How to Format an External Hard Drive for Mac And PC: All You Need to Know

HomeHow ToHow to Format an External Hard Drive for Mac And PC: All...

How to Format an External Hard Drive for Mac And PC: All You Need to Know

Mac and PC indeed use different filesystems, and their hard drives are incompatible with each other. However, you should still be able to format the two drives.

Also, suppose you need to use a drive incompatible with your computer operating systems, and the need to format it arises. You should understand that there is a better way to make your external drives compatible with your PC and Mac.

Generally, many hard drive manufacturers use the NTFS file system as a factory standard to format their external hard drives. This is only so because Windows has the most significant number of users worldwide compared to Mac.

While Windows uses NTFS, Mac uses HFS. You must format an external hard drive for Mac and PC to a file system compatible with both Mac and PC. This helps with more efficient management of accidentally erased external hard drive.

How To Make External Hard Drive Compatible with Mac And PC

You will need to format the HDD on Windows PC to perform this action. In this article, we share more information on how to undertake the process to make your hard drive compatible with both the PC and Mac.

Method 1: Format the External Drive with Disk Management on Windows

Step 1: Locate the target external HDD in Disk Management and check if it is already initialized. If the disk is not initialized, right-click on it and choose the style to use, i.e., MBR or GPT. Right-click on it and pick “Format” from the menu.

Step 2: Set up the disk information, including volume label, format, and allocation unit size. If you intend to use the disk interchangeably on Windows and macOS, choose FAT or exFAT as the preferred disk format.

Step 3: Now click “OK” to complete the format drive command.

Method 2: Format an External Hard Drive with Third-Party Software

This method utilizes third-party software to format external HDDs. The technique can be very successful if you choose the right software. You can also use it to recover partition on Mac. Besides, third-party apps can restore lost data on Mac and PC.

There are several third-party software to perform this action in the market, and you should choose one with the highest success rates for better results. This software includes Disk Drill developed by Cleverfiles and AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard.

Let’s show you how to format your external hard drives with Disk Drill.

Step 1: Begin by connecting the external hard drive to your PC

Step 2: Download Disk Drill for free and install it on your PC.

Step 3: Launch Disk Drill

Step 4: Right-click on the partition of the external hard drive and select “Format Partition” If the drive is unallocated, right-click the unallocated space and choose “Create Partition

Step 5: In the pop-up window that appears, select exFAT under the File System. You can also change cluster size to help your hard drive perform better.

Step 6: Tap on “Apply” and then “Proceed” to complete the process

Once the process is complete, the external hard drive can be used on Mac and Windows PC. Disk Drill is a robust tool for formatting external hard drives and is also a data recovery software.

Which is the Best Format for an External HDD for Mac and PC?

File systems manage how files are stored and even erased hard drive recovery on computer devices. Every hard disk, therefore, needs a proper file system. However, different formats have different pros and cons. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of the various file systems.

1. FAT32

FAT or File Allocation Table is a file system initially developed on floppy disks and later adopted for many other devices, including hard drives. It includes three major file system variants, with FAT32 being the most commonly used variant.


  • Works universally with all versions of Mac, Linux, Windows, and game devices


  • It does not support files that are larger than 4GB and drive partition sizes larger than 32GB on Windows
  • It does not support drive partitions larger than 2TB on MacOS
  • Prone to disk errors

2. exFAT

This is a modern derivative of FAT. It is widely used in firmware with low memory and low power requirements, such as media players and mobile phones.


  • Can store files larger than 4GB


  • Not compatible with much older OSs
  • It is not a good option for drives below 32GB


This is a proprietary journaling format built by Microsoft. It is used on Windows and has good data security features based on access permission controls, encryption, and log file.


  • Improved performance, disk space, and reliability
  • Better data security and data management
  • Compatible with all versions of Windows


  • The read-only in macOS is unstable
  • The resizing feature is faulty

4. Mac OS Extended (HFS+)

This is a journaling format built by Apple Inc. it is the predecessor of the macOS High Sierra and is also commonly used as a Time Machine backup external drive.


  • Journaling, encryption, and compression features
  • Supports all versions of Mac OS X and macOS 10.12


  • No access permission controls
  • It is slow when working with a large number of files
  • Data recovery for PC is harder

5. Apple File System (APFS)

A new proprietary file system for Apple increases read and write speeds on solid-state drives. It also increases storage space.


  • Full-disk encryption
  • Efficient in free storage space management
  • Crash protection


  • Not suitable for Time Machine backup
  • It only works on macOS High Sierra and above

hand-picked weekly content in your inbox


related posts


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here