Many external hard drives come pre-formatted as FAT 32. This is a native Windows file format that can be read by Mac OS X, but is not ideal for use with Aperture. Before you begin to use your new external hard drive with Aperture, reformat it to the Mac OS Extended file system: Be sure your drive is attached and mounted.

Looking to share an external hard drive between a Mac and PC? The best way to do it is with a drive formatted as FAT32. Though this format has some limitations, it enjoys nearly universal support. How to Convert a Mac-Formatted Drive to a Windows Drive Chris Hoffman @chrisbhoffman Updated July 10, 2017, 10:23pm EDT Macs format drives with Apple’s HFS+ file system, which Windows won’t recognize or access without third-party software.

Updated on January 7th, 2019

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

By Juno Posted to NTFS for Mac, updated on August 6th, 2019

With an external hard drive, you can efficiently transfer large files between computers running the same operating system type. However, it could be a totally different story if you plan to do this between a Mac and a PC. That's because, the two platforms have their specific file systems by default: Windows uses NTFS, while Mac use HFS+ or APFS. Out of the box, Windows can't read or write to HFS+/APFS and Macs can't write to NTFS drives.

Though the default file system is really a hurdle to use one external hard drive between Windows and Mac, there're still file systems that can connect the two worlds, i.e. FAT32 and exFAT. Thus, in order to use the same external hard drive on both Macs and PCs, you can format your external hard drive and make it compatible with both macOS and Windows OS.

But before that, it will be helpful if you know some background information and do some preparations.

Table of contents
1. Understand common file systems
2. Format an external hard drive to make it compatible with both Mac and PC
  • 2.1 How to format an external hard drive in macOS?
  • 2.2 How to format an external hard drive in Windows?
  • 2.3 How to partition an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC?
3. Make external hard drives for Mac and PC interchangeable without formatting

Understand common file systems

Whether you're transferring files between Windows and Mac using external hard drives, or other portable storage devices like USB flash drives or SD cards, you'll be told about 3 file systems: FAT32, exFAT and NTFS. But do you know what is the difference between them?

You could use an external hard drive for Mac, such as Seagate Backup Plus drives for Mac and WD my passport for Mac to back up your files, but do you know what makes a hard drive exclusive for Mac is not the disk itself but the file system of this disk?

To answer the questions above and broaden your mind, this part will have a brief introduction to some common file systems.


Pros: It can universally work with all versions of Mac, Windows, Linux, game devices, as well as other devices supporting a USB port.

Cons: FAT32 comes with file size limits and drive partition limits. It doesn't support files larger than 4GB, drive partition larger than 32GB on Windows, or drive partition larger than 2TB on macOS.

So FAT32 is commonly used in floppy disks, SD memory cards, USB flash drives as well as many portable and embedded devices. Also, FAT is the standard file system for digital cameras.


Pros: The largest partition and file sizes it supported are nearly unlimited by today's standards.

Cons: exFAT file system is not compatible with older operating systems. It should be used in macOS 10.6.5 or newer, and PC need to be Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7 or newer.

As most users have upgraded operating system, it is actually quite easy to meet to lowest operating system requirements of exFAT. So exFAT can be a very good option to share external hard drive between macOS and Windows. Similarly, it also optimized for flash memory drives such as USB flash drives and SD cards. It can be easily implemented in firmware that has low memory and low power requirements, such as cameras, mobile phones, media players, etc.


Pros: It is an improvement for FAT32, and it is used as the default file system of Windows system hard drive due to its improved performance, reliability, and disk space use.

Cons: You can't write to NTFS drives in macOS and the disabled-by-default write support for NTFS in macOS is unstable.

Mac OS Extended (HFS+)

Pros: It is the primary file system of Apple computers with the 1998 release of Mac OS 8.1. It also frequently used as Time Machine backup external hard drives of WD, Seagate, etc.

Cons: If HFS+ format volume is connected to a computer running Mac OS 8.0 or earlier, the files will not be visible or accessible.


Pros: The proprietary file system for macOS High Sierra (10.13), macOS Mojave (10.14), and macOS Catalina (10.15). It is optimized for flash drives and SSD with a primary focus on encryption.

Cons: Because APFS has no support for hard links to directories while Time Machine still relies on them, APFS is not yet a good option for backup volumes for Mac.

Format external hard drives to make it compatible with both Mac and PC

Though you can't use APFS/HFS+ on Windows PCs nor write to NTFS on Macs by default, there're still file systems that bridge the two worlds, i.e. FAT32 and exFAT. Yes! You can format your external hard drives with FAT32 or exFAT to make it compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs, .

Format toshiba external hard drive for mac and pc

Warning: Formatting a disk or a partition will erase data on this drive. Make sure you have a copy of data backup in hand if you have important files on this external hard drive. However, if you have formatted this drive and are encountering data loss, you can recover data from formatted external hard drive with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

How to format an external hard drive in macOS?

If you are using an APFS/HFS+ formatted hard drive on Mac right now, and you want to use it on Windows PC as well, you can use the method below to format your external hard drive with exFAT/FAT32. Also, if you plug in an NTFS formatted drive to your Mac and you have a copy of data backup, then you can follow the following steps to format your external hard drive for both Mac and PC without worrying data loss.

