How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac (Sonoma/Ventura)

Robert Hunt
Last updated: Jun 20, 2023

Formatting an external hard drive on Windows is easy, just right-click on it and select Format. But how to format it on Mac? Read on. We'll show you how to do it in a few steps.

Most external hard drives are prepared for Windows. If you want to use them on a Mac, you may need to format them first. So how do you format an external hard drive for Mac?

This article will walk you through when to format an external hard drive on a Mac and how to format it. Also, we've added a bonus tip for you to help you choose the right format when formatting.

Let's get started.

How to Format an External Hard Drive for Mac

When Do You Need to Format an External Hard Drive on a Mac?

Consider formatting your external hard drive on your Mac if you are experiencing the following situations:

  • When using a new hard drive.
  • When your Mac cannot write to your external hard drive.
  • When you want to change the format.
  • When you want to backup Mac files via Time Machine.
  • When the file system of your external hard drive is corrupted;
  • When you want to completely erase the contents of your external hard drive.

How to Format Your External Hard Drive on Mac

Formatting an external hard drive isn't a bad idea, as long as you don't do it too often. Now let's go through the detailed steps.

Step 1. Insert your external hard drive into your Mac.

Step 2. Open Disk Utility via Finder or Spotlight.

Step 3. Click View > Show All Devices.

Show All Devices in Disk Utility on Mac

Step 4. Under External in the left-hand column, find and click the device you want to format.

Step 5. Click the Erase button in the toolbar at the top of the right column.

Step 6. Rename your drive, select your desired format and structure, and click the Erase button.

  • Apple File System (APFS): The file system used by macOS 10.13 or above.

  • Mac OS Extended: The file system used by macOS 10.12 or earlier.

  • MS-DOS (FAT) and ExFAT: File systems that are compatible with Windows.

    Format External Hard Drive on Mac

Related Article: Best Format for Mac External Hard Drive

  1. APFS and Mac OS Extended are only available for Mac.
  2. MS-DOS (FAT) is used for Windows volumes that are 32 GB or less and ExFAT for Windows volumes that are over 32 GB.
  3. Formatting a drive will erase all of its contents. If necessary, back up your drive first.

Bonus Tip: NTFS/APFS/HFS+/exFAT/FAT32 - Pros and Cons

The key step in formatting a hard drive is choosing the correct format. But while formatting, you may see various formats, such as APFS, NTFS, HFS+, exFAT, FAT32, etc., which are so confusing that you don't know which format you should use.

Don't worry. We're here to help you out. We've made a chat for you from which you can easily tell what their pros and cons are. Take a look at them before performing the formatting steps.

Pros and Cons of NTFS, APFS, HFS, exFAT and FAT32

We also have an article about them, learn more from NTFS vs exFAT vs FAT32 vs APFS – Differences


Hopefully, you have successfully formatted your external hard drive to your desired format. As you can see, the steps are very simple, but choosing the correct format is critical.

If this article was helpful to you, please share it with those in need. We would be grateful for it!

Robert Hunt

I'm Robert Hunt, a tech-savvy fan with the love of all things Apple. As a hobbyist of gardening and meditation, I'm also a seasoned writer covering a wide array of Apple products, like iPhone, iPad, iOS and more.