How to format an external hard drive

There are many reasons for you to format external hard drive in Windows 10. This article will introduce you to different methods to format external hard drive to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT in Windows 10/8/7.

How to format an external hard drive

By Emily How to format an external hard drive / Last Updated March 10, 2022

Need to format external hard drive in Windows 10

There are many reasons that you need to format your external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7. For example, you may need to format partitions to perform a clean installation of Windows system, get rid of a virus or malware, delete files from the external hard drive to re-use it, etc. Besides, when the current file system of your external hard drive is not compatible with some device, you will also need to reformat it to another different file system. No matter what is your reason, the most important thing is learning how to do it.

How to format an external hard drive in Windows 10? [2 ways]

Actually, to format external hard drive for Windows 10, you can format it to NTFS or FAT32. The Windows built-in tool Disk Management and Diskpart can help you. Next are stepwise guides on the 2 methods.

*** The operation formatting will delete all data on the hard drive. If there is any important data on the hard drive, please make sure it has been backed up beforehand.

Method 1. Format external hard drive to NTFS or FAT32 on Windows 10 with Disk Management

Windows 10 Disk Management tool is a native partition manager that can help you solve your basic disk partition problem like extend partition, shrink partition, create partition, format partition, etc. To format external hard drive, do as below:

1. Connect your external hard drive to your Windows 10 PC. Right-click This PC on the desktop. Choose Management-> Disk Management.

2. All your hard drives will be displayed here. Right-click the external hard drive or partition, choose “Format. “.

How to format an external hard drive

3. When it pops up the format window, you can select the file system and set the cluster size according to your requirements.

How to format an external hard drive

4. Finally, Click “OK” to format the drive.

Method 2. Format external hard drive to NTFS or FAT32 with command prompt

Some users, especially those who have grasped enough computer knowledge, would like to format external hard drive in Windows 10 with command prompt. Do as follow:

1. Press “Win + X”, select “Command Prompt (Admin)”.

2. In the command prompt, type “diskpart” and press Enter to get into Diskpart command prompt.

3. Type “list volume”, press Enter, it will display all volumes on the computer.

4. Type “select volume n” (the partition on the external hard drive), press Enter.

5. The, type “format fs=ntfs quick”, press Enter, the volume will be format as NTFS.

*You can replace “ntfs” with “fat32” or other file system.

Cannot format external hard drive in Windows 10 – What to do?

Generally speaking, you can successfully format your external hard drive via the above 2 methods. However, they may let you down in some special situations:

1. The external hard drive is over 32GB, and you are trying to format it to the FAT32 file system. That’s because Windows native tools can only format a hard drive smaller than 32GB to FAT32. In this situation, you will find there is no FAT32 option to select in Disk Management, and meet the error message “the volume is too big for FAT32” in DiskPart.
2. When the external hard drive file system is damaged or corrupted for some reasons, you cannot format it, either. Meanwhile, you might receive the error messageпјљWindows was unable to complete the format.
3. If the external hard drive is write-protected due to write protection switch, read-only attribute, wrong registry value, etc, you have to remove write protection from the drive before successfully formatting it.

In those cases, you can turn to a third-party free partition manager named AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. It can easily format a large hard drive (2TB at most) to FAT32 file system, and reformat external hard drive with damaged file systems. Most importantly, it can help you format external hard drive into NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, Ext3, Ext4, exFAT, etc.

Step 1. Connect your external hard drive into your computer. Free Download AOMEI Partition Assistant. Install it to your Windows based computer.

Step 2. Launch this software. It will display you the basic situation of your hard drives. Select the external hard drive and right-click it. Choose “Format Partition” in the drop-down menu.

How to format an external hard drive

Step 3. It will pop-up a small window that you can choose to format the external hard drive to any file system you would like and change cluster size.

How to format an external hard drive

Step 4. After that, click “Apply” to execute the progress.

How to format an external hard drive

Summary

So, to format external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7, you can make use of Disk Management, DiskPart, and AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. The recommended free partition software also provides many other useful features such as move partition, wipe partition, clone partition, merge partitions, clone hard disk, transfer OS to SSD, etc. If you need more advanced features like wipe system hard drive, secure erase SSD, allocate free space and so on, you can upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional.

While most external hard drives are already designed to work for Windows computers, there are times when you need to reformat one. You might want a drive that works with Macs and PCs, or maybe you want to partition it, which will split it up into two different formats. Here’s how to format an external hard drive for Windows 10 or partition it.

How to Format a Hard Drive for Windows 10

Note: Formatting your drive will erase all the existing files on it. So if your external hard drive already has important files on it, make sure to back them up before proceeding.

    Connect your external hard drive to a Windows computer. If your external hard drive is working, your computer will automatically detect it, and the drive will appear under Devices and Drives next to your internal drives in the This PC window. You can also find it in the left sidebar of File Explorer.

Note: If you already used your external hard drive on a PC, be sure to back up any files on it. Formatting your drive will wipe out all the data in it.

  • Right-click on the external hard drive and click Format. How to format an external hard drive
  • Choose a format under File System. By default, Windows computers will choose NTFS (New Technology File System) for you because that’s the native Microsoft filing system. But if you want the external hard drive to also work on a Mac, you should choose exFAT. How to format an external hard drive

    Note: The exFAT file system only works on Mac 10.6.5 or later, and Windows XP SP3 or later.

  • Check the Quick Format box, and click Start. Depending on the size of the drive, and if there are files to be deleted in it, this can take a few to several minutes to finish.
  • Click OK when the Format Complete pop-up screen appears.
  • Now you have a hard drive formatted for Windows, but what if you wanted to use it with Mac computers also? One easy way to have a hard drive that works with Mac and Windows is by partitioning it. This means you’re splitting the drive into two formats, one for Mac and one for PC. Here’s how to do that:

    How to format an external hard drive

    How to Partition an External Drive in Windows 10

    1. Open the Windows search box, type “diskmgmt.msc,” and hit enter. The Windows Search Box is the magnifying button icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen. How to format an external hard drive
    2. Right-click on your external hard drive and select Shrink Volume. If this option is not available to you, reformat the drive to NTFS and try again. How to format an external hard drive
    3. Enter an amount of space that you want to shrink your volume by. The remaining space will be displayed in megabytes. How to format an external hard drive
    4. Then click Shrink. This will split the hard drive, with one part becoming unallocated space.
    5. Right-click the unallocated space on your drive and select New Simple Volume. How to format an external hard drive
    6. Click Next. How to format an external hard drive
    7. Then indicate how big you want the partition to be. If you want to use the rest of the space, enter the maximum disk space indicated above it. Then click Next. How to format an external hard drive
    8. Next, choose what drive letter you want to use. Letters that have already been assigned to other drives will not be on this list, so don’t worry if there are missing letters. Just choose among the drive letters still available. How to format an external hard drive
    9. Go to File System and choose a format. Windows will choose NTFS for you because that’s Microsoft’s native filing system. But if you want the external hard drive to also work on a Mac, you should choose exFAT, which is an upgraded version of FAT32.

    Note: The exFAT file system only works on Mac 10.6.5 or later, and Windows XP SP3 or later.

  • Check the Quick Format box, and click Next. How to format an external hard drive
  • Finally, click Finish. If a pop-up appears telling you to format the disk, click Format Disk. After that, the newly formatted disk will open automatically.
  • How to format an external hard drive

    Partitioning your external hard drive will enable you to perform tasks in one section without affecting the rest of the drive. If you want to know how to format a hard drive for Mac, check out our previous article here.

    Most external hard drives are designed to work for Windows computers. So if you’re trying to connect an external hard drive to a Mac, you might have to format the drive before you can use it. Here’s how to do that:

    How to Format a Hard Drive for Mac

    Note: If you already used your external hard drive on a PC, be sure to back up any files on it. Formatting your drive will wipe out all the data in it.

    1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. Some external hard drives need to be plugged into an outlet to work.
    2. Go to Spotlight Search, type in Disk Utility, and click the first option. This will open the Disk Utility app, where you will find all the internal and external drives that are connected to your Mac. How to format an external hard drive
    3. Then click View in the top-left corner of the window and select Show All Devices. How to format an external hard drive
    4. Click the external hard drive you want to format. You can find this on the left-hand side of the screen under External Hard Drives. For the best result, select the disk (the highest option in the external tree).
    5. On the top menu, click Erase. This will open a small pop-up window with a warning that erasing the drive will delete all data stored on it and that it can’t be undone.
    6. Choose a name, format, and scheme for your drive. You can choose whatever name you want, and you should choose GUID Partition Map for the Scheme in most cases. However, you can choose between the following formats:
      • Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is the best option for most Mac users since it is compatible with all Macs.
      • APFS (Apple File System) is only for newer Macs running macOS 10.13 or later.
      • exFAT is compatible with both PC and Mac.
      • MS-DOS (FAT) is also compatible with Mac and PC, but you can only transfer files smaller than 4GB. How to format an external hard drive
    7. When you’re done with providing the setup details, click Erase. This will immediately wipe the entire drive.

    If you get an error message that states, “Erase process has failed. Click done to continue,” don’t freak out about it. This is an issue caused by Time Machine running on your external drive.

    You will need to turn off Time Machine. You can do this by opening System Preferences and unchecking the box next to “Back Up Automatically”. Then click Options beside “Show Time Machine in menu bar.” This will open another window. Click Cancel and it will turn off the Time Machine.

