External drives allow for many different configurations that may work in some situations but not others. This guide will walk you through the basics of reformatting a drive and how to best format it for your setup.
Types of Formats
Formatting a Drive for Mac or Windows
Drives can be formatted in two primary different formats. NTFS and HFS+. When choosing the right format for your hard drive, it is possible that you are formatting the drive to work with one specific operating system.
- NTFS drives can be read and written to by Windows computers.
- HFS+ drives can be read and written to by Mac computers.
If you are formatting a drive to be used solely by a Windows or Mac machine, choosing a traditional NTFS or HFS+ format is ideal. These formats offer high stability and many features that keep data secure such as permissions.
Formatting a Drive for Mac and Windows
If you are interested in using a drive between both the Windows and Mac ecosystems, you may be interested in using a format known as ExFAT. ExFAT allows a drive to be read and written to in both environments but is generally seen as less stable and missing some features that both NTFS and HSF+ offer. Nevertheless, for basic file storage ExFAT is a great option.
How to Format a drive on Windows
- Connect your external drive to your Windows machine.
- Open File Explorer and navigate to This PC to see your external drive.
- Right-click on the external drive and select Format.
- Set your file system and drive name (Volume Label). Generally,
- For Windows-specific drives, choose NTFS
- For drives that work on both Mac and Windows, choose ExFAT
- Select Start to begin formatting the drive
How to format a drive on Mac
- Connect your external drive to your Mac.
- Open Finder and select the Go menu at the top of the screen.
- Select Utilities.
- Locate and open Disk Utility.
- On the left, select the partition of the drive you would like to erase.
- Select Erase.
- Name your drive and decide your format. Generally:
- For Mac specific drives, choose macOS Extended (Journaled).
- For Windows-specific drives, choose MS-DOS (FAT).
- For drives that work on both Mac and Windows, choose ExFAT.
- Select Erase to erase and format your drive.