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Charles Long
Charles Long

How To Format External Hard Drive For Mac And Windows

Of course, you can format the drive for both Windows and Mac. In Windows, the best format tool I recommend is EaseUS Partition Master, and in Mac, Disk Utility is a better choice to format the drive to exFAT format for both Mac and Windows.

how to format external hard drive for mac and windows

The best file formats supported on Mac and Windows are exFAT and FAT32. If you want the drive to be compatible with Mac and PC, you will need to format the drive for both systems. And exFAT32 has a limit on file size, while exFAT supports maximum partitions and can also store files larger than 4GB.

By the above part, do you know what format works on both Mac and PC? Yes, the formats supported by both Mac and PC are FAT32 and exFAT. Then do you know how to format the drive to a common file system for both Mac and PC? I will provide two ways next.

There are several ways to format to exFAT format on Windows. One of the easiest is to take advantage of a reliable three-way tool: EaseUS Partition Master Free. This all-in-one free partition manager can easily support any format to exFAT. It is ideal for novice users. You can format drives that work on Mac and PC in just a few easy steps.

  • Right-click the external drive or USB you intend to format and choose "Format".

  • Set the Partition label, File system (NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4/exFAT), and Cluster size, then click "OK".

  • Click "Yes" to continue.

  • Click the "Execute 1 Task(s)" button and click "Apply" to format the hard drive partition.

Besides formatting drives easily, EaseUS Partition Master also can convert NTFS to FAT32 for Mac and PC or convert MBR to GPT. It can also adjust disk space or check disk. It is one of the best free disk managers. If you want to use other tools to format to exFAT on Windows, you can also choose Disk Management or File Explorer. And you can click the links below to see the exact steps.

In Mac, two ways to format drives can be used for both Mac and PC. I will introduce a simple method. Disk Utility is a tool for Mac that can change the file system or format internal and external drives. The steps are as follows.

With this guide, do you know what format works on Mac and PC? Both FAT32 and exFAT are good choices. FAT32 is outstanding in compatibility, but it is limited to 4GB of files. While exFAT supports partitions larger than 2TB and 4GB files. Moreover, formatting compatible drives for Mac and PC is not a difficult task. You can do it with EaseUS Partition Master on PC or use Disk Utility to format on Mac.

In Disk Utility, you can format an external disk that you can use with both a Microsoft Windows-based computer and a Mac. For example, you might want to do this if you use a flash drive to store data files you need to use on your Mac at home and when using a Windows-based computer at school or the public library.

Want to use one external drive for both your Windows PC and your Mac machine? One hurdle you'll face is that, by default, these platforms use different filesystems. Windows uses NTFS while Mac OS uses HFS, and they're incompatible with each other. However, you can format the drive to work with both Windows and Mac by using the exFAT filesystem. Here's how.

You can format the drive from either Mac or Windows. However, if you want to use part of the drive for OS X's Time Machine backups, you should do this from the Mac, since there's an extra step to make the drive compatible for Time Machine.

5. Give the drive a descriptive name and leave the default settings: OS X Extended format and GUID partition map. These will format the drive in OS X's HFS+ filetype so it will be compatible with Time Machine.

Your exFAT-formatted drive or partition can now be used for both Windows and Mac. Note that using a drive frequently between Windows and Mac could increase the chances of file corruption, so make sure you have backups of the files on the shared drive and be extra careful about safely ejecting the drive before disconnecting it from your computer.

2. Open the Disk Management tool. You can do that by typing "disk format" or "disk management" in Windows search or going to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions.

Though the default hard disk file systems (also known as format) of Windows and Mac are different, there should be some ways to format an external hard drive to make it compatible with your Mac or PC.

If you need to use an external hard drive on Mac that is not completely compatible with your computer OS and you have the urge to format hard drive for Mac and PC, you should know there is a more feasible way to make your external hard drives compatible with your Mac and PC. This method suits you most if you just want to use it occasionally on different OS or don't want to lose all the files caused by formatting drive for Mac and PC.

