How to Format External Hard Drive on Mac

Updated to Troubleshooting Tips by Nancy on Dec 27, 2023 | Approved by Anthony Spadafora

Sometimes when you connect your external hard drive with Mac, only to find it does not work at all. And sometimes, a pop-up tells you to format external hard drive on Mac because it is corrupted or virus attacked. In this case, you should learn how to use disk utility to format external hard drive. If you found you have lost data after formatting the hard drive on Mac, try external hard drive recovery software to find them.

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Everyone loves their valuable data and keep them safe in external hard drives. But what happens if your external hard drive on Mac becomes corrupted? If you are trying to connect your external hard drive to a Mac, you may need to format an external hard drive before using it, because it file system does not match. In this article, we have compiled up each step to learn how to format an external hard drive.

Part 1: How to Use Disk Utility to Format External Hard Drive on Mac

Disk Utility on Mac lets you erase and format external hard drives to use with your Mac. Here's the step by step method on how you can format the external hard drive for Mac.

Step 1: From your Mac, launch Disk Utility. You can either go to Applications > Utilities or tap Command + Space and start typing Disk Utility.

Step 2: In Disk Utility, you will have a list of available drives on the left. You can select the drive which you would like to format.

Caution: Formatting your external drive will erase all your Data. Backup your Data first with Time Machine before doing the formatting.

Step 3: From the main window, under Disk Utility > Click on Erase.

Step 4: Disk Utility will automatically select the format for you from the available list and format an external hard drive for Mac. This might be APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). It depends on how your drive is currently formatted. You can anytime click on the formatting options to reveal the drop-down window. Choose your format according to how you may need to use the formatted drive. My suggestion is ExFAT, because it is a format full compatible with macOS and Windows.

Step 5: Now the next step is to give a name to the drive. You can give any name of your choice but choose a name that can indicate what type of files you will have in there.

Step 6: Then click on the Security Options button. Now another window will pop up, which will allow you to choose how you would like to format your drive. This option will come up with a slider, which will range from fastest to most secure.

Important note: This step is crucial to make sure the files in the drive are safely erased.

Step 7: It will completely erase the drive information; however, underlying files intact might be hidden there. In other words, you, or someone else can resurrect the files by using any paid data recovery software. If you want entirely to erase everything from your external hard drive, you can move the slider to the next second option "This option writes a single pass of zeros over the entire disk". It will completely overwrite the whole drive with all data erased.

Step 8: If you have sensitive data in your external hard drive and want to format it completely, you can continue moving the slider to the right. In the next step, you will have the option to overwrite the drive 3x times. Scrolling this option to most secure will overwrite the drive seven times. You might need to wait for a while (depending on the drive's size) before it's available to use again.

Step 9: Now moving to the final steps, click on Erase and wait for a while. Give some time for the data to be erased, and the drive is ready to use again.

Step 10: Voila! You are all set up to move your valuable data to your freshly formatted Hard Drive on Mac.

Part 2: How to Format External Hard Drive on Mac with Command Line

Another way for Mac OS X to format external hard drive is by using command line. This process is technical and complicated. So if you don’t know what you are doing, then we suggest you not to use this way and use the way from Part 1 in this article. For learning purpose, here is how to format an external hard drive on Mac with command line.

Step 1: To format external hard drive on Mac, Connect the USB drive to Mac and Hit CMD + along with Space key to run Spotlight. Now write "Terminal" in the search bar and press Enter.

Step 2: After the Terminal window is opened, type “diskutil list," and then you will know your USB Drive.

Step 3: Now type the command – "sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT32 MBRFormat /dev/disk2".

For your information:

Step 4: Now, wait for a while to let the process finish.

Step 5: Then type "diskutil list" again to take a look at the formatting procedure. This step is done to make sure whether the formatting is done correctly or not.

Step 6: Now, you are all set up to use USB with the FAT32 file system on your Mac.

Part 3: Recover Data Lost After Formatting External Hard Drive on Mac

Since formatting an external hard drive will erase all files, we recommend saving your data before you format your disk. Mac will no longer be able to access the files in the formatted External hard drive. However, if at any point you have changed your mind and want to recover files from your formatted disk on Mac, we recommend you use iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac. It's a tested tool that can be a lifesaver for you. With this software, you can restore all your lost data from any storage device. With just three simple steps, you can quickly restore your precious data.

How to Retrieve Data Lost by Formatting the External Hard Drive

First, download and install the software in your Mac and start the software. From the home window of the software, you can select your desired file types or just keep all the file types selected. Then click the "Start" button to proceed.

Next you need to connect the external hard drive with your Mac. Then select the external hard drive and hit the "Scan" button. Now the scanning process will start immediately.

When the scanning process is complete, you will get to preview all the lost data from the external drive. You can select all the data that you need to recover and click on the "Recover" button to recover the files. You can also use the "Deep Scan" mode if normal scanning doesn’t list all the files you lost in the software preview window.

In the end, after trying and knowing about all these methods, you should be an expert in Macbook how to format external hard drive. For the record, the best and easiest way to recover all your formatted data is by using this format recovery software. Was this guide helpful? Have you recovered your data with this software? Do you need any help? Feel free to reach out to us. We will help you fix your problems.