How to Format a USB Drive to Use on Mac and PC

You can format the external hard drive or USB drive to make it compatible with both Mac and Windows machines. This thing is still unknown for many users but doesn’t worry it’s not complex.

If you are tech savvy and use Windows and Mac computers frequently, then you might need to transfer data between Mac and PC. Windows and macOS filesystems are different and you might need to format the drive every time to use on both platforms. You don’t need to format the hard drive every time you can choose a filesystem while formatting the drive so the hard drive or USB drive work on both Mac and PC

So to get rid of these situations we bring here a guide that will help you to format your drive which works on both platforms and you don’t need to format and backup data every time. After cross-compatible formatting, simply unplug the drive from one machine and then plug it into another. Sounds good to you right? So let’s started, how this works.

Understand file systems for Mac and Windows

There are three common file system types to format an external USB or hard drive, SSD drive, SD card and etc. FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT let’s have a look what’s the difference between these formats.


FAT 32 Format

This format is pretty old but supported and it’s not efficient as compared to NTFS. It doesn’t support big features but offers great compatibility which means it’s compatible with all versions of Windows. It can only support 4GB file size and up to 8TB hard drivers. It’s not capable to store files larger than 4GB.

NTFS Format

NTFS is a modern format system and Windows also uses this format for itself and for other non-removable drives by default. This format is also compatible with all versions of Windows but limited to none Windows OS as FAT32.

exFAT Format

exFAT drives are faster at reading and writing as compared to FAT32. This format can store large files and it’s also lightweight. It’s compatible with all versions of Windows and the best thing it’s along with Windows it’s also compatible with macOS, Linux, and Android, etc.

  • If your drive is formatted as Windows default format NTFS then it’s only readable to macOS. You can’t do more than that or you have to install a separate app on Mac to read write the drive.
  • Drive with macOS format HFS+ cant readable to Windows.
  • FAT32 format works on both Windows and Mac but the problem is you can only work with files with a maximum size of 4GB.

Learn more: Copy data on NTFS drive in macOS

FAT32 is much better than NTFS and HFS+ becuase it works on both operating systems. You can also install drivers on each OS to make work your drive. So exFAT is much better than all of these formats and a simple option but this will not work on Leopard.

Format a USB Drive on Mac

Time needed: 5 minutes

First, let’s see how to format an external hard drive or USB drive in macOS which works with both Mac and PC platforms, first plug-in your drive into a macOS machine.

  1. Disk Utility

    Open Disk Utility on your macOS,  press cmd + spacebar keys, and type Disk Utility in the spotlight search. Open Disk Utility from the search results.

  2. Erase Drive

    On the Disk Utility interface, select an external drive click on the Erase button from the top of the window (make sure and backup your drive before erasing it).

  3. Drive format

    Now enter the name for the external drive which will be used after formatting and also select the exFAT for Format option and click on the Erase. This will format the drive as exFAT format and your drive is now compatible with both platforms.

Format USB Drive in Windows

The below steps for formatting external drive is for Windows 10 and also works the same with an old version of Windows. To format your external drive hard drive in Windows to use on Mac and PC platforms, first plug-in your drive with a Windows machine.

Open the Disk Management tool by right-clicking on the start menu icon and then select Disk Management. Now right click on the external drive and click on the format option (double-check the drive name and capacity to make sure you are going to format the right drive.)

Now enter the Volume label as you need and change the File system for exFat and click OK. Now you are done.

Share your experience, how do you use an external hard drive on both Mac and PC. Did you format the drive as exFAT ? or use any utility that helps the system to read another type of file system. Please leave a comment below.

3 comments… add one
Emma March 8, 2020, 12:15 am

How can i or can i get this if iv forgot my admin password

TrickyWays March 8, 2020, 5:00 am

To reset the forgotten password for a Mac account, you can check this guide
If you need further help please reply.

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