    After you turn off the Time Machine, redo steps 4 to 6.

    How to format an external hard drive

    How to Partition an External Hard Drive on Mac

    If you have formatted your drive, you can then partition the drive, which will split the drive into two formats. This is perfect for anyone who uses Macs and PCs and wants to transfer files between the different operating systems with an external drive. Here’s how to do that:

    1. Open Disk Utility and select the drive that you want to partition. It is best to click View > Show All Devices so you can select the disk rather than a container.
    2. In the top menu, select Partition.
    3. Then click the plus sign at the bottom of the pie chart. Every time you click this plus sign, a new partition will be created.
    4. Choose a name, format and size for each partition. You can also change the size of each of the partitions by dragging the white dots at the edge of the circle.
    5. Finally click Apply.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Why Partition a Hard Drive?

    Partitioning an external hard drive allows you to have separate drives for Mac, PC, and any other operating system. Now you don’t have to go out and buy hard drives for every computer you use.

    A partition also gives you a dedicated space for your Time Machine back-up files or a bootable backup of your operating system. It also helps protect your data if your drive gets infected with malware, as it would be contained within one of the partitions.

    Now that you know how to format an external drive for Mac, check out our blog on the difference between an HDD and an SDD.

    Follow the Windows 11/10 FAT32 format tutorial to format HDD to FAT32 or format an external hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 11/10. You can apply either the Windows CMD or the third-party partition manager to format FAT32 in Windows 11/10 even when there is no FAT32 option in Windows 11/10 File Explorer or Disk Management.

    Why Do You Format External Hard to FAT32

    • File System Name: File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32)
    • Description: The oldest file system among the popular three (FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS); Commonly used on removable storage drives and external HDDs.
    • Advantages: Great compatibility with all kinds of storage devices; both Windows OS and macOS can read a FAT32 device.
    • Disadvantages: Support maximum individual file size is no more than 4GB; Windows offers no FAT32 option for an external hard drive over 32GB.

    It is no doubt that you want to make full use of your external hard drive. Why do I say it like this? Because each operating system reads a specific file system. If you got an NTFS hard drive, then you can only apply it in a Windows computer other than in a Mac. However, the thing turns entirely different if you got a FAT32 external storage drive, either Windows OS or Mac OS X would easily recognize it.

    In addition, PlayStation console players should know that the format of an external USB drive has to be FAT32, too. To add an external USB drive to the console, they have to format PS hard drive to FAT32. So in any case where the FAT32 file system is required, you can apply command prompt or EaseUS partition manager software in the following to format the external hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 11/10/8/7 at once.

    Windows 11/10/8/7 100% Secure

    #1. Format HDD to FAT32 in Windows 11/10 with Command Prompt

    By learning the FAT32 disadvantages, you should know that Windows File Explorer and Windows Disk Management cannot format FAT32 on an external HDD, of which the partition size is larger than 32GB. When your hard drive partition’s capacity is more than 32GB, you won’t see a FAT32 option in the drop-down list in both native programs. Hence, to provide you with an all-around solution to format FAT32 in Windows 11/10, you need some alternative disk formatting tools to break the 32GB limit and format any-size external hard drive or USB flash drive to FAT32 without a hitch.

    Windows Command Prompt is a comprehensive computer troubleshooting program for most Windows issues. If you are reluctant to download any third-party software, try to start formatting the disk via Command Prompt.

    Guide: How to Format FAT32 Using CMD

    Step 1. Plug-in your external hard drive to your computer. Search for Command Prompt in Windows Search, right-click on it, and select Run as administrator.

    Step 2. Type diskpart into the Command Prompt window and hit Enter.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 3. Type list disk and hit Enter. Note down the number of your external hard drive.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 4. Type select disk N and hit Enter. You should replace N with your exact external hard drive number.

    Step 5. Go on typing each of the following commands and press Enter after each line.

    create partition primary
    select partition 1
    active
    format fs=fat32
    assign
    exit

    Your hard drive should now be formatted to FAT32. You can check the modified file system in Windows Disk Management (Navigate to This PC > Manage > Disk Management).

    #2. Format HDD to FAT32 in Windows 11/10 with Partition Manager

    If you’re afraid of making a mess by using the command prompt, try this more straightforward method. EaseUS free partition manager is a third-party HDD format utility that can help format an external hard drive, USB drive, SD card, and any other removable storage device to FAT32 easily and quickly, which should be the primary choice for average computer users. Connect your storage device to your computer correctly and learn how to format the external hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 11/10 with EaseUS Partition Master from the steps below.

    Windows 11/10/8/7 100% Secure

    Guide: How to Format FAT32 Using FAT32 Formatter

    Step 1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master, right-click the partition you intend to format and choose “Format”.

    Step 2. In the new window, enter the Partition label, choose the FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4 file system, and set the cluster size according to your needs, then click “OK”.

    Step 3. Then you will see a warning window, click “OK” in it to continue.

    Step 4. Click the “Execute Operation” button in the top-left corner to review the changes, then click “Apply” to start formatting the partition to FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4.

    EaseUS FAT32 Format vs. Comand Prompt

    As you see, EaseUS Partition Master combines the highlights of both Windows command lines and Windows Disk Management.

    • Be able to format any drive to FAT32, as well as other popular file formats (NTFS, EXT2, EXT3. )
    • Offer graphic interface and even more logical and informative disk info, like the file system, capacity, partition table, etc.

    In contrast, the third-party free partition manager empowers customers to effortlessly handle more disk and partition management jobs, and those standalone functions are much more intelligent and practical than others.

    • Directly convert FAT32 to NTFS without formatting
    • Resize external hard drive partitions, merge partitions or check partition errors.
    • Migrate OS to HDD/SSD without reinstalling
    • Partition a hard drive in Windows 11/10/8/7.

    All in all, there are so many attainable yet useful features waiting for you to explorer. Compared with the CMD which requires somewhat high-level computer skills, EaseUS Partition Master shall be the second-to-none choice to efficiently manage a hard disk drive or any removable storage drive on your PC!

    Format FAT32 Windows 11/10 FAQs

    1. Are FAT32 and exFAT the same?

    FAT32 is compatible with more very old operating systems. However, FAT32 has limits on single file size and partition size, while exFAT does not. Compared with FAT32, exFAT is an optimized FAT32 file system that can be widely used for removable devices of large capacity.

    2. Can a 64gb USB drive be formatted to FAT32?

    EaseUS Partition Master is a free FAT32 formatter tool that breaks the limitation of 32GB, enabling your to format 64GB, 128GB or larger USB drive with the FAT32 file system.

    3. Can you format a 500gb – 4tb hard drive to FAT32?

    If you want FAT32 on a 500gb to 4tb hard drive which we do not recommend you, you can still try this way to make it. First, download EaseUS Partition Master, first convert MBR to GPT on data disks without data loss, and then format it as FAT32.

    Benefits of Formatting a Hard Drive

    When the hard drive storage becomes full, it takes longer to read and write data. Therefore, formatting the hard drive will improve and speed up your hard drive’s performance. It also removes junk files, which means after formatting the hard drive, a user can utilize the free space used by the junk files. Moreover, viruses are also eliminated from your hard drive as the virus in the drive data is wiped out when the drive is formatted.

    Hard Drive File System in Windows

    Choose New Technology File System (NTFS) if you want to utilize your drive for creating file history backups. NTFS is a file system that comes as a standard file system in Windows. It offers much larger file and partition size limits, making it a better choice than other file systems. Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) is the best choice for transferring files larger than 4 GB between Windows systems, but it is not associated with file history. This file system allows you to have large backup files, such as movies.

    This article will show you how to format your external hard drive on Windows using two different methods.

    Method 1: Format External Hard Drive on Windows Using the Disk Management Tool

    The Disk Management utility is used to correctly format or partition any hard drive attached to your Windows system. Before formatting a hard drive, check the user manual to see whether it has any firmware, additional drivers, or format wizards. Now, we will check out the method of formatting an external drive using the Disk Management Tool. To do so, follow the instructions provided below:

    Step 1: Search out “Create and format hard disk partitions” in the Windows search box:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 2: Make sure you select the correct drive when formatting or reformatting an external hard drive in Windows. If you are unsure, you can check the available space under Disk Management’s Capacity section. Choose your external hard drive and select the “Format” option by opening its file menu:

    How to format an external hard drive

    A “Quick Format” clears the partition table on your external hard drive, which permits new data to be written without hindrance. The advantage of using a quick format is what its name implies; its formatting process is “Quick” compared to other alternatives. You can execute a quick format on the NTFS or exFAT file systems in Windows.

    Step 3: Select the file system as “NTFS” and click the “Perform a quick format” option:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 4: After following the previous instruction, click on the “OK” option to proceed with the formatting process:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 5: Your external hard drive should be formatted by completing the previous step. To confirm this, right-click on your external hard drive and click on the “Properties” option from the menu:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Here, you can see the general details about your external hard drive, including used and free space. Check out the free space:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Method 2: Format External Hard Drive on Windows Using the File Menu

    Another quick and straightforward method of formatting your external hard drive is to utilize its file menu. The following procedure will practically demonstrate this method to you:

    Step 1: First of all, right-click on your external hard drive and select the “Format” option from its file menu:

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 2: Set “NTFS” as your external hard drive file system, and in the format option, check the “Quick Format” option box. After that, click the “Start” button to begin the formatting process of the hard drive:

    How to format an external hard drive

    The following image shows that we have successfully formatted our external hard drive on Windows. Now it’s your turn to follow the steps!

