How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac? (2 Proven Ways)

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac? “Format”, a word that is connected with “all data clear”, is commonly used on the external drive or the Mac internal drive to solve hard drive problems or free up storage space. Today, we’re going to talk about how to format an external hard drive on Mac with Disk Utility and Terminal in this post. Just keep reading.


Cases when you need to format the external hard disk on Mac

When you run into the following situations, it signals that you may need to format the external hard drive on Mac:

  1. Your hard drive can no longer write in further with enough storage space, and you expect erasing disk to pave way for new items to write.
  2. When there are file system errors on your hard disk and it is not recognized or mounting on Mac, so you wish to reformat it to make it in use again.
  3. The file system of the external hard drive is not compatible with your macOS, you need to format it to a file system that is supported by your Mac.
  4. Your hard drive is totally new and is not formatted, you need to format it to make them usable.


Format external hard disk with Disk Utility on Mac

Normally there are two methods for formatting external hard disks on Mac. One is to use the Disk Utility app in macOS, which is friendly to most of the users. While another one is to type in several command lines in Terminal correctly, which is more used for tech veterans or people who are familiar with the command line prompt.

And before going any further in formatting an external hard disk, backup all your important files on it first since formatting will wipe all your data on the external hard drive. But if your external hard disk is heavily corrupted due to a software problem and you can’t backup it now, you can still use data recovery software from iBoysoft to retrieve it first.

Then do the following to format an external hard drive on Mac through Disk Utility:

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive with your Mac, and the computer will mount your external hard drive automatically.

Step 2: Open Launchpad > Other > Disk Utility, and click the Disk Utility

Step 3: Select your target external hard drive (for example WD Game Drive Media in the following picture), click Erase on the top.

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Step 4: Then type in a new name for your hard drive, select a format and a scheme. Actually, your Mac is very smart and will select the option it thinks is most appropriate. If you want to change it according to your own preference, you can select it from the drop-down menu.


Step 5: Click Erase to format your target disk and wait for the process to finish.

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Look, it is so easy to handle the whole reformatting process in Disk Utility. And If you need to switch between macOS and Windows and want to format external hard drive for Mac and pc, you can reformat it as FAT32 or exFAT when you are at step 3.


Format external hard disk with Terminal on Mac

In addition to Disk Utility, you can still use Terminal to format your hard drive on Mac. And this is very helpful when you failed to reformat your hard drive via Disk Utility.

Follow the below steps to format your external hard drive with Terminal:

1. Open Launchpad > Other > Terminal.

2. Type in the following command, then press Enter to list all the connected external drives on your Mac currently.

diskutil list

3. According to the disk information, Locate the disk you want to format and find its device identifier. It will look like “/dev/disk2”. You need to write this information down somewhere or take a picture of it since you’ll need it in the next step.


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4. Input the “erase” command and press Enter key:

diskutil erasedisk + new file system + new disk name + identifier.


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For example: To format the whole disk 2 to HFS Plus (Mac OS Extended), then the operating command is:

diskutil erasedisk hfs+ TD disk2

Here HFS+ can be replaced by other file system formats such as APFS, FAT32, and ExFAT. And “TD” is the name that is given to the disk and it can also be replaced by any word you like. “disk 2” is the identifier, which is the target disk that you just located in step

5. Still wait until the whole formatting process is accomplished.


Wrap things up

Hope the above-mentioned methods give you a clear guide on how to format an external hard drive on Mac. And it’s worth mentioning again that remember to back up all the data you care about before reformatting.

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