How To Format An External Hard Drive (APFS, AFS+, exFAT)

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An external hard drive on a Mac is a storage device that can be connected to the computer to hold files and folders. It is usually used as backup storage or to store files that are too large to fit on the computer’s internal hard drive. And it comes in different sizes, depending on how much storage space is needed. They can be connected to a Mac through a USB port, Thunderbolt port,…

External hard drives can be formatted to use the Mac’s file system (such as Samsung X5 Portable SSD 2TB), or they can be formatted to use a Windows file system so that they can be used with both Macs and PCs (such as Sabrent Rocket Nano 2TB, LaCie Mobile Drive 1TB). In this article, we’ll show you how to format an external hard drive on a Mac.

Disk Utility On Mac And File System Formats

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Disk Utility is a built-in utility on the Mac that can be used to format, partition, and manage disks. It can be found in the Utilities folder in Applications.

There are a few different file system formats that can be used on a Mac:

  • Apple File System (APFS) – This is the Apple’s newest file system format which is designed for use with solid state drives and flash storage. It is not compatible with Windows. This format is used by macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later.
  • Mac OS Extended (HFS+) – This is the most common file system format used on Macs. It can be used with both hard drives and SSDs. It is also not compatible with Windows, unless you use a third-party program. macOS 10.12 Sierra or earlier uses this file system format.
  • MS-DOS (FAT) – This is a Windows file system format that can be used on PCs only. It has a 4GB size limit for individual files, so it’s not ideal for storing large files.
  • ExFAT – This file system format can be used with both Macs and PCs. It is often used for flash drives and external hard drives that need to be compatible with both operating systems. This format is the best option if you need to transfer files between Mac and Windows computers.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Before you format an external hard drive, make sure that you have a backup of all the files that are on the drive. Once the drive is formatted, all of the data on the drive will be erased and you won’t be able to get it back.

To format an external hard drive on a Mac, connect the drive to the computer and then launch the Disk Utility application.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Once Disk Utility is open, select the drive that you want to format from the list of drives on the left side of the window.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Click on the “Erase” tab and then choose the file system that you want to format the drive to.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Click Erase again.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

Disk Utility will now format the drive and when it’s finished, you’ll be able to use it to store files.

FAQs

What Is The Best File System To Format An External Hard Drive To?

The best file system to format an external hard drive to depends on what you’re going to be using the drive for.

  • If you only need to use the drive with a Mac, then you can format it as either the Apple File System (APFS) or the Mac OS Extended (HFS+) file system. For M1 and M2 Macs, always format external drives as APFS.
  • If you need to use the drive with both Macs and PCs, then you should format it to use the exFAT file system. This is because exFAT can be read and written to by both operating systems.

What Should I Do If My External Hard Drive Is Formatted For Windows (NTFS or FAT)?

If your external hard drive is formatted for Windows with the NTFS or FAT file system, then you won’t be able to write to the drive on a Mac. You can still read files from the drive, but you won’t be able to add, delete, or modify any files on the drive.

If you need to use the drive with a Mac, you’ll need to format it to use the exFAT file system/APFS/HFS+ or use a third-party program like Paragon NTFS for Mac to read and write to the drive.

I got “Erase process has failed. Click done to continue” when I tried to format my external hard drive. How do I fix this?

If you get this error message when trying to format your external hard drive, it means that the drive is being used by a process on your computer, such as Time Machine. You need to disable any processes that are using the drive, such as Time Machine, and then try formatting the drive again.

time machine

To deactive Time Machine, open the System Preferences > Time Machine panel and turn off the Back Up Automatically option. You can also click on the Options button and then deselect the external drive that you’re trying to format.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac

More:

If you’re still having trouble formatting the drive, you can try using the Disk Utility First Aid tool to repair the drive. To do this, launch Disk Utility and select the Drive which is having the issues.

Click on the “First Aid” tab and then click on the “Repair Disk” button. Disk Utility will now scan the drive for errors and attempt to repair them.

If the First Aid tool is unable to repair the drive, you can try using a third-party disk utility like Disk Drill, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to recover the data from the drive and then format it.

Bottom Line

Formatting an external hard drive is a pretty straightforward process, but it’s important to make sure that you have a backup of all your files before you do it.

If you need to use the drive with both Macs and PCs, make sure to format it to use the exFAT file system. And if you’re having trouble formatting the drive, you can try using the Disk Utility First Aid tool or a third-party disk utility like Disk Drill.

We hope this article helped you learn how to format an external hard drive on a Mac. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

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