    How to format an external hard drive

    Conclusion

    Formatting your external hard drive is essential, especially when you have sensitive data in it. When someone purchased a secondhand hard drive, the first thing that person should do is format the hard drive. The same reminder is applicable while selling an external hard drive. This article shows how to format your external hard drive on Windows using the Disk Management tool and File menu of the hard drive. Both of these methods are relatively simple, but the Disk Management tool shows the complete details of your external hard drive before proceeding with the format processing.

    About the author

    How to format an external hard drive

    Talha Saif Malik

    Talha is a contributor at Linux Hint with a vision to bring value and do useful things for the world. He loves to read, write and speak about Linux, Data, Computers and Technology.

    External hard drives are great for storing files you don’t use frequently. Since many external drives are designed to work with Windows, there’s nothing more frustrating than finding out that your drive and your Mac are incompatible.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Fortunately, by formatting your external hard drive, you can use it to save your Mac files.

    Read on to learn how to format or partition your external hard drive for Mac.

    How to Format an External Hard Drive for a Mac

    Follow these steps to format your external hard drive using the “Disk Utility” feature:

    Note: This process will remove any files you currently have on the drive. Be sure to save the files you want to keep elsewhere before starting.

    1. If you’re using a MacBook to format the drive, ensure it’s either fully charged or connected to a power supply to ensure it doesn’t turn off in the middle of the process. Plug your external hard drive into your Mac.
    2. Once connected, a drive icon should appear on your desktop. If it doesn’t, try opening “Finder.” Then choose “Preferences.”
      How to format an external hard drive
    3. Select the “General” tab, then check that the “External Drive” checkbox is checked.
      How to format an external hard drive
    4. From the “Finder” window, select the “Applications” folder from the left pane.
      How to format an external hard drive
    5. Choose “Utilities” then “Disk Utility.”
      How to format an external hard drive
    6. In the pop-up on the left, your external hard drive should appear in the list under your Mac’s internal drive, under the “External” heading.
      How to format an external hard drive
    7. Click on the first level of your external drive. Be sure not to select your external drive’s lower level, as this will cause formatting problems. To be sure you’ve set the top level, click the right-pointing arrow on the left of the drive icon.
      How to format an external hard drive
    8. At the top of the pop-up window, select “Erase.” Then proceed to fill in your external hard drive details.
      How to format an external hard drive
    9. Add a name for your hard drive, then set its format:
      • For a Solid-State Drive, choose “APFS (Apple File System).” This option might not be available if you haven’t formatted the drive before, so choose another one, then reformat it into APFS if needed.
      • For compatibility between newer and older Macs, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).”
        How to format an external hard drive
      • To use the drive with both Mac and Windows, select “ExFAT.”
        How to format an external hard drive
    10. At the “Scheme” option, choose “GUID Partition Map.”
      How to format an external hard drive
    11. Now select the “Erase” button and wait a few minutes as your hard drive formats.
      How to format an external hard drive

    How to Partition an External Hard Drive on a Mac

    By partitioning your external hard drive, you can have separate drives for Mac, PC, and other operating systems. A partition offers dedicated space for a bootable backup of your OS or your Time Machine backup files. It will also help protect your drive if it’s infected with malware since it would be contained in one partition section.

    Once your drive has been formatted (see the steps above), you can partition it into two formats. This is ideal if you use a Mac and PC and want to transfer files between both operating systems via your external hard drive. Follow these steps to do so:

    1. With your external hard drive plugged into your Mac, access “Disk Utility.”
      How to format an external hard drive
    2. Select your external hard drive, then choose “Partition” from the top menu.
      How to format an external hard drive
    3. To create a partition, at the bottom of the pie chart, click the plus (+) sign.
      How to format an external hard drive
    4. Select a name, format, and size for each partition. You can also drag the white dots at the edge of the circles to change the size of each partition.
      How to format an external hard drive
    5. Click “Apply.”
      How to format an external hard drive

    Additional FAQs

    What Is the Best Format for a Mac External Hard Drive?

    If you want to use your external hard drive with Mac and Windows computers, the best format to use is the exFAT. Using exFAT, you can store files of any size and use them with computers made in the last 20 years.

    However, if your external hard drive is for use with Macs only, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) would be the best option since it’s compatible with all Macs.

    What Is the Difference Between Mac OS Extended and Mac OS Extended Journaled?

    “Mac OS Extended” uses the Mac format, needs a password, and encrypts the partitioned disk. “Mac OS Extended Journaled” uses the Mac format and has case-sensitive folder names. For example, “Mac Files” and “MAC FILES” would be two separate folders.

    Formatting Your External Hard Drive Isn’t Hard

    External hard drives provide the additional space you need to store your digital content when your computer begins to fill up. Although there are plenty of cloud-based storage solutions, keeping your data this way is more reliable and ensures that you maintain ownership.

    Many external hard drives are designed for Windows. Luckily, using the “Disk Utility” feature on your Mac, you can format your drive to not only work with new and older Macs but to work with Windows too.

    What format type did you use? Tell us what you’ll use your drive for in the comments section below!

    Free data recovery, partition manager and backup software

    How to format an external hard drive

    Updated on May 13th, 2021

    This article shows you how to format an external hard drive via different methods, and you can follow these methods to format external hard drive for PC, Mac or Linux.

    External hard drive is popular storage device and it can be used to store all kinds of digital information such as images, documents, apps, emails, etc. You can connect external hard drive to computer via USB cable and then transfer data with internal hard drive. Regardless of the brand or model, the first thing you may need to do after purchasing an external hard drive might be partitioning and formatting it.

    Formatting external disk can be done via various methods and it can be formatted to a range of file system so that you can use the disk under different operating system platforms. The formatting process removes all data on the partition and thus causes data loss. You should create a backup for important data before formatting if the disk contains significant files.

    A brand-new external hard drive is usually partitioned into s single partition with NTFS file system. Still many users would like to format the external hard drives and people do that due to various reasons:

    • Format external hard drive to required file system. The brand-new disk you purchase might not be formatted to the file system type you need. To change file system type, formatting should be done.
    • To quickly remove content from external hard drive. Quick formatting is able to format a partition within seconds, and all data on the volume will be deleted. This is a good solution to delete data and free up disk space.
    • To optimization performance for disk. Formatting can clear data fragmentation quickly and easily.
    • Remove virus or malware. Since external hard drive might be used on many computers, it tends to infect virus. Many users would format it to clear virus and avoid more damages.
    • To fix file system errors. Sometimes external hard drive may become RAW or reports errors like “The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable”, you can fix these errors by formatting the volume after file recovery.

    Step 1: Connect your external hard drive with your computer and open Windows Explorer to check if it can be recognized.

    Note: if you have stored data to the drive, please back it up before formatting the disk.

    Step 2: Right-click on the external hard disk and select “Format” option from context menu.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 3: On the formatting window, select Quick Format option, choose file system format, and click Start. Also you can enter a name for the drive under Volume Label.

    Step 4: System prompts formatting removes all data and asks confirmation for the action. Click OK and formatting starts.

    How to format an external hard drive

    This method formats external hard drive using Windows built-in utility Disk Management. If your external hard drive does not show up in Windows Explorer, you can follow this instruction to complete the formatting.

    Step 1: Access Windows 10 Disk Management by right-clicking Start menu and selecting “Disk Management” item from the list.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 2: Locate the external hard drive in Disk Management and check its status.

    If there is not partition on the disk or the disk is marked with Not Initialized, you cannot format it directly.

    The next step assumes the external hard drive is full of unallocated space and shows how to format it.

    Step 3: Right-click on unallocated disk space and select New Simple Volume from the context menu.

    Step 4: You can see the “Welcome to the New Simple Volume Wizard” now. Click Next button to proceed.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 5: The wizard will ask you to select set partition size, drive letter, file system, format method, etc. step by step. You can follow suggested option to complete the process.

    Want to use external hard drive under both Windows PC and Mac? In this case, you should consider the hurdle that these operating systems support different filesystems. The default file system in Windows is NTFS, while Mac OS users HFS. The filesystem that is compatible with Windows and Mac is exFAT and FAT32.

    exFAT VS FAT32, which one should be chosen for Max and PC? It is recommended to use exFAT by many experts, because FAT32 has a maximum 4GB file size limit and exFAT does not has such limitation, and exFAT also performs better than FAT32. FAT32 is also a good choice if you do not store files whose single size does not exceed 4GB.

    FAT32 and exFAT file system is supported by Windows though, they are originally designed for removable storage devices like USB flash drive, SD card. When you try to format an external hard drive which has very large capacity in Windows, FAT32 or exFAT may not be available. Also, some users may encounter error “The volume is too big for FAT32”. In this section, we’ll use a free Windows partition manager to complete the formatting task.

    Eassos PartitionGuru is free Windows partition manager and it supports various file systems such as FAT32, NTFS, exFAT, Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, etc. and the formatting process is very simple.

    Step 1: Install and launch Eassos PartitionGuru from your computer and find the external disk you want to format.

    Step 2: Right-click on the partition to be formatted and select “Format Current Partition” option from context menu.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 3: Select Filesystem type from the drop-down list and click Format button.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 4: Click Yes button when Eassos PartitionGuru asks confirmation for the operation.

