and edit them in place from a Mac or PC.

2. Use a third-party app

The fact that macOS doesn’t support Windows NTFS drives out of the box has led to the development of a number of third-party apps, which are licensed to both read and write to Windows disks.

These can be particularly helpful if you regularly have to plug your drive into both a Mac and PC both use file sizes larger than that supported by the more universal FAT32 format.

One of the strongest contenders for macOS is Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon, which offers a ten-day free trial of its features. Once installed, the app will mount your Windows drives allowing you to change or remove files to your hearts content.

At the time of writing there doesn’t seem to be any freeware macOS programs offering NTFS write support, which may put off users on a budget.

3. Enable NTFS write support in Terminal

If reformatting your NTFS drive for Mac is not an option, you can enable write support for specific Windows disks using macOS Terminal. This is an experimental feature and could lead to data loss, so make sure to do a full backup of both your Mac and any data on the drive before continuing.

The main benefit of using Terminal in this way is that it’s quick to do and no third-party software is required. As this feature is still in the testing phase however, your files could become corrupted at anytime, so proceed with caution.

To get started, click the Spotlight icon at the top right of your screen and enter ‘Terminal’. Connect your NTFS drive, then enter the command:

This will open the list of drives recognised by macOS. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll to the very end and add the following line, replacing ‘NAME’ with the actual name of your NTFS drive e.g. USB1 (if you’re unsure what this is, simply open Disk Utility):

Press Ctrl+O to save the list, and then press Ctrl+X to exit NANO. Next, connect your Windows drive to the Mac.

Open Finder, then click Go’> Go to Folder, then type ‘/Volumes/NAME’ where ‘NAME’ is the name of your NTFS drive.

Click ‘Go’ to access your Windows disk. You should now be able to edit existing files and copy new ones here.

4. Use BootCamp

Bootcamp is macOS’ own built-in utility for installing Microsoft Windows on your Mac. The most recent version of macOS (Mojave) supports Windows 10. During the setup process, users shrink the size of their existing macOS installation to make room for Windows.

This allows you to boot both operating systems on your Mac. Once set up, Windows 10 will function on your Mac in just the same way as it would on a regular PC. This includes working with NTFS-formatted drives.

Mac Formats For Hard Drives And Downloads

To get started, all you need is an internet connection, a valid Windows 10 DVD and a USB stick of at least 8GB. See our guide on setting up BootCamp for more details on how to get started.

Although BootCamp is easy to set up and use, you must purchase a Windows 10 license to keep using the OS after 90 days. You’ll also naturally will have to work with files using Microsoft apps instead of those designed for Mac like iMovie.

Format Hard Drive For Mac And Pc

If you enjoy using the iWorks app however (Pages, Keynotes & Numbers), you can work with the online versions of these tools on a PC by accessing iCloud via your browser.

When using BootCamp remember that any files you save to the Windows 10 section of the hard disk itself can’t be accessed when you reboot into macOS and vice versa.

How To Use A Mac Formatted Hard Drive On Windows Ten Laptop

5. Move to the Cloud

If you only want to work or collaborate on a few files, why not ditch the drives altogether and place your files in the Cloud?

Online services such as iCloud Drive offer a generous free allowance (5GB) and allow you to immediately sync, edit and share files even if they were originally created for Windows and saved to an NTFS disk.

To take advantage of iCloud, simply open your Windows drive in Finder then copy and paste any files you want to work with to the location ‘iCloud Drive’. If you don’t see this is the side pane, open System Preferences > iCloud to check you’re signed in and that this service is enabled.

Read Mac Hard Drive Pc

The Mac operating system will automatically sync the files to Apple’s servers. Once you’ve opened the files and made any changes you need, you can send a sharing link to others if you wish.

Mac Formats For Hard Drives For Sale

How To Use A Mac Formatted Hard Drive On Windows Explorer

Mac Format Hard Drive Ntfs

To do this, right-click on any file, then hover your mouse over ‘Share’. From here you can choose various methods to send your sharing link e.g. via ‘Mail’.