How to format a hard drive on Mac

Format hard drive on Mac

In matters like this I always remember the first time I touched a Mac: I had to pick up my Symbian mobile, connect to Messenger and ask how to access MSN on my new computer. The problem with changing the operating system is that they have changed everything to us, so if we are a new switcher you've made your switch from Windows to OS X, we probably don't know how to format external hard drive on Mac.

Admittedly, the process is simple, but it is not the same as in Windows, where you just have to right-click on the drive and select "Format". To achieve the same in Mac OS X we will have to do it using the application Disk utility which is available in the Utilities folder which in turn is inside the Applications folder. Next we will show you how format an external hard drive on Mac (which is not different from formatting a Pendrive).

How to Format External Hard Drive on Mac

How to Format Mac with Disk Utility

  1. We open the Disk Utility which, as we have said, is in the Applications / Utilities path. We can also open it from the Launchpad and entering the Others folder or opening Spotlight and starting to write its name (the last method is my favorite).
  2. In Disk Utility, we select the hard drive that we want to format, taking care not to select any other hard drive that we may have connected to the Mac at that time.
  3. Next, we click on «Delete».
  4. We choose the type of format we want.
  5. Finally, we click on «Delete» again.

The process is easy, right? But, depending on our needs, we will format the disk in one way or another.

Disk utility
Related article:
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Format types

Mac OS X Extended

This is the Apple format, to put it in a quick and easy way. If we format a hard drive that we are only going to use on Mac computers, it is most likely that this is the best format we could use, since everything is faster and works better. But the problem is that today there are many computers and we cannot know when we are going to use it in one with another operating system, so it must be clear that if we format it in Mac OS X Plus we will not be able to read or write on it on another computer. This format is not to share, let's go.


Format Mac in FAT32

We could say that FAT is the universal format. In Windows we will see it as FAT32 and if we format it in this format we will be able to read and write information in practically any operating system, which includes Mac, Windows, Linux and even mobile devices or consoles.

The problem with this format is that only supports files up to 4GB, so we couldn't transport a DVD-sized movie (4,7GB) on a FAT-formatted USB or hard drive. We always have the solution to divide it, but this can be a hassle that is not worth it.

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An interesting format for computing is exFAT. Is readable from Mac, Windows and Linux, but they will not be able to read or write it on other types of devices, such as mobile phones, consoles, televisions, etc. If you have to transport data between computers, this format is worth it. If your unit has to be used in more types of devices, better to use FAT.

Can I format a hard drive in NTFS on Mac?


Yes, but with nuances. Apple computers can do it all. In fact, we can install Windows with Bootcamp and use all its programs. But since what we want is to format a disk in NTFS in OS X, this would not be an option. NTFS is the native Windows format, so we will not be able to work on it with a Mac right out of the box.

To format a hard drive in NTFS using a Mac we will have to install third party software which, as you may have guessed, are paid. Two of the best programs are Paragon NTFS for Mac (Download) and Tuxera NTFS for Mac (Download). Once one of the two programs has been downloaded and installed, we will be able to read and write on any disk with NFTS format, as well as format it from the Mac itself.

Can I erase a disk on Mac without having to format it?

Macs to format

Admittedly, this can be desperate if we don't know how to do it. In Unix-based operating systems you can't just delete data from an external drive, no. For security, when we delete data from external drive on Mac and Linux, this data will go to a hidden folder named ".Trash". To begin with, if we do not see it, we will only know that we are running out of disk space. How do we solve this uncomfortable problem? Well, it is very easy and it is better to learn how to delete data from external drives before they go to the trash.

To be able to delete data from an external disk or USB on Mac, we will have to do it in two steps: in the first we will press the Control key and, without releasing it, we will drag the file or files that we want to eliminate to the desktop of our computer. By pressing Control what we are doing is that they "move"Therefore, while copying it to our desktop, it will also completely remove it from our external drive. The second time is, logically, to delete the file by moving it to the trash.

Moving file on Mac

If you have already deleted the data, you do not see anything in the Finder and the disk continues to occupy space, you will have to do the same thing that we have explained in the previous step, but first we will have to take a previous step: open a Port (which we can access through the same routes as Disk Utility) and write the following command:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder

Where we will have to put "TRUE" to see the hidden files or "FALSE" so that the hidden files are still hidden. With the hidden files well in sight we can now look for the folder «.Trash» (the point in front means it is hidden), drag the data to the desktop and then to the trash.

From now on I am sure that you no longer have any problem when formatting a hard drive on Mac.

How to format Mac

Format Mac  

The Mac is a near perfect machine, but only "near." Despite its great performance, power and ease of use of any of its models over a PC, the truth is that “junk” also accumulates on our Macs from apps we've already uninstalled, app installers we don't even know are still around, updates, cookies, caches, and more. Therefore, from time to time, it comes in handy format the Mac and leave it as fresh from the factory. In addition, if you wish, you can dump your Time Machine backup again, although I do not recommend it because this would also dump part of that "garbage", or those folders that you have previously made a copy of on a hard drive external.

Advantages of formatting Mac

Once you have formatted your Mac, you will immediately notice two benefits:

  1. Your Mac's HDD or SSD storage now has a lot more free space, even after having reinstalled your applications and even having dumped a previous backup.
  2. Your mac now works much more smoothly than before, it is faster and more efficient.

How to format Mac step by step

If your apple computer no longer works as it should, then the time has come to format your Mac, something as simple as following the following steps to the letter:

  1. Make a backup copy of your Mac with Time Machine or copy to an external hard drive everything you want to later transfer to your formatted Mac: documents, photos, videos ... If you don't need any of this because you have everything hosted in the cloud , you can skip this step.