    This part of this guide applies to format external or portable hard drive to Ext2, Ext3 or Ext4 file system under Windows 10/8/7, so that the drive can be used under Linux.

    Step 1: Connect the portable drive to computer and launch Eassos PartitionGuru. Then you can see the drive is displayed in the software.

    Step 2: Select the partition you want to format to Linux file system, and click “Format” button from toolbar.

    Step 3: The Format window pops up and you can select Linux filesystem from Ext4, Ext3 and Ext3 from drop-down list. Then click Format button.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 4: Click Yes button to continue and formatting will be completed within a couple of seconds.

    How to format an external hard driveIf you want to insure full Mac compatibility of a new external hard drive or flash disk, you’ll want to format the drive to the Mac OS Extended filesystem. This is particularly necessary for purchases of generic PC drives, which almost always come preformatted to be Windows compatible rather than for Mac OS X.

    Yes, connecting an external hard drive or USB flash key to a Mac will generally read and work fine as is because the Mac can easily read other filesystem formats, including Windows MSDOS, FAT, FAT32, ExFat, and NTFS formats, but unless you intend on using the drive between a Windows and Mac machine, formatting it to be entirely Mac compatible filesystem is highly recommended, and necessary for Time Machine and to make disks bootable.

    If you have never formatted a drive before on the Mac, don’t worry, it’s super easy and we’ll walk you through the entire process.

    How to Format an External Drive for Mac Compatibility

    This is a simple procedure and is achieved the same way for all drive types and through all connections, be they USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt. Formatting a drive will erase all data and partitions on the disk:

    1. Connect the hard drive or USB key to the Mac
    2. Launch Disk Utility, located in Applications > Utilities
    3. Locate the drive name from the left hand side of Disk Utility and click on it
    4. Click on the “Erase” tab across the top

    How to format an external hard drive

    Next to “Format:” click the contextual menu and select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”

    How to format an external hard drive

  • Name the drive if you want, the name can be changed at any point
  • Click the “Erase” button and confirm again on the next pop-up window, this will erase all data on the drive and format it to be compatible
  • How to format an external hard drive

    That’s all there is to it, the drive will now format and erase everything on it.

    Smaller external hard drives, SSD’s, and USB flash keys format quickly, while a larger hard drive may take a while longer. When completed, the drive will be formatted to the Mac OS X compatible HFS+ filesystem.

    The videos below demonstrate the complete process of formatting an external hard drive for full Mac OS X compatibility, this uses the new Disk Utility in modern versions of Mac OS X:

    Similarly, you can perform the same type of process in Mac OS X for making a USB flash drive compatible with Mac OS using the Disk Utility in Mac OS X, as you can see, it’s a quick procedure that is done in short order on any Mac:

    Should you intend to make an Mac OS installer drive (for OS X Mavericks, OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite, etc) or create any other bootable Mac OS X volume from a drive, or use a new drive as a fully compatible Time Machine backup drive, you will also need to complete this process.

    The process of formatting a drive to be compatible with Windows PC and Mac OS X requires a different format choice, but is otherwise quite similar.

    Guest

    Guest

    How can format WD 500GB External Hard disd drive that is not visible at my computer. The disk simply shows at the task bar, it cannot be read, the green light also shows on the disk.

    I need to format the drive. how do I do that since it’s not visible.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Hawkeye22

    Glorious

    How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive

    Guest

    Guest

    How to format an external hard drive

    sminlal

    Splendid

    How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive

    Use “Start -> right-click “Computer” -> click “Disk Management” in the left pane.

    Look at the BOTTOM portion of the middle pane in Disk Management – you may have to scroll down to see the disks. Right-click on the new disk to create a volume and format it. Once this has been done the drive will be assigned a drive letter and it will appear in the top part of the Disk Management pane as well as in Explorer.

    If the drive doesn’t show up in the lower part of the Disk Management pane then you’ve got some sort of hardware issue – double-check that the drive is properly connected and that it’s plugged into a power outlet. “Portable” 2.5-inch external hard drives can usually be powered by the USB connection itself, but “Desktop” 3.5-inch external drives can’t – they need to be plugged into a wall outlet using a power transformer.

    Sometimes even the portable 2.5″ drives need external power, or they have a switch to select USB or external power. Check your drive documentation to see what it says about power requirements.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Vonkzilla

    Honorable

    How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive How to format an external hard drive

    Sminlal’s answer is the best but ill just expand on it a bit as i just used his answer to solve my same issue.

    My issue; Seagate, 1.5TB, USB3, external phantom drive. i have just got into using hex editors to clean up my hard drives. I was using the program Winhex for this. I didnt have enough time for the program to finish a cleanup pass so i cancelled it. drive was still working fine. i put some data on it to take home from work. plugged into my home coputer and the drive powered up but was not recognized. tried it on my girls computer and them same, not discovered. took it backto work and again, same thin, not discovered but powered on. navigated into disk management and saw in the middle window on the bottom 3 Drives. disk 0, disk 1, CD/rom 0.

    Disk 0 i could obviouslt see was my primary hard drive, once you click it above shows the partition and such. Disk 1 shower nothing. it was black bars instead of blue, showed offline, and a couple other little things that didnt look right. right clicked on it and initialized. still didnt assign a drive letter though. right click again, now you have the option to expand disk volume. clicked that, gave me the option to assign drive letter, and re-format.

    Done works good as new again. Thanks for the answer Sminlal.

    By Joshua Simenhoff published 17 August 18

    Formatting a hard drive or SSD is the same as buying a new hard drive since the process erases all the data in one fell swoop. When you format your hard drive, you can clean internal as well as external storage media.

    In this tutorial, we explain how you can format a hard drive using the command prompt. Before proceeding further, make sure you backup all available data to prevent data loss. Follow the steps below to format a drive:

    STEP 1: Open Command Prompt As Administrator

    How to format an external hard drive

    Search for command prompt, right click and run as Administrator.

    STEP 2: Use Diskpart

    How to format an external hard drive

    Once command line is open, type ‘diskpart‘ and press Enter.

    STEP 3: Type List Disk

    How to format an external hard drive

    The above command will open a Diskpart window. In this window, type ‘list disk‘ and press Enter. It will list all the available drives.

    STEP 4: Select the Drive to Format

    How to format an external hard drive

    Now type ‘select disk (disk number)‘ as shown above. Specify the drive number which needs to be formatted.

    STEP 5: Clean the Disk

    How to format an external hard drive

    In this step, type ‘clean‘. This command will permanent delete all files and folders, and successfully clean up the disk.

    STEP 6: Create Partition Primary

    How to format an external hard drive

    To make the drive again accessible, type ‘create partition primary‘.

    STEP 7: Format the Drive

    How to format an external hard drive

    Now format the drive with FAT or NTFS file system. Type ‘format fs=ntfs‘ and press Enter.

    STEP 8: Assign a Drive Letter

    How to format an external hard drive

    To assign a drive letter, you can type ‘assign‘ as shown below.

    Am I missing something? Couldn’t you just bring up a command prompt and type “format e:” – or some other drive letter?

    While I cannot guarantee this article does exactly what it claims it does (I haven’t tried it, let alone heard about this way before) I can speak for the way format works now days.

    Drives come pretty much preformatted now days as to its sectors and such. Format just basically wipes the file data/directory/folder content, not the data elsewhere on the drive. It’s possible to recover the data with a little work, primarily on the “folders.”

    I would hope that this utility, DiskPart, issuing its “clean” command actually does more than clear the data partition info.

    Am I missing something? Couldn’t you just bring up a command prompt and type “format e:” – or some other drive letter?

    While I cannot guarantee this article does exactly what it claims it does (I haven’t tried it, let alone heard about this way before) I can speak for the way format works now days.

    Drives come pretty much preformatted now days as to its sectors and such. Format just basically wipes the file data/directory/folder content, not the data elsewhere on the drive. It’s possible to recover the data with a little work, primarily on the “folders.”

    I would hope that this utility, DiskPart, issuing its “clean” command actually does more than clear the data partition info.

    Am I missing something? Couldn’t you just bring up a command prompt and type “format e:” – or some other drive letter?

    Sure you can say: format e: /fs:NTFS However you would need to use diskpart to create the partition in the first place to already have an “e” drive to format.

    The title really should be how to partition and format a drive.

    Am I missing something? Couldn’t you just bring up a command prompt and type “format e:” – or some other drive letter?

    While I cannot guarantee this article does exactly what it claims it does (I haven’t tried it, let alone heard about this way before) I can speak for the way format works now days.

    Drives come pretty much preformatted now days as to its sectors and such. Format just basically wipes the file data/directory/folder content, not the data elsewhere on the drive. It’s possible to recover the data with a little work, primarily on the “folders.”

    I would hope that this utility, DiskPart, issuing its “clean” command actually does more than clear the data partition info.

    It doesn’t. The only way to truly erase a disk is to have it do a 0 write pass. The more the better too. A single pass wont cover everything up. The DoD has a 7 pass minimum. I prefer the 35 pass called Gutmann method.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Sooner or later, you’ll have to format your drive. There are a bunch of reasons why you would want to do this: it’s getting slower, it got infected by a virus, it uses an incompatible file system – we’ll go into more detail below.

    Formatting a drive wipes your data, so it’s an intimidating process. And when you do format it, which file system is best? This article answers all these questions and teaches you how to format your Toshiba external hard drive for Mac… With and without losing data.

