How to Format Mac External Hard Drive

You’ve just taken your new external hard drive out of its box. You plug it into your Mac and their horror, nothing happens. Your Apple laptop doesn’t recognize it. Don’t panic. Here are all our tips for formatting an external hard drive and making it compatible on both PC and Mac.

how to format mac external hard drive

First commissioning of an external hard drive

The vast majority of commercially sold hard drives are delivered ready-to-use and do not require any tools to install them. Simply take them out of their box, plug in the power supply (if they have one) and connect them to a laptop via the USB cord provided with your storage unit.

Unfortunately, sometimes some hard drives are not recognized by Apple computers. This makes it impossible to save any files. Don’t worry, anything serious. This situation is far from hopeless. This is by no means a hardware or software issue.

Indeed, some manufacturers have made a bad habit of performing their hard drive in a Windows file format incompatible with Mac OS. To remedy this little inconvenience, you’ll just have to reformat the hard drive so that it’s recognized by your Mac.

Before you start, you should keep in mind that this process will erase all the data stored on the hard drive. If your device is not new, make sure all the files on that storage unit have been backed up to another medium.

Tutorialmac and the author of this article cannot be held responsible in the event of data loss due to formatting.

  • Open the Application folder
  • Click on the Utility folder and then Disk Utility
  • Select the icon representing your external hard drive in the left sidebar
  • Tap the Clear tab at the top of the window
  • In the Volume Format drop-down menu, select Extended Mac OS (journalized)
  • Name your external hard drive
  • Click the erase button to start the formatting process

Once the operation is complete, you can use your external hard drive to copy files or make backups using Time Machine. The extended Mac OS file format will allow you to enjoy very high reading and writing time. The only flaw is that your external hard drive will not be recognized by Windows (PC).

Make a hard drive compatible for PC and Mac

There is a solution to use an external drive or USB stick on both Windows and Mac. All you need to do is format your storage device to FAT 32. But beware, this format has some flaws.

First, files stored on the external hard drive will not be able to exceed 4GB (so it is impossible to copy movies in 1080p). In addition, the maximum size of the score is limited to 2TB. That is, even if your hard drive has a very large storage capacity, you won’t be able to use more than 2TB.

Last but not, the FAT 32 format, which appeared in 1996, offers a lower level of performance than most users expect. If you have the option, opt for the exFAT format instead. The latter is Mac and PC compatible and unlike its big brother, it is not subject to the same limitations.

The exFAT supports large volumes and its software card system makes it easier to find free space and thus increase the performance of the hard drive. The only downside, except Windows and Mac very few devices, support this file format. For example, you can’t use your external hard drive with a game console, media box, or TV.

To format your device into FAT 32, all you need to do is follow the following procedure. Keep in mind that as soon as you format an external hard drive, you automatically delete all of its contents. That’s why it’s a good time to back up all the data in your storage device.

  • Connect your hard drive to your Mac using the USB cable
  • Launch the disk utility
  • Select your storage device in the left column
  • Tap the Clear tab
  • Select the MS-DOS format from the list
  • Press the Clear button

Why invest in an external hard drive

Simple to use and inexpensive, the external hard drive is still one of the best storage solutions. These devices can be used both to extend a computer’s storage space and to keep personal data safe.

The latest generations of external hard drives offer very impressive storage capabilities. It is quite easy to find 1TB models offering excellent performance for just over 100 euros.

If you have to store a large number of images, music, videos, or movies, it’s best to opt for high-capacity (3TB) models. Indeed, it is always easier to use a single external hard drive with a large storage space than two or three different devices.

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