How to Format an External Hard Drive for Mac

Alicia Santos

Mac, Tutorials

Formatting an external hard drive for Mac can be a straightforward process if you follow the right steps. Whether you’re using a new hard drive or reformatting an existing one, this tutorial will guide you through the process. So, let’s dive in and learn how to format your external hard drive for Mac.

Step 1: Connect the External Hard Drive

The first step is to connect your external hard drive to your Mac using a USB or Thunderbolt cable. Ensure the connection is secure and the drive is properly powered on.

Step 2: Open Disk Utility

To format your external hard drive, we’ll be using Disk Utility, a built-in macOS application. You can access it by following these steps:

  1. Click on the Finder icon in your dock to open a new Finder window.
  2. In the Finder menu, click on Applications.
  3. Navigate to the Utilities folder and double-click on Disk Utility.

Step 3: Select Your External Hard Drive

In Disk Utility, you’ll see a list of drives and volumes on the left-hand side. Locate your external hard drive from this list and select it.

Note: Make sure you select the correct drive as formatting will erase all data on it.

Step 4: Erase the External Hard Drive

After selecting your external hard drive, click on the Erase button at the top of the Disk Utility window. This will open up the Erase dialog box.

In the Erase dialog box, you can specify the format and name for your external hard drive:

  • Format: Choose the appropriate file system format for your needs. For compatibility with both Mac and Windows, select ExFAT.

    If you only plan to use the drive with Mac, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

  • Name: Enter a name for your external hard drive. This is how it will appear in Finder.

Note: Formatting will erase all data on the drive, so make sure to back up any important files before proceeding.

Step 5: Start the Formatting Process

Once you’ve chosen the format and given a name to your external hard drive, click on the Erase button in the Erase dialog box to start the formatting process.

A progress bar will appear, indicating the formatting status. The time taken will depend on the size of your external hard drive.

Step 6: Complete the Formatting Process

Once Disk Utility finishes formatting your external hard drive, a confirmation message will appear. Click on Done to close the dialog box.

Congratulations! You have successfully formatted your external hard drive for Mac. It is now ready to be used with your macOS device.


  • Safely Eject: To disconnect your external hard drive safely, right-click its icon on your desktop or in Finder and select Eject.
  • Data Recovery: If you accidentally formatted an external hard drive without backing up important data, you can try using data recovery software to retrieve it.

Remember to always keep backups of your important files to avoid any potential data loss.

Formatting an external hard drive for Mac is an essential step to ensure compatibility and optimize performance. With the help of Disk Utility, you can easily format your drive and start using it with your Mac.

Now that you know how to format an external hard drive for Mac, go ahead and give it a try!

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