    Table of Contents

    What is Formatting and Why You Need It

    Formatting a drive (especially an old drive) almost always makes it perform faster, and it may be imperative to the drive’s health. Here are the specifics:

    • Use for OS – If you want to use a hard drive for your operating system, it needs to be formatted to make room for the new file system and all the prerequisites to run macOS.
    • Remove viruses – Reformatting your Toshiba exernal hard drive will wipe everything, including viruses and other harmful programs. When your antivirus can’t keep the infection at bay, formatting usually does the trick.
    • Fix corruption – If you experience the following: RAW drive, “sector not found” error, being prompted to format the drive, messed up file names, “invalid media type” error, or an unmountable drive – you’re likely dealing with corruption. For severe cases of corruption, formatting is the only way to make the drive usable again.
    • Change file system – If you use the wrong file system, you won’t be able to use your drive with macOS. You have to format it to a compatible file system to use it with your Mac. More on this in the next section.

    What Format to Select for Toshiba Hard Drive

    Mac works with a lot of formats, but we also want to consider the purpose of that hard drive to determine the best file system to use. FAT32, exFAT, HFS+, APFS… Acronyms are confusing. But we did our best to break down each file system so you can make a confident decision when choosing.

      FAT32 – FAT32 is hailed as the “most compatible” file system and it’s one of the oldest formats still in use. We no longer recommend formatting anything to FAT32 due to its 4 GB per file limit, but it’s worth knowing because it’s still widespread. FAT32 (and its successor ExFAT) was made for external storage.

    All things considered, we recommend that you format your Toshiba external hard drive to ExFAT for an efficient data storage and transferring system that works with both macOS and Windows machines.

    How to Format Toshiba External Hard Drive for Mac

    The macOS native tool, Disk Utility, makes a perfect Toshiba hard drive format utility, especially for corrupted drives. Even if your Toshiba hard drive is not showing up on Finder, it may appear in Disk Utility.

    However, formatting completely wipes the data on your drive. This is what makes it so effective at cleaning logically damaged disks. If your data is important to you, make sure to create a backup first.

    Step 1. Launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities).
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 2. Click the “View” button and select “Show all devices.”
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 3. From the left sidebar, select your Toshiba hard drive. Then, click the “Erase” button.

    Step 4. Name your drive, choose GUID Partition Map for the scheme, and choose ExFAT for the format (Why ExFAT? Read this section of the article). Then, click “Erase” to reformat your Toshiba external hard drive.
    How to format an external hard drive

    The GUID Partition Map/GPT works best with UEFI-based systems (which is the default for most modern machines). For older machines, you may want to use the MBR scheme. For more information on GPT and MBR, read this article from How-To Geek.

    How to Recover Data Lost After Formatting Toshiba Hard Drive

    Even after formatting your drive, you still have a chance to recover most of your data. Just make sure to stop using it immediately after formatting. Do not save any new files to it. For this task, we need to use data recovery software to directly extract the data from the file system.

    For this article, we’ll be using Disk Drill. It’s highly effective at recovering data from external hard drives, and it has a user-friendly GUI so it’s perfect for users of any level. Here’s how to use it:

    Step 1. Download and install Disk Drill.

    Step 2. Launch Disk Drill (Finder > Applications).

    Step 3. In the middle pane, select your Toshiba hard drive (or disk image) and click “Search for lost data.”
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 4. Wait for Disk Drill to complete its scan, then click “Review found items.”
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 5. In this window, you can use the search bar and the left sidebar to filter the scan results.
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 6. You can also preview your files. Hover your mouse pointer to the right of any file and click the eye button that appears.
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 7. Use the boxes in the left-most column to select the files you want to restore, then click “Recover.” You can also leave all the boxes blank and click “Recover all.”
    How to format an external hard drive

    Step 8. Select a location on your computer where Disk Drill will save the restored files. Then, click “OK.”
    How to format an external hard drive

    Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast. Read more.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Formatting a hard drive or SSD in Windows 11 erases any existing data on a drive and prepares the disk for use. Luckily, formatting is very easy to do directly from File Explorer. Here’s how.

    First, open File Explorer. You can usually do this by clicking the folder icon in your taskbar. Or you can right-click the Start button and select “File Explorer.”

    How to format an external hard drive

    In any File Explorer window, browse to “This PC.” In the list of “Devices and Drives,” right-click the drive you’d like to format and select “Format” in the menu that appears.

    How to format an external hard drive

    A “Format” window will open. It presents options about how you want to format your drive. We’ll go over each item one-by-one so you can decide

    • Capacity: This will be the data capacity of your hard drive or SSD once it is formatted. Formatting takes up some of the raw disk space because of how file systems work.
    • File System: A file system is a data structure that tells an operating system how to save and load files to or from a disk. Depending on the drive’s size, your options will be FAT, FAT32, NTFS, or exFAT. In general, you’ll want to select NTFS if the drive will only be used with Windows. If you want the drive to be readable and writable on a Mac as well, choose exFAT.
    • Allocation Unit Size: This is the basic block size used by the file system when you format your drive. Generally, you never need to modify this setting, so use the default allocation unit size that appears (usually 4096 bytes for NTFS) when you select the file system you want.
    • Volume Label: This is the drive name that will appear when you see your formatted drive in File Explorer.
    • Format Options (Quick Format): If the drive is in good working order, you can select “Quick Format,” which performs a high-level format and finishes quickly. The data is still on the drive but all references to it are lost, so it will be overwritten as you use the newly formatted drive. Unchecking “Quick Format” makes Windows check the disk sector-by-sector with a low-level format that takes much longer, but it will also wipe all traces of any old data completely.

    Once you have every option how you want it, click “Start” to begin the formatting process.

    How to format an external hard drive

    After clicking “Start,” Windows will pop-up a warning message telling you that “Formatting will erase ALL data on this disk.” Click “OK” if you’re ready to erase the drive and format it.

    Warning: When you format your hard drive or SSD, you will lose all data on the drive. Be absolutely certain you have backups of any data on the drive before going any further!

    How to format an external hard drive

    While Windows formats the disk, you’ll see a green process indicator move from left to right. When it’s completely full, the format will be complete, and you’ll see an alert pop-up. Click “OK.”

    How to format an external hard drive

    After that, close the format window and you’re ready to go. Your newly formatted drive will show up in File Explorer, and it’s ready to store data. If you need to format another drive—or wipe data from it —just right-click the drive in File Explorer and click “Format.” Good luck!

    How to format an external hard drive

    The storage capacity of Microsoft’s Xbox One console can easily be upgraded with an external hard drive. However, if you no longer need the extra storage, you can’t simply just plug that drive into your computer and start using it.

    In fact, your PC won’t even recognize that the drive is plugged in. Well lucky for you this article will walk you through how to format your Xbox One external hard drive so it can be used on a PC.

    Content

    • Why Can’t a Drive Used for Xbox One Be Used Simultaneously with a PC?
    • What to Do Before You Disconnect Your External Drive from Your Xbox One
    • How to Format Your Xbox One External Hard Drive

    Also read: How to format an external hard driveHow to Use Google Assistant with Xbox One

    Why Can’t a Drive Used for Xbox One Be Used Simultaneously with a PC?

    One might think that since Microsoft develops both Windows and Xbox One, that you would be able to swap the drive between machines. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. After you’ve formatted a hard drive as external storage for your Xbox One, it will no longer be recognized by a Windows-based PC.

    Even though Xbox One uses the exFAT format, which is also recognized by Windows (and indeed was created by Microsoft), plugging it into your Windows PC just doesn’t work out of the box.

    How to format an external hard drive

    All games, whether disc-based or downloaded, are written to the drive of the Xbox One. Because modern games are so huge, installing parts or all of the game to the hard drive helps with loading times. Since the bulk of game data is stored to the hard disk, Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to be able to access that data on a PC. Therefore, the reason why Windows doesn’t recognize Xbox One-formatted drives boils down to piracy.

    What to Do Before You Disconnect Your External Drive from Your Xbox One

    Unless you’re planning on selling your Xbox One console, you probably want to save all of the game data on your external hard drive. Whether you want to upgrade to a larger external hard drive or simply want to migrate your game data to your Xbox One’s internal hard drive, you need to shore up your data before disconnecting your external drive from your Xbox One.

    How to format an external hard drive

    To migrate your data, press the Xbox button in the center of the controller. This will open the guide menu. Use the left/right bumper buttons to scroll over to “Profile & System.” Next, highlight “Settings” and press the A button. This will bring you to the Settings menu. Here, highlight “System” and select the option labelled “Storage.” On the next screen you will see your Xbox One’s internal drive, as well as your external drive. Select your external drive and press the A button. In the pop-..up menu that appears, select “Transfer.”

    How to format an external hard drive

    At this point, you can manually select what game data you want to transfer to your Xbox One’s internal drive. However, if you want to transfer all of it, choose “Select All.” Finally, choose “Move selected” to begin the transfer process. Depending on how many games are stored on your external drive, this process could take a while.

    How to Format Your Xbox One External Hard Drive

    With all of your game data off the external drive, you’ll now need to plug it in to a Windows PC. You’ll notice that the external drive does not show up at all within Windows file explorer. Don’t worry, this is to be expected. Remember that Microsoft deliberately disabled the ability for Windows to communicate with an Xbox One formatted drive. That being said, it’s easy to reformat the drive to NTFS so that Windows can see and use it.

    Launch Disk Management

    To format your Xbox One external hard drive, we’ll need to use a utility called Disk Management.

