How to reformat an external drive for Mac

If you ’ ve good bought yourself a glazed modern external drive and can ’ metric ton get it to work on your Mac, it ’ s possible that the drive international relations and security network ’ t compatible with macOS. But unlike other electronics on the market, it ’ s possible to reformat an external drive to work with the operate system ( south ) of your choice. It ’ sulfur easy to do on a Mac using Apple ’ s built-in Disk Utility, and here ’ randomness where we show you how .

Which file format should I choose?

When it comes to reformatting an external hard drive, the biggest decision you ’ ll have to make is with regards to file format. You see, there ’ s not one but respective different file formats for you to choose from, offering diverse levels of compatibility between different operating systems. The file format you select largely depends on what you ’ ll be doing with the external drive, and which operating systems you use on a casual basis .


APFS is Apple ’ s choice of file format for Macs running macOS eminent Sierra or late. Introduced as a refilling to Mac OS Extended, the new file format offers improved efficiency and dependability, although it comes at a cost : APFS isn ’ thyroxine compatible with pre-High Sierra Macs, and it won ’ triiodothyronine shape with Windows or Linux machines either.

With a concenter on accelerate and dependability, it should come as no storm that APFS is exclusive to SSDs and flaunt storage devices – if you ’ ve got a standard external hard drive, you ’ ll have to opt for another choice .

Mac OS Extended

If you ’ rhenium running macOS Sierra or an earlier translation of macOS/Mac OS X, Mac OS Extended is the default option charge format. It ’ ll act nicely with your Mac, but like the above APFS, Mac OS Extended international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate compatible with Windows or Linux PCs. You can besides opt for Mac OS Extended ( Encrypted ) to password-protect the data on the drive – a great security system feature for those dealing with sensitive data and/or travelling with an external drive .


FAT32 is the go-to for some, offering cross-platform compatibility between Mac, personal computer and Linux, ideal for those that hop across different platforms on a daily basis. however, the ageing file system has a big defect : it ’ sulfur limited to a maximum of 4GB, and it ’ s prone to disk errors besides.

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ExFAT is an upgrade version of FAT32. Like its older sibling, ExFAT is compatible with Mac, personal computer and Linux, but doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate have the lapp 4GB file limit. While it ’ mho not a effective as Apple ’ second APFS, the universal support makes this the go-to for most external hard drive users .


NTFS is the default option file format for Windows PCs, and much like Apple ’ s APFS and Mac OS Extended, it ’ s only compatible with Windows machines. That being said, there ’ s no way to reformat to NTFS on a Mac ( and why would you ? ) without splashing out on third-party software. To make it clear, we recommend you stay away from NTFS if you ’ re looking to use your external hard drive on a Mac .

How to reformat an external drive on Mac

thankfully, reformatting an external drive on a Mac is a relatively straightforward summons – Apple even ships Macs with a built-in utility program to do thus. It ’ mho worth noting that reformatting a drive will erase everything stored on the driveway, so make certain you transfer crucial files before you follow the under steps.

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility. You can search for the app by accessing Spotlight (Command + Space) or by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities.
  3. Select the external drive under the External Drive subheading on the left-hand side. If you’re using more than one drive, be sure that it’s the one you want to reformat as the process is largely irreversible. 
  4. When you’re ready, hit the Erase button. 
  5. Enter the name of the drive and select the format of your choice in the Format dropdown menu. 
  6. Click Erase to reformat your drive – this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but it could vary depending on storage size and the type of drive you’re using. You’ll also be asked if you’d like to run First Aid on the drive before erasing – this is more for those with corrupted drives, so feel free to skip if you want.

You ’ ra now cook to use your external drive on your Mac ( along with Windows and Linux if you went for ExFAT ! ). For more on getting the most out of your Mac and accessories, take a look at how to use an iPad as a second screen on Mac, and how to use a PS4 or Xbox One control on a Mac besides .

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