Usually, most hard drive manufacturers use the NTFS(New Technology File System) to format their external HDD as a factory standard, including many famous brands such as Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch and WD My Passport. This is because Windows is the most commonly used around the world. However, the NTFS format can be a hassle for users who need to use the same external hard drive on both Mac and Windows. Because you can read NTFS drive on Mac only and you can't write to this drive normally in this case.

Under such a circumstance, a professional NTFS driver for Mac like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is exactly what you need. Even if the external hard drive is read-only on Mac, this iBoysoft tool enables you to write to NTFS drives on the Mac with ease. Now, it also supports macOS Ventura to High Sierra, Mac with M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and M2 chips. Here is an easy tutorial to follow:

If there are no important files kept on the drive, you can move on to know how to format external hard drive for Mac and PC, choose a file format that works on either Mac, PC, or both.

To format a Mac external hard drive to store data, you'll need to launch the Disk Utility app, the built-in disk management tool. If you encounter seeing the external hard drive greyed out in Disk Utility on Mac or the external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility, fix the problems in the first place. Then, you can proceed to choose the best file format for your external disk when erasing it in the Disk Utility app.

Among all the 10 formats (file systems) you can select in macOS 10.13 or above the APFS is the suggested one, because it has the most recent features to work with the best performance and data management. However, it is only compatible with macOS. If your goal is to format drive for Mac and PC, you have to choose FAT or exFAT, compatible file formats for Mac and Windows. And finally, all the other file formats are only used for Mac.

1. Find the target external hard drive in Disk Management and check if it's already initialized, if it's not, click on it using the right button of the mouse and choose the style (scheme) you are going to use, MBR or GPT, then right-click on it, and choose Format from the contextual menu.

2. Then set the disk information in the Format Partition screen, including allocation unit size, volume label, and format. If you want an interchangeable drive to use on both macOS and Windows, you must choose FAT or exFAT, the format works on Mac and PC.

The file system is what manages how your files are stored and retrieved on your devices. So, every hard disk needs a proper file system, including desktop drives and portable storage devices like external drives, USB flash drives, and sd cards.

However, different formats have different advantages and disadvantages. So before you know how to format a hard drive for Mac and PC, you should know the pros and cons of each file system.

exFAT(Extensible File Allocation Table) is a modern derivative of the FAT file system (FAT32) and for this reason also a good option for external hard drives (e.g. Seagate Backup Plus Slim), especially for large-capacity removable storage devices. It also is frequently used in flash memory drives such as USB flash drives and SD cards. exFAT is easily often implemented in the firmware that has low memory and low power requirements, such as cameras, mobile phones, media players, etc.

NTFS is a proprietary journaling format developed by Microsoft. It is used as the default file system of Windows system hard drive (e.g. Windows 10). NTFS does well in data security based on its encryption, access permission control, and log file.

HFS (Hierarchical File System) Plus or HFS+ is a journaling format developed by Apple Inc. It's the startup disk's default file system in OS before macOS High Sierra. It is also frequently used as Time Machine backup external drive.

If you want to use the same disk on both Mac and Windows computers, you need to choose a format compatible with Mac and Windows, be it the FAT32 or the exFAT. But if you prefer to use the external drive on only one of the operating systems, you can choose APFS (Apple file system) for Mac and NTFS for Windows to work to the utmost extent. To enjoy the features of NTFS on Mac or APFS on Windows, you need the help of a third-party program.

Instead of having the whole external drive formatted, you can also partition a Mac hard drive into two partitions to make the disk work on Mac and PC. One is formatted with a macOS-supported file system, another with a Windows-supported file system conversely. By this means, you can use all the advantages each format has on the respective system with the same drive.

If the drive is not initialized, you need to initialize the external hard drive with Master Boot Record (MBR). Then you can create two new partitions. You need to format one of them as NTFS for Windows and format the other as your wish.


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