    How to format an external hard drive

    To launch it, simply click on the Windows button in the taskbar to pull up the Start Menu. Instead of clicking on any of the apps listed, just begin typing “disk management.” Doing so should display an option labelled “Create and format hard disk partitions.” Go ahead and click on that to open the Disk Management window.

    Initialize the External Hard Drive

    With Disk Management open, you will see two subsections. The top half simply lists all of the hard disks connected to your PC. There isn’t much you can do here, so turn your attention to the bottom half of the Disk Management windows.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Here you will also see all of the hard disks connected to your PC. Find the external hard drive you were using with your Xbox One. It will be listed as an unrecognized drive with unallocated space within the Disk Management tool. Right-click on the name of the Hard Drive and select “Initialize disk” from the menu that appears.

    Next, a pop-up will appear and ask if you want to use Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID Partition Table (GPT). In Windows 10 and Windows 11, GPT will be the default. Most people will want to stick with GPT, as there are significant advantages to it.

    Create a Volume and Format the Drive

    With your external hard drive initialized, you’ll now need to create a volume Windows can read. Right-click on the area labelled “Unallocated.” In the menu that appears, select “New Simple Volume.” This will launch the New Simple Volume wizard.

    How to format an external hard drive

    At this point, you can allocate the amount of space you want to assign to the new partition. If you want to split your hard drive between an Xbox One partition and Windows partition, enter the volume size (in MB) you want to allocate to the Xbox partition, select the “exFAT” file system for it, then go ahead with the format.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Once that’s done, create a Simple Volume for the remaining “Unallocated” space, choose its volume size, then the format/file system of the partition you want to use for Windows (we recommend NTFS).

    How to format an external hard drive

    such as assigning a letter to the drive or formatting it to a file system other than NTFS, you can do so. Finally, complete the formatting operation by clicking the “Finish” button. You will now have an external hard drive that is recognized by Windows.

    If you feel like your Xbox One or Xbox Series needs a refresh, check out our guide on how to factory reset your console.

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    By Melanie Pinola published 2 August 21

    Here’s how to format your hard drive in either OS

    How to format an external hard drive

    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.

    • Get the latest news for Windows 11
    • Here’s what’s coming with the new Windows 11 update

    In this guide, we’re using exFAT instead of FAT32, another filesystem that both Windows and Mac can read and write to, because FAT32 has a maximum 4GB file size limit whereas exFAT can work with files as large as 16EB (exabytes). exFAT also performs better than FAT32.

    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.

    How to format an external drive in OS X

    1. Connect the drive to the Mac.

    2. Open Disk Utility. The easiest way to do that is hit CMD and the spacebar at the same time and type in “Disk Utility” to find the program.

    3. Select the drive you want to format.

    How to format an external hard drive

    4. Click Erase.

    How to format an external hard drive

    If you don’t plan on using the drive for Time Machine, skip steps 5 through 11 below and continue with step 12.

    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.

    6. Click Erase and OS X will format the drive.

    7. With the drive selected in Disk Utility, click Partition.

    How to format an external hard drive

    8. Enter the amount of space you want to set aside for Time Machine. In this example, we’re shrinking the Time Machine partition to 128GB instead of allowing Time Machine to take up the whole drive.

    How to format an external hard drive

    9. Click Apply.

    10. Select the new untitled partition so we can format it as exFAT for use with both Mac and Windows.

    How to format an external hard drive

    11. Click Erase.

    12. Give the partition a name and select exFAT for the format.

    How to format an external hard drive

    13. Click Erase to finish.

    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.

    How to format an external drive in Windows

    The instructions below are for Windows 10, but other versions of Windows from Windows 7 and up can also format an external drive as exFAT for use with Mac as well.

    1. Connect the drive to your Windows PC.

    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.

    How to format an external hard drive

    3. Right-click on the external drive’s partition or unallocated space you want to format and choose New Simple Volume…

    How to format an external hard drive

    4. Follow the wizard to choose a volume size.

    How to format an external hard drive

    5. Assign a drive letter.

    How to format an external hard drive

    6. Choose exFAT as the file system in the Format Partition screen.

    How to format an external hard drive

    7. Give the volume a new name.

    How to format an external hard drive

    8. Click Next.

    9. Click Finish.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Windows will format the drive as exFAT and you’ll be able to use the drive on both Windows and Mac.

    Накопители можно использовать с любыми компьютерами — и Mac, и ПК. Но для обмена данными с компьютером их нужно отформатировать для соответствующей файловой системы. В этой статье рассказывается о файловых системах и приводятся инструкции по форматированию накопителей в ОС Windows и macOS.

    Новые внешние диски Seagate и LaCie предварительно форматируются для файловой системы exFAT, чтобы их можно использовать в ОС Windows и macOS без переформатирования. Некоторые старые накопители предварительно отформатированы либо для ПК, либо для компьютеров Mac. В комплект поставки некоторых таких моделей входят специальные служебные программы, обеспечивающие совместимость с компьютерами обоих типов без переформатирования.

    Важно выбрать файловую систему, которая лучше всего отвечает вашим требованиям. Если вы хотите повысить производительность, рекомендуется отформатировать накопитель для файловой системы компьютера по умолчанию. Если вам нужно использовать накопитель как на ПК, так и на Mac, отформатируйте его для exFAT. Если вы не знаете, какая файловая система подойдет вам лучше всего, посетите страницу сравнения форматов файловой системы.

    Внутренние накопители Seagate не форматируются предварительно, поэтому перед использованием их необходимо отформатировать. Загрузочные накопители форматируются при установке операционной системы (Windows или macOS).

    Если накопитель отформатирован для другого типа компьютеров или не отформатирован вовсе, перед использованием его необходимо отформатировать. Накопители, которые будут использоваться для хранения, также необходимо форматировать.

    ВНИМАНИЕ! При форматировании все данные на накопителе будут удалены. Обязательно создайте резервную копию данных, которые вам могут понадобиться.

    Инструкции по форматированию накопителя см. по ссылке для операционной системы вашего компьютера.

    Windows

    Не знаете, какая у вас версия macOS? Проверьте.

    Если вы не знаете, какая файловая система подойдет вам лучше всего, посетите страницу сравнения форматов файловой системы.

    Anyone out to upgrade their computer’s storage capacity or find alternative means of storage to meet their needs will make the baffling but apparent observation that external hard drives are significantly cheaper than inbuilt internal ones. From a cost standpoint, this is baffling because external hard drives require more materials to manufacture into separate units and have an additional mechanism altogether that lets them connect via USB to your personal computer. This should mean that they cost more because they require more material to build. However, they are significantly less expensive which then begs the question whether these can be converted into internal storage drives and used inside your PC.

    How to format an external hard drive

    The answer to this question is yes, maybe. Yes, because from a technical standpoint, dismantling and installing them is rather easily possible. Maybe, because some hard drive manufacturers put lock mechanisms on their hard drives to keep you from dismantling them and configuring them as internal storage units. You can call this a business tactic that the whole electronic storage industry is mutually aboard on, but we have a way for your to diagnose your hard drives and navigate around this issue to potentially convert them into internal storage units. The good news is, we know just how to work around the external hard drive manufacturer’s in built blocking mechanism and we will show you how to bypass the 3.3 v signal detector to prevent virtually any hard drive from blocking the installation.

    The procedure for going about this is laid out into three basic steps: checking drive health, dismantling, and installing. A disclaimer before you begin: taking apart your hard drive will likely void its warranty so take these steps if you are certain that this is the route you want to take. That said, let’s get started!

    Step 1: Check Drive Health

    There is no use going about taking apart and installing an external hard drive that is locked from configuring with your system. Your system is bound to reject it or not recognize it and you will have taken apart a usable hard drive for nothing. Another issue that can arise even after installation is that the hard drive may not be functioning properly on its own despite being configured into your system properly. The former can only be checked once you actually attempt to install the hard drive in step 3 but, before you begin, the first thing you need to check is if your drive’s health is good enough to move forward with the dismantling and installation procedure into your PC device, to begin with.

    Let’s get started:
    1. Download the software CrystalDiskInfo from here.
    2. Once the installer downloads, follow the onscreen instructions to install it onto your system.
    3. After completing the installation, launch the application.
    4. Plug in your external hard drive via the provided USB cable.
    5. Navigate to where you see the name of your external hard drive and check its health.
    6. If the health indicator reads “good,” this is an indication that your hard drive is working well.
    7. To test this further, process some data transfer to/from the hard drive and remove it from your computer. Launch the application again in a few days, plug the external hard drive in, and check its health again. This will reaffirm that the hard drive is in good condition to use for internal configuration.

    How to format an external hard driveUsing CrystalDiskInfo application to check hard drive health status (displayed in the box on the left)

    Step 2: Dismantle

    Every external hard drive is structured differently but the general steps to take when dismantling one are as follows:

    1. Take a thin blade to the external hard drive’s side (or wherever you notice a partition) and try to separate the cover into two pieces. Be careful not to damage or break the casing. This place should naturally feel like an opening for the casing to separate into two parts. Be careful not to damage any of the internal parts with your blade.
    2. The casing should come apart revealing the inside circuitry of the external hard drive. Pop the cap or side off so that this is showing.
    3. Slide the internal drive circuitry out.
    4. Unscrew the USB port adapter mechanism from the hard drive. This is usually found on one side of the hard drive’s printed circuit board. Be careful not to scratch or damage any internal part. This is a very delicate task.

