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So let’s say that you have a external hard drive and you want to use this portable hard drive with both Mac and Windows computers, to access your files and folders flawlessly without any issues. Luckily you can format your drive so it does just this, I shall be showing you how in this article.

On Windows

If you’re on a Windows computer, open up Windows Explorer (Windows Key+E) and go to This PC, that’s where all of your hard drives and USB drives are listed.

Before we go any further you will want to make sure that you have copied all of your data such as files and folders from the external hard drive as the formatting process permanently deletes all of the files and data on the drive.

To format your drive, firstly right click on the external drive listing in Explorer and then select the Format  from the dropdown list of options, this will then open the disk formatting utility in Windows. In this utility, click the dropdown menu for File system and select ExFAT, this is a drive format that is compatible with both macOS and Windows for reading and writing data, for more information on ExFAT take a look at these resources.

Once that is selected you can give your external hard drive a name if you would like to and then you can click Start to format the drive, this will permanently delete all the information and files on the external drive so ensure you have copied all your data off the drive before formatting – you are responsible for the data on your device so make sure it is in a safe place.

Now, you’re done! You can now copy all your files back onto the external drive.

macOS

If you’re using a Mac, Disk Utility is the application that is going to be used to format the drive. To open Disk Utility, use Spotlight – which is the search functionality of macOS. To use Spotlight either click the magnifying glass icon (Spotlight Icon) found on the top right corner of your display or open it by pressing Command Key+Space.

Disk Utility
Disk Utility is an application on macOS to manage hard drives and partitions.

A search box will appear on your display, type Disk Utility and this will search for the application on your Mac, the first result should be Disk Utility, with its icon being a hard drive featuring a doctor’s stethoscope.

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If Spotlight isn’t working for you, open Finder and go to your Applications folder and then go to the Utilities folder and you should find Disk Utility there.

Disk Utility Screenshot

Once Disk Utility is open, all of the various hard drives and external drives will be listed. Disk Utility separates these into different sections on the sidebar under the Internal and External headings. Your external drive should be listed under the external section. Once you have found your drive in the list double check it is the correct one and ensure that you have selected the drive and not the partition for the drive.

As you can see in the image on the left, the drive is titled TDK LoR but the partition is titled USB DRIVE, so make sure you’ve selected the external drive drive and not the partition.

Now let’s move on to formatting the drive, or as it is called in Disk Utility, Erasing. Click the Erase button and then give your external drive a name, set the format to ExFAT and the scheme to GUID Partition Map and then click erase, this will permanently delete all the information and files on the external drive so ensure you have copied all your data off the drive before erasing – you are responsible for the data on your device so make sure it is in a safe place.

Finishing Off

That’s it, you’re done! Now you can use your external hard drive on both Windows and macOS operating systems seamlessly, you’ll still want to make sure you eject your drive on macOS but otherwise everything should be working just fine.


This article is for educational purposes only, erasing and/or formatting your drive will permanently delete all the files and information from your drive – make sure you have your files copied to a different drive to ensure they are safe before wiping. You are responsible for the data on your device and ensuring it is backed up before proceeding with instructions in this article.


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