Two Glyph hard drives stacked

How To Format An External Drive For Mac

Dan King
Dan King

Table of Contents

External hard drives are often pre-formatted for Windows PC's.  If you are a Mac user, you will need to know how to format your new hard drive, whether it be a traditional spinning platter drive, or a faster solid state drive.

How To Format Your External Hard Drive for Mac

  1. Connect your hard drive to your Mac computer.  For newer drives this will usually be utilizing a USB type-C or Thunderbolt cable, but older drives might require a USB type-A connector.  Either will work for this process.
  2. Open Launchpad --> click on Other --> Disk Utility
MacOS Launchpad Disk Utility highlighted

3.  Once you have Disk Utility open, click View --> Show All Devices

MacOS Disk Utility Show All Devices menu option

4.  The left menu will show you options for which drive you would like to format.  Here we have a Glyph 500GB drive shown under External options:

MacOS Disk Utility External drives list

4.  Choose which drive you would like to format and click Erase in the top menu.

MacOS Disk Utility Erase button highlighted

5.  Clicking the Erase button will bring up a small window warning that you are about to erase all the data stored on the drive.  Go ahead and click Erase here if you are sure you would like to format the drive.

MacOS erase disk and format warning popup

6.  You will be asked for a Name, Format, and Scheme for your drive.  Here are the options:

  • APFS - Apple File System. Choose this option if you are running a newer Mac with MacOS Sierra (10.12.4) or later. This option is also optimized for solid state drives.
  • APFS (Encrypted) - This uses the APFS format and encrypts the drive volume.
  • APFS (Case-sensitive) - This option uses the APFS format and is case-sensitive to file and folder names. Example: A file named "photos" is different than a file named "PHOTOS"
  • APFS (Case-sensitive, Encrypted) - This uses the APFS format, encrypts the volume, and makes the files case-sensitive as above.
  • Mac OS Extended (Journaled) - choose this option if you are running a Mac OS prior to 10.12.
  • Mac Os Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled) - Use this option if you want your files and folders to be case-sensitive and are using a MacOS prior to 10.12.
  • MS-DOS (FAT) - This will be rare these days but is used for Windows-compatible volumes that are 32GB or less.
  • ExFAT - This option is used for Windows-compatible volumes over 32GB.
MacOS Erase and Format APFS option

7.  Once you have named your drive and chosen your Format, click Erase and you simply need to wait for the process to complete and you are ready to use your new external drive!

MacOS Erase and format Erase button highlighted

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