    How to format an external hard driveTaking apart a hard drive’s input port circuitry to isolate the storage module.

    Step 3: Install & Configure

    To install the separated hard drive, open up your PC or laptop computer. Find the spacing to insert an internal hard drive and pop your hard drive into place. This should not be too difficult and should easily plug into your system.

    Once you have plugged in the hard drive, close your computer back up and head into its BIOS. For this, you will have to start the device and hold F2 (or the key specified by your motherboard’s manufacturer). Check to see if your device recognizes the newly inserted hard drive. If so, you are good to go.

    How to format an external hard driveInsulate left-most three pins in order to make your external drive work as an internal.

    If not, open up your computer again to ensure that the drive was plugged in correctly. If it is plugged in correctly and your device is not recognizing it, then chances are that it is locked or not compatible with your device internally.

    One workaround for this is blocking its 3.3 v circuit. To do this, open up your computer, count the third pin from the left on your hard drive’s SATA power connector, and insulate it with some scotch tape. Hard drive manufacturers such as WD use this pin to look for a 3.3 v signal which your computer is likely to provide and subsequently lock the device from being used. By taping it, you will prevent the pin from picking up this signal. The two pins beside it do not play any significant role in your hard drive’s function so you can go ahead and tape over all three of the left-most pins.

    After taping the pin(s), pop the hard drive back into your PC and close it up again. Enter the BIOS and you should now be able to see the hard drive displayed and recognized by your system. This means that your installation has been successful. You can now power up your PC and use your additional external-turned-internal hard drive to meet your storage needs.

    How to format an external hard driveChecking in the system’s BIOS to see if the hard drive has been detected by the computer.

    Final Thoughts

    While many external hard drive manufacturers try to keep you from converting their cheaper external hard drives into internal storage units, knowing the works of their security measures such as WD’s 3.3v signal detecting pin can help you bypass these blocking mechanisms and successfully install your hard drive internally. The steps above layout exactly what needs to be done in an easy to carry out fashion. Be delicate with your technology throughout and do not damage any of the internal circuitry of your hard drive or computer. Doing either could lead to your devices becoming permanently damaged or unusable.

    How to format an external hard drive

    How to format an external hard drive

    Do you save backups of your hard drive onto an external hard drive? Hopefully you do. It’s a smart way to keep your data safe. But what happens if that drive becomes corrupted, and you have to reformat it to make it accessible again? Can you reformat it without losing all of your data? It’s certainly possible, but can you do it?

    The short answer is, yes. It is possible to reformat the drive and keep your files by formatting your drive and then using a data recovery tool to restore your information.

    Also read: How to format an external hard driveHow to Troubleshoot Windows Detected a Hard Disk Problem

    How to Reformat a Drive

    Reformatting a drive on Windows is a pretty straightforward process. However, you need to make doubly sure that you complete a Quick format. A Quick format only deletes the organizational structure of the files on the drive, without removing the actual files. Think of it as throwing away a bunch of file folders but not their contents. You just stack the papers all in one pile. That’s what Quick File does. It removes the folders and leaves the files all in one stack.

    1. First, connect the external drive to your computer using the USB port. Wait for Windows to recognize your drive.

    2. Open File Explorer.

    3. Click on “This PC.”

    How to format an external hard drive

    4. Locate your external drive from the list of Devices and Drives.

    5. Right-click on the drive.

    6. Select “Format” from the list of options. Make sure the Quick Format box is clicked! If it is not ticked, you will lose all of your data. Leave all the other settings the same.

    How to format an external hard drive

    7. Click on the “Format” button, and wait until the process has completed.

    Once you have completed this process, do not write any more data to your external drive. This new data will overwrite the files that were left behind during the reformatting process. If you save something new, it will not just overwrite one file either. It could potentially corrupt hundreds of your old data.

    Recover Your Data

    After you have reformatted your drive, move directly to using a third-party data recovery software. While these programs may not be able to restore 100% of your files, using them will certainly save more than you would have without trying this process. There are a variety of data recovery software options for you to choose from, but here are a few of the most popular.

    1. Recuva

    How to format an external hard drive

    Recuva is popular because of its ability to restore files from hard drives, DVD or CDs, memory cards, and external drives. Recuva works by searching for unreferenced data, and it’s known for restoring lost directory structure and renaming two files with the same name during data recovery.

    Recuva is free to download with no data limits. There is also a pro version that adds automatic updates and support for virtual hard drives.

    2. Stellar

    How to format an external hard drive

    Because of its efficient user interface, Stellar Data Recovery is excellent for beginners and non-technical users. It even has a simple wizard where you just tell the program what to look for and where to search for deleted files. This program features a “Try Before You Buy” feature that removes the risk of it not being what you need. The program sells for $99.

    3. Ontrack Easy Recovery

    How to format an external hard drive

    Ontrack EasyRecovery is a powerhouse among data recovery software. It’s best known for its power to recover more files than its competitors, but the user interface is less intuitive than other programs. It has a $79 annual license with no limits on the number of times you can use it.

    4. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

    How to format an external hard drive

    A nice features of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the familiar user interface, which is structured like Windows Explorer. Those who are not as tech-savvy may find the interface more comfortable to use than other software. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is free, but it will only recover a total of 500 MB of data before you need to upgrade to the Pro version for $69.99 (Unless you want to share about the product on social media. Then you can use up to 2GB.)

    Also read: How to format an external hard driveHow to Defrag Your Windows Hard Drive

    How to Avoid This Whole Problem

    If you don’t want to worry about losing all your data on the chance your external hard drive becomes corrupted, you should keep multiple backups of the data in different places. For example, keep a backup on your local devices, and store backup copies with a cloud storage provider as well. The more backups, the less you need to worry.

    Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox

    Published: February 20th, 2019

    5 Minutes Reading

    Nowadays, most of people use the NTFS file system as it is comparatively better than FAT. FAT and NTFS are file systems which are created to keep the track of files in the hard disk. Generally, a file system is a set of logical constructs that dictate how space can be utilized on a disk volume. There can be various circumstance wherein a user needs to change the format of the file system. Before changing to the file system to any format, it is important to take the backup of the files. Otherwise, the data will be lost, once the file formats are changed. Users often get tensed while changing the file formats. So, go ahead and read on the process to be carried out while converting FAT32 to NTFS file format and vice versa without any loss of data. This blog describes the techniques to change formats of external hard drive without deleting files

    The below-given specifications will help you understand the features and functionality which is rendered by NTFS and FAT32 file system. NTFS is the latest file system with advanced features. Therefore, it is capable to repair the files automatically. On the other hand, FAT32 is the earlier file system which is supported in older versions of the Windows operating system. First, take a look and then move for how to change format of external hard drive without losing data.
    How to format an external hard drive

    “I have an urgent requirement to convert the hard drive format from FAT32 to NTFS. Before converting the formats, I need to check whether I can convert the file format from one to another. Please advise, the procedure to be followed to convert the file format of the external hard drive without any data loss. Kindly revert back at the earliest. “

    How Can A User Change FAT32 File to NTFS File Format?

    Before converting the file format from FAT32 to NTFS. Make sure that you archived or backup the data which are saved in the FAT32 file system. Otherwise, all the data will be deleted after the file formats are converted. Now to migrate the file format from FAT32 to NTFS, simply follow the below mentioned steps,
    Here, we are using Convert.exe-CMD to convert the FAT32 partition to NTFS format

    1. Firstly, right-click on the Windows icon and click on the Search option
      How to format an external hard drive
    2. After that, type Command Prompt in the Search box
    3. Then, right-click on Command Prompt and click on Run as Administrator option
      How to format an external hard drive
    4. Under the Command window, type help converts and hit Enter. All the information in converting the FAT volume to NTFS is shown below,
      How to format an external hard drive
    5. After that, type convert D: /fs:ntfs and press the Enter key
      Note: Ensure to replace the drive letter to D which is the partition or storage device
    6. Now, wait till the file converts from FAT32 to NTFS file format
    7. Once the conversion process completes, exit from the Command Prompt window
    8. Finally, the file formats of the external hard drive have been changed without data loss, as the backup is taken for the same

    “My external hard drive is in NTFS file format. Whenever I plug into PS4, it does not recognize the external hard drive. Why do I face this issue? How to convert the formats of the external hard drive without deleting files? Please explain, looking forward with your feedback at the earliest! Thanks in Advance.”

    In the above query, the user needs to change the file system to FAT32. This is because the first partition of the hard drive is in NTFS format which is the new file system. Hence, it does not get supported to the PS4 game console.

    How to Change NTFS File System to FAT32 Format?

    1. Firstly, connect your external hard drive to the computer
    2. Right-click on My Computer and select Manage to launch Disk Management
    3. Then, right-click on the target partition and click on the Format option
      How to format an external hard drive
    4. Now, change the format of the external hard drive to FAT32 by converting the file system
      How to format an external hard drive

    Note: The above Disk Management technique to change the format of the external hard drive can only format files which is smaller than 32 GB. Now it is become quite easy to change format of external hard drive without deleting files.

    Easily Retrieve Files Without Any Hassle!

    The most recommended tool to change the format of external hard drive without data loss is by using SysTools NTFS Fromatted Hard Drive Data Recovery Software. It is a complete solution to change the file formats from one to another, hence a user does not require to take backup of the files before converting the file formats. It is a one-stop remedy to change the format of the external hard drive without deleting files.

