How to Format External Hard Drive Mac

Kyle Wood

Mac, Tutorials

Formatting an external hard drive on a Mac is a straightforward process that can help optimize its performance and ensure compatibility with Apple’s operating system. In this tutorial, we will explore the step-by-step instructions to format your external hard drive on a Mac.

Step 1: Connect the External Hard Drive
First, ensure that your external hard drive is properly connected to your Mac. You can use either a USB or Thunderbolt cable, depending on the available ports on your Mac and the type of external hard drive you have. Once connected, your Mac should detect the external hard drive automatically.

Step 2: Open Disk Utility
To format your external hard drive, you need to access the Disk Utility application on your Mac. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Finder” icon in your Dock.
  2. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click on “Go.”
  3. From the dropdown menu, select “Utilities.”
  4. In the Utilities folder, double-click on “Disk Utility” to launch it.

Step 3: Select Your External Hard Drive
In Disk Utility, you will see a list of all connected drives and volumes on the left-hand side of the window. Locate and select your external hard drive from this list. Be careful not to select any internal drives or volumes as formatting them could cause data loss.

Step 4:

Erase and Format
Once you have selected your external hard drive, click on the “Erase” tab in Disk Utility.


Enter a name for your formatted hard drive in the “Name” field. Choose a descriptive name that will help you identify the drive easily.


In the “Format” dropdown menu, select the file system format you want for your external hard drive. For maximum compatibility, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).” This format is suitable for most Mac users.


If your external hard drive has a capacity of 2TB or less, select “GUID Partition Map” from the “Scheme” dropdown menu. For drives larger than 2TB, choose “APM (Apple Partition Map).”

Security Options:

If you plan to sell or dispose of your external hard drive and want to ensure that your data is irrecoverable, click on the “Security Options” button. Here, you can choose different levels of secure erasing. Keep in mind that higher security options take longer to complete.


Once you have set the desired options, click on the “Erase” button to begin formatting your external hard drive. A confirmation dialog will appear warning you that all data on the drive will be erased. If you have not backed up any important files, do so before proceeding.

Step 5:

Wait for Formatting to Complete
Disk Utility will now format your external hard drive according to the selected options. The time required for this process depends on various factors such as drive size and selected security options.

During formatting, Disk Utility will display a progress bar indicating the status of the operation. Do not disconnect or power off your external hard drive while formatting is in progress.

Once formatting is complete, Disk Utility will display a message confirming successful formatting. Your external hard drive is now ready to use.

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