Backup on Mac

  1. Open the Mac App Store and download the latest version of the macOS installer again.

Download macOS

  1. Meanwhile, go to this website and download the Disk Maker tool
  2. Once macOS and DiskMaker are downloaded, make sure you have an SD card or a pendrive of at least 8GB capacity and connect it to your Mac.


  1. Launch the DiskMaker application and follow its instructions. You just have to select the operating system and the pendrive you have connected and enter your administrator password. A process will then start that will create a Boot disk on said pendrive. Be patient, the process takes a while so do not do anything at all until a message appears on the screen indicating that everything is ready.

Format Mac

  1. Once the process is finished, open "System Preferences" à "Startup Disk". Select the new boot disk (the pendrive you have created) and click on restart. If prompted, confirm the action and wait for your Mac to boot up with the macOS installer on the screen.
  2. Now select "Disk Utility", select the current partition of your Mac and press the Delete button making sure to keep it in the "Mac OS Plus (Journaled)" format. This will erase the entire current operating system, leaving your Mac clean for the new installation.
  3. Quit "Disk Utility" and continue with the macOS installation process as usual.

When prompted, enter your Apple ID, and your “new” Mac will automatically sync bookmarks, history, bookmarks, Apple Music content, images and videos from the Photos app, documents and files stored in iCloud Drive, and more.

NOTE: : If you have formatted it to sell, do not enter your Apple ID, at this time you can turn it off so that it can be configured by its new owner.

And Voilà! You have already formatted your Mac and now you can now enjoy the latest version of the operating system on a totally clean installation. You will immediately notice that your Mac works faster and smoother, and that it has more free storage space.

Now you just have to open the Mac App Store, go to the "Purchased" section, and start downloading and installing all the applications you use regularly. Another great advantage is that these apps will be installed in their latest version, and not update upon update.

Finally, if you wonder how often you should format a Mac, I'll just tell you that I do once a year, coinciding with the release of the new version, and so my team always goes smoothly.

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  1.   nickyhelmut said

    Hi, thanks for your help. I did what you recommended and if I slightly increase the capacity of free space in the storage, but now the size of photos, audio and movies is no longer displayed in that window, as it did before. Please how do I do for storage show that storage please.
    Thank you

  2.   nickyhelmut said

    Well, it seems that it was enough to empty the trash to see the apparent values ​​of video, audio, photos and backup. MY doubt is that the proportion varied a lot with respect to what it had before doing the process you recommended (the other category is immense compared to the rest by the way, but I suppose it is normal). Anyway, if you had any suggestions to improve the performance of my «MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)» I would appreciate it because I feel that it has been reduced and sometimes it takes time to turn off and sometimes it hangs for little time but it does.
    Thank you

  3.   daniel said

    Hi. I have a multimedia hard drive, and I want to format it with ntfs. with mac captain or xs system
    how can I do it

    1.    Jordi Giménez said

      Hi Daniel,

      You have to connect it to the Mac and from the Disk Utility option follow the steps in the article on that disk foraging OS X Plus (with registry)


  4.   Wilson said

    My Pro Updated but it has become too slow is it from 4 to 8 Ram or is it recommended to prescribe it? Thank you

  5.   alvaroque2014 said

    Sony 4K does read discs on exfat

  6.   Davis's said

    Hello good, how can I format a mac with 2 internal hdd, one solid and one "normal"?

    it doesn't have trim compatibility, by the way, and it's a samsung ssd 840 pro series.

    Thanks in advance.


    1.    Davis's said

      "It doesn't have trim compatibility, by the way, and it's a samsung ssd 840 pro series."

      well that's what it says in "about this mac"

  7.   Kidney said

    Hello, help,
    I change my original hard drive because it was bad. I took this situation when trying to install the captain and suddenly the machine locked. In Apple I went for problem, but they said bad hard drive. I don't have a boot disk.
    I change a new 1 TB SSHD hard drive, and I put a new 16 GB RAM before 4 GB. I went back to Apple again and they couldn't install the captain. I did test on another machine and RAM if it worked. Technician did test hard drive and it also worked. Microprocessor worked too.
    Here data from my computer, could some have the same problem
    Macbook pro on average 2010, had Snow Leopard installed. Defective hard drive was 500GB and a 4GB Ram. I switch to a 1TB hard drive and 16GB RAM.
    greetings, thanks for hand before

  8.   Gabriel Martinez said

    friend I have a macbook pro of my aunt that has pasword efi of the bios and does not have the user account of the operating system I want to format it as I can do it

  9.   Carlos said

    Hello Friend of I'm from Mac!
    I have a new external Hard Drive, and I need to format it to use it on my iMac. It is a My Passport model WD. It happens that I do the steps to perform the format, but when I get to the last window and click on delete,
    a message tells me: "Volume removal has failed due to error: Disk could not be unmounted"
    Other times: »Disk could not be opened» and the erase graphic stops disappearing, and the Disk remains unformatted.
    Could you please tell me what the problem is ??? Thanks and regards. Carlos.

  10.   spellbinding said

    Hi. I installed a new Crucial SSD drive in my mid 2010 MBP which was updated with Sierra. I'm trying to reformat the disk and it won't let me erase. The partition map is listed as incompatible.

    If I try to restore from time machine it keeps looking for the destination disk. I assume it is because it is not formatted.
    How can I achieve the format change and compatibility?

  11.   jose said

    hi .. i'm thinking of buying a WD multimedia hard drive. but the seller tells me that it only supports MAC, MAC OS PLUS format
    my question is if you can do something ... format it or something to work with windows?
    Thank you.