    Conclusion

    This blog explains the method to change the format of external hard drive without losing data using both manual and automated approach. While using the manual method, it is important to create a backup of the file before converting the file formats. Apart from that, it requires technical expertise else the data will be permanently lost. To overcome these consequences, it is advised to download and install Hard Drive Recovery software which is an efficient tool to convert the formats of external hard drive without any loss of data. The best part is, one can use this software on any version of Windows OS.

    Exclusive Offers & Deals, Grab it Now!

    How to format an external hard drive

    By Chirag Arora

    Having around 9+ years of experience in technical writing. Knows about the core technical areas. Also, provides easy and reliable solutions to resolve difficulties faced by users while working with different platforms.

    How to format an external hard drive

    There are many reasons why you may want to format an external HDD or small flash drive. For instance:

    • You brought a new unformatted hard drive
    • If the drive is not properly formatted, it won’t work
    • You want to use your external hard drive in both MAC, PC and Linux (use FAT32)
    • Before you sell your SDcard or Pendrive, you should format it to erase its data
    • Your camera’s SD card (FAT32) can only hold a file up to 4GB file. To get larger file size format it to exFAT.

    Warming: Formating a drive, also erase its data. Although you can still get it back, but it’s much harder after formatting. So if you can’t afford losing you data, take backup.

    Which Format to choose?

    How to format an external hard drive

    Choosing a right file system is a bit tricky, so here are some pros and cons of all file system.

    NTFS: This is windows propriety file system. Most external drives come preformatted in NTFS so that they can be used easily with Windows. However, NTFS drives are read only in MAC, but you can get write access by using software like NTFS-3g. It also works in Linux. And to support NTFS on Android use Stick mount or Paragon NTFS, HFS and exFAT.

    HFS+: This MAC propriety file system and is used in iOS and MAC. If you format your external hard drive to HFS, you can use it on MAC and Linux (by removing journaling). However, to use it on Windows you can HFS explorer (read only).

    ext4: This is a default file system for linux OS (including Raspberry Pi). To read an ext4 drive on Windows, you can Ext2Read and OSXfuse for MAC. However, I have not really use this format much, so we just skip it.

    FAT32: This oldest file system and work with all OS i.e. Windows, MAC, Linux, Android, even TV, and PS3 etc. This is why it’s used in all small flash drive. Although it lacks all modern features and comes with 4 GB limit for single file size.

    exFAT: is the extended version of exFAT. It works fine with Windows and MAC (all the modern version). For Android, you can use Stick mount app (root needed). However being a windows propriety file system, it does not play well in open source environment. But unlike FAT32, it does not have 4GB limit for single file size. Thus making it ideal for SDcards of the high-end camera.

    How to Format an External Hard drive or Pen drive

    Now that we know the good and bad about every file system, let see how to format a drive in Windows, MAC, and Linux.

    Windows

    Formatting a drive on Windows is quite simple. Plug in your external HDD to the USB port of your computer> then go to my computer > find your external drive > right-click it > and select format.

    A new window will open, select the desired file system, keep the allocation unit size to default and check mark quick format (or it will take more time). Once done hit the format button and that’s it. Within seconds, you will have your drive in the new format.How to format an external hard drive

    Note: While formatting a pen drive you will see FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS as the available file system. However for external HDD you won’t see the FAT32 (windows don’t suggest fat32 for bigger drives) However to get other format option you can use third-party software.

    MAC

    Start by connecting your external HDD to MAC’s USB port. Under the finder men, go to Go > utilities > Disk Utility or type disk utility in the spotlight and hit enter.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Once under disk utility. Select your external HDD on the left side and then select partition option.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Now in the Partition area, click under Partition Layout and select 1 Partition. Then, click on Options. A new window will open, here select Master Boot Record and then click Ok.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Now in the right side of windows, give a name to your drive, from the drop-down select desired file system format. Make sure the size is set to an entire volume of your external drive. And once done, click on Apply.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Note: Here you will also see an option to format a large hard drive to FAT32 which is not available in Windows.

    Linux

    Unlike windows and MAC, Linux does not a have built-in partition tool. So, you will have ti install a GUI tool called GParted and then plug in your external drive in the computer.

    Open your terminal and type in the following command to install GParterd.

    sudo apt-get install gparted

    Once installed, type the following command to launch the program.

    How to format an external hard drive

    A new window will open. Click on the top right side, select the volume you want to format.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Once you see the volume you want to format, right click on the block and select format > choose the file system you want > and click OK to confirm.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Note: Since, I am running Linux in a virtual machine, in final step my Format to option is not highlighted, But in your case, you will be able to click it and select the file system you to format in. To see the final step, I suggest you check out this howtogeek article.

    Android

    Say you don’t have any computer with you, now can you still format your external HDD? Well, if you have an Android (ROOT) then yes, you can still format your drive to popular formats like NTFS and HFS.

    To do this, install Paragon exFAT, NTFS & HFS+ from Play store. The main function of this application is to mount NTFS or HFS formatted HDD on Android, but there is another useful option hidden under settings — i.e. formatting a drive.

    Once installed, open the app, mount your drive and then go to the settings, There select the new file system for your drive, give it a name and hit format.

    Mounting an external hard drive isn’t as simple as plugging it in. We’ll walk you through some decisions you need to make.

    How to format an external hard drive

    How to format an external hard drive

    Contributing Writer, ZDNet

    Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.

    How to format an external hard drive

    Formatting an external drive forces you to make some important decisions that will affect how and where you can use the drive, including whether it’ll work on a PC, Mac or both. Manufacturers often advertise that their external drives are compatible with both operating systems out of the box, and for the most part, that’s accurate. However, it’s more nuanced than that.

    For example, if you’re going to use an external drive to back up your PC, you’ll want to make sure it uses NTFS formatting. Or if you want to back up your Mac, you’re going to want that drive formatted in either HFS+ or AFPS, depending on which version of MacOS you’re using.

    See? It can get confusing and complicated fast. Don’t fret, though. Below I’ll break down the different formats, and explain their place in the grand scheme of external drives.

    What are the different format types?

    The file format standard you use for your external drive will depend on how you plan on using the drive. But before I can dig into what makes sense when, look over this quick rundown of the different standards and which OS each one is compatible with.

    exFAT (Extensible FIle Allocation Table)

    • Natively read/write exFAT on Windows and MacOS

    NTFS (Windows NT File System)

    • Natively read/write NTFS on Windows.
    • Full NTFS support on Mac requires paid third-party app

    HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, aka Mac OS Extended)

    • Natively read/write HFS+ on MacOS up to Mac OS X Sierra
    • Required for local Time Machine backups

    APFS (Hierarchical File System, aka Mac OS Extended)

    • Natively read/write HFS+ on MacOS High Sierra and newer
    • Required for local Time Machine backups

    It comes down to which OS are you going to use the drive with?

    So isn’t exFAT the obvious solution?

    According to the list above, formatting your hard drive to exFAT so that you can read and write on either a PC or Mac seems like the obvious solution. And if that’s how you plan on using your drive, then you’re right — exFAT is the way to go. However, if you plan on only using a drive on your Mac and it has MacOS High Sierra or newer installed, you’ll want to stick to Apple’s APFS format. And the same can be said for a Windows HD, if you only plan on connecting it to a PC, then NTFS is the way to go.

    Mac or PC? That is the question.

    OK, what are my alternatives to using exFAT?

    The good news is, it’s not exFAT or nothing. The alternative solutions do require more tinkering.

    Option 1: Format to NTFS and buy this app for your Mac

    If you keep your hard drive’s out-of-the-box NTFS format, you’ll be able to read the drive when it’s connected to a Mac, but you won’t be able to write to it. In other words, you can look at files saved on the drive, but you can’t save any new files from your Mac. In order to enable read/write access, you’ll need to purchase a third-party solution such as Paragon NTFS . It’s $20, and is compatible with all Macs, even the more recently announced M1 Macs.

    Option 2: Format to APFS and use a different Paragon app

    Conversely, you can format the HD to APFS and use Paragon’s APFS for Windows to read and write to the Mac-formatted hard drive. The only downside is that it’s $50. With it installed, you’ll be able to read/write to APFS drives on a Windows PC.

    You aren’t stuck with your drive formatted for one platform forever.

    Option 3: Create two partitions on your hard drive to use with each OS, separately.

    This solution is a little different than the previous two because instead of having one hard drive that works with both machines, you’re splitting your HD into two sections, each dedicated to a different OS. For example, if you have a 1TB hard drive, 500GB of storage can be used with your Windows computer, and 500 will be dedicated to your Mac computer.

    You won’t be able to write to the Mac side from your Windows computer, and vice versa, but it’s a good solution for people who want all the advantages each format has to offer for its respective system.

    To do that, connect the empty external HD to your Mac and launch Disk Utility. Select the drive from the left sidebar, then click the Partition tab. Click the + sign to add a second partition, then drag the lines to adjust the size of each partition. For example, you might want more storage for your Mac than you do for your PC.

    Name one partition Windows and change its format to exFAT. Then click the second partition, name it Mac and change its format to APFS. Give your settings a final lookover and click Apply.

    Going forward, you should be able to use the drive and its dual partitions on their respective operating systems.

    Now that you have your drive formatted based on how you plan to use it, take a few minutes and make sure you’re backing up your computer. We have a guide for backing up a Mac , as well as backing up a PC .