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Want to Format An External Hard Drive for Mac and PC? Here Is What You Should Do

If you are a computer enthusiast who owns both a Mac and a Windows PC, you will find that Mac and Windows computers are compatible with different file systems, such as HFS for Mac and NTFS for Windows. Thus, if you desire to use an external hard drive on both Windows and macOS, you need to use an external hard drive whose file system can be used on both operating systems. And the most straightforward way to achieve this goal is to format your target external hard drive. 

If you are in a hopeless tangle and want to find a workable way to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC, you are coming to the right place. Here, you will learn two different ways to format your external hard drive, making it compatible with Mac and PC.

Feasible Ways to Format An External Hard Drive for Mac and PC

To sum it up, Mac uses HFS, HFS+, APFS, FAT32, and exFAT file systems, and Windows uses NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT file systems. In terms of compatibility, either FAT32 or exFAT can be regarded as the target file system in this instance, but FAT32 doesn’t support a file size larger than 4GB. 

Compared with FAT32, exFAT can work with larger files and partitions and has no maximum 4GB file size limit. Hence, exFAT can be the first choice when you plan to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC to handle large files and partitions.

Method 1 Format An External Hard Drive for Mac and PC with Disk Utility on Mac

Disk Utility is a built-in disk management tool designed for managing internal and external storage devices detected by your Mac machine. With the help of Mac Disk Utility, you can do a series of operations on your storage devices, including disk erasure, disk repair, disk partitioning, disk ejection, and disk renaming, to name a few. To erase an external hard drive for Mac and PC with Disk Utility, here is what you should do:

Step 1 Connect the external hard drive you want to format for Mac and PC to your Mac computer. 

Step 2 Click the Launchpad icon in the Dock and head to Other > Disk Utility.

Step 3 Select the external hard drive under External listed in the left sidebar and click the Erase menu from the top toolbar. 

Step 4 Give a new name to your external hard drive, select exFAT or FAT as the target format, and choose a partition scheme in the Erase dialogue. 

Step 5 Hit the Erase button situated at the lower-right corner of the Erase window to make the formatting process start and then click Done

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Method 2 Format An External Hard Drive for Mac and PC with Disk Management on Windows 

Disk Management is a system utility dedicated to helping Windows users perform advanced tasks related to storage devices. This tool makes it possible for Windows users to initialize a new drive, extend a basic volume, shrink a partition, assign a new drive letter, format a hard drive, and so forth. To erase an external hard drive for Mac and PC with Disk management, you need to take the following steps: 

Step 1 Insert the external hard drive you want to format for Mac and PC into your Windows computer. 

Step 2 Navigate to Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management. Please note that the System and Security feature is just for Windows 10, 8, and 7 operating systems. If you are using Windows Vista or Windows XP, you need to select System and Maintenance or Performance and Maintenance respectively. Alternatively, you can open the Start menu and then type diskmgmt.msc in the search box to open Disk Management in Windows.   

Step 3 Locate your external hard drive, right-click on it and then select Format from the pop-up contextual menu in the Disk Management window.  

Step 4 Set your disk information based on your preferences, including inputting a new volume label, selecting FAT32 or exFAT as the target file system from the drop-down menu, and choosing an allocation unit size. 

Step 5 Click OK to initiate drive erasure on your Windows computer.  

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Final Thoughts

Formatting an external hard drive for Mac and PC is not as difficult as you might think. You can perform external hard drive formatting using either Disk Utility or Disk Management. Apart from the aforementioned solutions, you can also make your external hard drive compatible with both macOS and Windows by creating two separate partitions (HFS+ for Mac and NTFS for Windows). 

However, no matter which method you will try, when it comes to drive formatting, data loss is inevitable because formatting a drive will wipe out all data stored on the drive. Therefore, backup your drive first and then you can begin to initiate disk formatting. If you leave data backup behind or forget to do so, you are highly advised to use versatile data recovery applications like iBoysoft Data Recovery to recover your lost files from formatted drives, be it an internal hard drive, an external hard drive, an SD card, a CF card, a USB drive, a memory stick, and more.