The Easiest Way To Format An External Hard Drive On A Mac

External hard drives are worth spending your money on as they prove to be excellent data holders without hogging up space on your PC.

Format An External Hard Drive On A Mac

However, Mac users often complain that the hard disks aren’t compatible with their system and need to format external hard drive mac. Luckily, we have a very easy fix for you to format any hard drive. Let’s get started.

About Disk Utility

New hard drives often come formatted for Mac or Windows, and some even have their own installation software to help the user get started.

However, sometimes the hard drive might not be formatted. Mac offers a Disk Utility app that allows users to format their external hard disks. The tool can also use for formatting both external and internal hard drives and disk images.

How to Format An External Hard Drive On A Mac

External hard drives use either solid memory or spinning disks to save files. You can use the Finder app on Mac computers to manage hard disk files. 

Format Hard disk using disk utility

Back up files before formatting

If the external hard drive you are using is used and contains some important data that you wouldn’t want to lose, it is necessary that you back up the files in some storage devices. The backup could be saved on another PC, Mac, or drive depending on the file size.

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Steps to format external hard drive mac disk 

  • To format your external hard drive for MacBook, please ensure that the system is fully charged or is connected to a power supply during the entire process. Once the power supply is ensured, connect the hard disk to your Mac using USB.
  • After establishing a secure connection, you will see a drive icon on your screen. If not, you can find the same by navigating to Finder and then Preferences.
  • In the Finder Preferences dialog box, navigate to the General tab and check the External Drive checkbox.
  • Navigate to Applications and open the Utilities window. Click on the Disk Utility icon.
  • A Disk Utility pop-up will open. On the left side of the pop-up, you could see your external hard drive under the External heading given below the list of internal drives currently on Mac. 
  • Tap the first level of your external hard drive. If there are multiple levels on the hard drive, make sure that you do not choose the lower level as it would create formatting problems. To make sure that you have chosen the correct level, click on the expand arrow (right-pointing arrow) given on the left of the hard drive name.
  • Click on Erase button in the pop-up window.
  • FIll the name for the hard drive and choose a suitable drive format.
    • Choose “APFS” (Apple File System) as the default file system if you have solid-state drives. If it is not available, choose another and after formatting, reformat the drive in APFS.
    • To ensure compatibility between older and newer Macs, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format.
    • To use the external hard drive for both Mac and Windows, choose EXFAT format.
  • Under the scheme, choose GUID Partition Map and click Erase button.
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Allow the formatting to complete and restart your machine. Don’t freak out if you get an “Erase process has failed” error. You need to turn off the Time Machine backups on your external drive.

To do that, open the System Preferences menu and uncheck the check box next to “Back up automatically.” Click on the “Show Time Machine in menu bar” option and click Cancel to turn it off. After that, repeat the above steps.

How to Partition a Hard Drive on a Mac

After formatting your hard drive, you can partition it by splitting the drive into two formats. It is perfect for transferring files between Windows PC and Mac or two different operating systems.

  • Open the Disk Utility from the Applications -> Utilities section. 
  • Choose the drive you want to partition and navigate to the top menu bar. Click on Partition.
  • Now click on the plus sign given at the bottom of the pie chart. Each time you press the plus button, it will create a new partition.
  • Enter the name, format, and size of the partition you want. You can drag the white dots at the edge of the circle slider to manually set the size of the partition.
  • Click on the Apply button to complete partitioning.

Why Partition a Hard Drive?

For users who have Mac and Windows desktop or frequently share files between two different operating systems, partitions allow them to create separate format external drives for each.

Partitions also provide enough dedicated space to the Time machine to backup files or create bootable backup flash drives for your Operating System. It can also protect the entire hard drive from being affected by malware, as the infection will be limited to a single partition.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is The Best Format For A Hard Drive On Mac?

exFAT or Extended File Allocation Table is the best format for hard drives to work with Mac and Microsoft Windows.

Do Hard Drives Need To Be Formatted For Mac?

Yes. Be it SSD to HDD, and external hard drives should be formatted for Mac. They can either be pre-formatted, or you can format them using Mac’s Disk Utility tool.

How Do I Format My External Hard Drive For Mac Without Losing Data?

It isn’t possible to erase a hard drive without losing data. You need to create a backup of your external hard drive before formatting it. You can format the hard drives by navigating to Applications -> utilities -> Disk utility -> Choose hard drive -> Erase -> Enter name, format and system -> Erase.

Does Reformatting An External Hard Drive Erase The Data?

It depends on the kind of function you perform. If you are changing file format from FAT32 to NTFS drives, then no data will be lost as you can use Convert instead of Format. But to format the disk completely, data will be lost.