1. Click on Launchpad at the dock of your Mac, choose Other in the menu, and then select Disk Utility to open.

2. Select this external hard drive on the left part of the window.

3. Click the Erase on the top of the window.

4. Give a name to this disk, choose MS-DOS (FAT) or exFAT in the context menu, then choose a scheme.

Tips: You can choose FAT when you need maximum compatibility with the widest range of devices and if you don't have any files larger than 4 GB. exFAT would be advised if your external hard drive is larger than 2TB. And for better performance, you can choose Guide Partition Map scheme if your disk or partition is larger than 1TB.

Format External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Large Files

5. Click Erase to proceed with this formatting process.

After you format this external hard drive to FAT32 or exFAT, you'll be able to use this disk both on Mac and PC seamlessly.

How to format an external hard drive in Windows?

You can also format your drive on Windows computers by following the steps.

1. Click on This PC/My Computer at your desktop.

2. Connect your external hard drive to your PC, and then select this drive from the list and right-click on it.

3. Choose Format from the contextual menu.

4. Choose format (FAT32 or exFAT), and then set format information (allocation unit size, volume label and format option).

Tips: FAT32 would be better if the partition of your external hard drive is less than 32 GB .

5. Check Perform a quick format and click OK to format the external hard drive.

In Windows OS, you can also format your drive in Disk Management by typing 'disk management' in Windows search or going to Control Panel >Administrative Tools >Create and format hard disk partitions.

How to partition an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC?

Except for having the whole external hard drive formatted, you can also split this disk with two partitions. One is formatted with the file system that is compatible with macOS, another partition is compatible with Windows conversely. By this means, you can use all the advantages each format has on the respective system.

Warning: Still, you need to back up files on this drive before you begin to create two separate partitions to work for Mac and Windows PC.

Here are the steps to do this, which is a little tricky.

Step 1: Connect your external hard drive to your Mac, and then launch Disk Utility.

Step 2: Click on the drive name in the left sidebar, and then click on Partition at the top.

Step 3: Select Partition in the pop-up menu and click on the add button '+' to create another partition.

Step 4: Click on the untitled half of the pie, give it a name, choose exFAT format, and decide the size according to your need.

Step 5: Click on Apply and this partition will be created.

Step 6: Then click on another partition and format it with Mac OS Extended, and give it a name like 'Mac' for your convenience.

After saving all these changes above, there will be two partitions on your external hard drive. One is formatted with exFAT, and another is HFS+. Then, you need to eject this drive and connect it to a Windows computer, so that you can convert exFAT into NTFS.

Step 1: Search for Disk Management and open it. Then you will find this external hard drive at the lower right column.

Step 2: Right-click the Windows exFAT partition and select Format. Choose NTFS and check 'Quick format' box.

Step 3: Click OK and complete the format process.

By creating two separate partitions, you can use this external hard drive on both Mac and Windows. You won't be able to write to the Mac partition from your Windows computer, and vice versa. Thus, it's a good solution for people who need to swap between two operating systems but with separate work.

Make external hard drives for Mac and PC interchangeable without formatting

NTFS and HFS+ file systems are hassles for users who need to use the same external hard drive on both Mac and Windows. NTFS drive will be read-only on Mac and you can't write to this drive normally in this case. But formatting is not feasible as it includes several steps and you will lose data if you didn't back up your files.

Then, can you solve external hard drive read-only without formatting?

Format External Hard Drive For Mac

Definitely! If you want to use NTFS formatted external hard drives on Mac, there is a great software called iBoysoft NTFS for Mac that might be helpful.

iBoysoft NTFS for Mac - professional NTFS driver for Mac

iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is a professional NTFS for Mac software, which can automatically mount NTFS drives in read-write mode on Mac. It supports macOS Catalina 10.15/Mojave 10.14/High Sierra 10.13/Sierra 10.12 and Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11/Yosemite 10.10/Mavericks 10.9/Mountain Lion 10.8. With this useful tool, you'll have full access to NTFS drives on Mac and make your external hard drive interchangeable between Macs and PCs without formatting. Also, you can mount and unmount NTFS drives from the Mac menu bar with advanced and optimized options.

What's more, iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is also a handy tool to manage NTFS external drives. You can use it to easily mount, unmount, repair, erase NTFS external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, CF cards, pen drives, etc. on Mac.

Tutorial to mount NTFS external hard drive on macOS with read-write mode with iBoysoft NTFS for Mac

Step 1: Free download, install, and launch iBoysoft NTFS for Mac on your computer.

Step 2: Connect your NTFS external hard drive to Mac, and iBoysoft NTFS for Mac will automatically mount it.

Step 3: Write to NTFS external hard drive after the disk has been mounted in read-write mode successfully.

Format External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc Exfat

If you want to use HFS+ or APFS formatted external hard drives on Windows, you can also attempt to install HFS+ for Windows software or APFS for Windows software on your PC to get read and write access to this external hard drive.

Format External Hard Drive For Mac And Pc On Windows 7


To sum up, it is easy to format an external hard drive for both Mac and Windows PC. You can either choose to format the whole disk as exFAT/FAT, or you can create two separate partitions of HFS+ and NTFS if you prefer. But compared with formatting, an NTFS for Mac driver like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is a better and feasible solution.

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