3 Ways for How to Convert External Hard Drive to APFS Format for Mac

Updated to Troubleshooting Tips by William on June 23, 2022 | Approved by Daryl Baxter

External hard drives are used to store important files and it’s easier to take them to anywhere you need. Most external hard drives are in NTFS (compatible with Windows PC) or HFS+ (compatible with macOS) format. If you usually use it on a Mac, NTFS is not compatible, and HFS+ though compatible, but not the most suitable and powerful file system. That’s why you need to convert external hard drive to APFS.

APFS is short for Apple File System, which was introduced in 2006 and was the default file system for macOS High Sierra and later. Compared with the HFS+, it has multiple advantages.

It’s better for people who work with iMac or MacBook running on 10.13 or later to convert external hard drive to APFS if he or they want to enjoy a better experience of using the hard drive. Is it possible to convert an external drive to APFS for Mac? For sure, you can. Here in the following, 4 methods for how to convert external hard drive to APFS guide are introduced.

Quick Navigation
Part 1. 2 Ways to Convert External Drive to APFS Without Erasing Data (Free)
Part 2. Convert External Hard Disk to APFS Format on Mac by Formatting (Free)
Part 3. Alternative Solution for Converting HDD/SSD to APFS (Paid)
Part 4. Frequently Asked Questions for Converting External Hard Drive to APFS

Part 1. Convert External Drive to APFS Without Erasing Data

Generally, people want to convert an external hard disk to APFS file system without erasing data since they want to keep the data and they’ll work with the data in the near future. It’s possible. There are 2 ways to finish the task without erasing any data on the external hard drive.

Method #1. Convert Diks to APFS Directly in Disk Utility

If your external hard drive is HFS+ already, then it’s very easy to convert it to APFS without erasing any data on the hard drive. The process is very simple to do in Disk Utility.

  1. Navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  2. In the left panel, select this external hard drive
  3. If you do not see it, you can go to the View drop-down menu, and check "Show All Devices", making sure the connected external hard drive is shown.

  4. On the top pane, click the "Eidt" menu and select "Convert to APFS" options in the list.

Method #2. Convert External Hard Drive to APFS by Partition the Hard Drive

  1. Connect the external disk with your Mac.
  2. Open "Disk Utility".
  3. Select the external hard drive in the left panel and click "Partition" on the top right.
  4. Make sure the scheme listed for the device information is "GUID Partition Map".
  5. In the format area, click Mac OS Extended (Journaled) > click Apply.

Part 2. Convert External Hard Drive to APFS Format on Mac by Formatting

There are conditions like "Convert to APFS" greyed out, the external hard drive unmounted on Mac, the hard drive file system is not "Mac OS Extended", etc. which make it impossible for people to convert external hard drive to APFS without erasing data. In this case, the only option left for converting the disk to APFS is formatting, which will result in data erasing.

To convert an external hard drive to APFS format on Mac by formatting the hard drive, the very first thing you must do is back up the data from the hard drive by copying them to another hard drive or on your Mac, even on cloud services. Otherwise, you might lose the data permanently.

After data backup, follow the steps below to format the external hard drive to APFS for Mac.

  1. Connect the external hard drive with your Mac.
  2. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  3. In the View drop-down menu, check "Show All Devices".
  4. Select the external hard drive in the left panel and click "Erase".
  5. Rename the disk and select"GUID Partition Map" in the Scheme Field and Format to APFS.
  6. Confirm the action and wait for it to finish.

As I have mentioned, generally it will not erase any data on the external hard drive while converting an external hard drive to APFS. However, if you can’t convert an external hard drive to APFS with method 1 and method 2, then the last resort is method 3 formatting.

Do the backup before applying method 3. If you accidentally format the hard drive without backup, then try to resume data from the formatted external hard drive as soon as possible. The sooner the better.

How to Recover Files from Formatted External Disk on Mac

iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac is a reliable file recovery tool letting you scan the formatted external disk for recoverable files. After then, you can preview all the files and get erased files back selectively. It can also recover deleted files from external hard drive on Mac.

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  1. Connect the external hard drive with your Mac, letting it be recognized as an disk on your Mac.
  2. Download and install iBeesoft Mac data recovery. After then, launch it.
  3. Click "Start" to begin. After then, locate the external hard drive in the hard drive list window and click "Scan", letting the software scan the hard drive for formatted files.
  4. Wait for the scanning process to finish. After then, you can go to the result window, select file types in the left panel, and preview the corresponding files on the right side.
  5. Select needed files and click "Recover" to save them to a new folder or partition on your Mac.

Part 3. Alternative Solution for Converting HDD/SSD to APFS

Some people sometimes need to use an external hard drive to transfer files both on Windows PC and Mac. When the HDD/SSD file system is NTFS, it can’t be recognized by macOS. What should people do to make it work both on PC and Mac? To solve this problem, there are many software tools are developed for Mac to read NTFS external hard drives. It doesn’t need you to convert the hard drive file system to APFS, nor format the hard drive. In this case, if you use the external hard drive on your Mac temporarily, such kind of software could be a better option. Of course, it needs you to spend some bucks.

In the next, let’s take Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software as an example to show you how to access the NTFS hard drive on Mac. With the help of this tool, you don’t need to convert external hard drive to APFS at all.

  1. Download and install Paragon NTFS for Mac.
  2. Connect the external hard disk on your Mac.
  3. Restart your Mac
  4. This drive connected to your Mac are available in the Finder

Part 4. Frequently Asked Questions for Converting External Hard Drive to APFS

  1. How do I convert my hard drive to APFS on Mac?
  2. If your hard drive is already HFS+, then you can right-click on it in Disk Utility > select "Convert to APFS" or partition it to APFS. If the hard drive is not compatible with Mac, unmounted, or in any abnormal situation, then you need to format it.

  3. Is APFS faster than Mac OS Extended?
  4. Yes, APFS is faster than Mac OS Extended. However, if you want to use APFS, your macOS must be 10.13 or higher. Otherwise, it’s safe to keep the hard drive in Mac OS Extended since it is fully compatible with old Macs, Fusion drives, Time Machine, etc.

  5. How do I change the file system on my external hard drive on Mac?
  6. There are several options on Mac Disk Utility to change the file system on your external hard drive: format, partition, first aid, etc. Just navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility to choose the right way to change the file system on your external hard drive.