If you need a larger drive than T5, then check out Western Digital My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive. Its upper limit is 5TB. Let’s start with the following fact: My Passport supports both USB 3.0 and USB-C ports. It comes with two cables, and depending on which port you have on your Mac, you can use one or the other. Discover the world of external hard drives for Mac. Compare portable, USB and external hard drive models for office and home and shop online.
Sep 27,2020 • Filed to: Hard Drive Recovery • Proven solutions
'How to format an external hard drive Mac? What format system to use when reformatting my storage drive for a Mac?'
This is a frequent question asked by first-time, as well as the not-so-tech-savvy, macOS users. Learning how to format an external hard drive Mac is essential. Because saving all your data on the Cloud is nice and all, but physical storage is still popular. Especially if you don't have a stable internet connection or if most of your files are large.
Luckily, you don't have to learn rocket science to be able to format an external hard drive for Mac or PC. The operation is pretty straightforward. When it comes to your iOS device, we have listed two methods for you, read below and explore more.
Part 1: What Is the Best Format for External Hard Drive Mac?
The first step to formatting your external drive for a Mac computer is choosing the right format. There are four possible choices:
- APFS (Apple File System)
- HFS+ (Mac OS Extended)
- exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
- FAT (MS-DOS)
To understand which is the best for you, let's have a comprehensive overview of each of them.
1. Apple File System
The APFS was first introduced in 2017 as a replacement for the HFS+. Nowadays, all new Macs come with the operating system preinstalled on APFS, as this system is optimized for use with SSD and flash storage drives. However, it still works with traditional HDD drives too.
This is the best format to pick if you have an external SSD or USB flash drive that you don't intend to use with a Windows device.
The biggest strength of this system is the speed, as well as the encryption and metadata handling. However, you won't be able to use this system with Time Machine.
2. Mac OS Extended
The HFS+, or Hierarchical File System plus on its real name, was the main file system used for Mac until 2017.
This type of file system is suitable to use with both HDD and SDD drives, but the latter will perform slightly better with the APFS mentioned above. If you have an older Mac, though, choosing the HFS+ is your best bet.
In general, all external drives formatted to HFS+ work nicely with older Mac versions but are incompatible with Windows.
3. Extended File Allocation Table
Designed by Microsoft, the exFAT is a good choice if you plan to use the external hard drive with both macOS and Windows systems. Yet, you won't get top performance on either. This choice is more appropriate for USB flash drives, although you can still use it for SDD and HDD units too.
The main issue with exFAT is that your drive will be more prone to fragmentation when used with Apple devices and is less stable than NTFS on Windows. If you really have to share the drive between Mac and Windows machines, that's your best option though.
Macs also support FAT32 drives, marked as FAT in Disk Utility. This format should be avoided at all costs unless you're dealing with a really old Windows computer, which you really have to use in parallel with your Mac system.
Typically, there is no reason to choose this option unless you're planning to use the external hard drive on a Windows XP or earlier machine.
Part 2: How to Format an External Hard Drive Mac?
Now that you know which format to choose, it's time to learn how to format an external hard drive for Mac. There are essentially two methods, with Disk Utility or Time Machine function.
Note: If you plan to format an older external drive, perhaps one you used with another device, make sure to backup all data before proceeding. Formatting is a permanent procedure that can't be reversed. While there are data recovery software you can use if you lost data, it is always better to prevent.
That said, here's how to format an external hard drive Mac:
Apple Mac External Hard Drive
Method 1: Format Mac Hard Drive with Disk Utility
Disk Utility is a utility application proprietary to macOS that is used to both format and manage internal and external disks. Here's how to use it:
Step 1 Connect the external hard drive you want to format to your Mac, then start the Disk Utility app that you can find under Applications -> Utilities.
Step 2 On the left side of the Utilities screen, find the name of the external hard drive you want to format and select it. Then, on the top side under the Disk Utility, click on the Erase button.
Step 3 Follow the on-screen prompts to select the desired file system and allow the drive to format. That's it! After the process is complete, you can either start using the drive or choose to create partitions on it.
Method 2: Format Mac Hard Drive with Time Machine
Formatting an external hard drive with Time Machine is as easy as formatting it with Disk Utility. Time Machine, however, gives you the possibility to create an automatic backup of the data on your hard drive before formatting it.
Before you proceed, therefore, you should first set up the external drive to use with Time Machine. To do this, open System Preferences and select Time Machine after you've connected the external drive to your Mac.
Now, click on Select Disk and select the desired drive from the list. Click on the Use Disk button. At this point, the system will run an automatic backup two minutes after you've clicked on the Use Disk button, or you can proceed with the formatting if the hard disk is empty.
To format an external hard drive for Mac with Time Machine, you must follow the steps below.
Step 1 Open Finder, Applications, then go to Utilities and Disk Utility.
Step 2 Follow the steps above to format the drive, and then you can use it with Time Machine on your Mac system.
Part 3: Bonus Tip – Data Recovery from Formatted Hard Drive on Mac
Sometimes, it may happen that you accidentally formatted an external hard drive containing important data. Whether it's your wedding pictures or your bachelor's degree thesis, chances are you want to get that data back as quickly as possible.
If you have a newer version of Mac, you can use the Apple Time Machine to recover your canceled files, or you could choose to use external software, such as Recoverit Data Recovery.
1. Recover Data with Apple Time Machine
In the former hypothesis, you can try to recover your data with the Time Machine. This app is Apple's backup feature present on the newer systems. If you followed the steps above before formatting the hard drive with Time Machine and allowed the app to execute the backup, then there are high chances that you can recover any lost data without too much hassle.
To do so, just launch the Time Machine and browse through the folders to see if it has saved the files you require.
For easier browsing, you can use the time stamp feature on the right side of the screen and select the date or time when you executed the backup. Once you found the files, simply click on Restore to get them back.
2. Recover Data with Recoverit Data Recovery
If you didn't use the Time Machine function or couldn't find the files you need, you can try to recover any lost files with trusted third-party software, such as Recoverit - Data Recovery.
A Life Saver to Solve Your Data Loss Problems!
- It allows you to recover unlimited lost or deleted files from your Mac device, including photo, video, and audio data, document files, and more.
- It supports all types of Mac files irrespective of their extension.
- Compatible with both internal and external drives, USB pens, memory cards, and other hardware, so you can rest assured it will retrieve your data if it's there.
- Retrieve data from accidentally deleted files, lost or formatted partitions, data lost due to virus attacks, system crashes, or data lost by the Time Machine.
- It is free to download and supports all leading macOS versions, including the 10.14 release.
This system is also very easy to use, in just three easy steps:
Step 1Install the application and choose the desired location
Download and install the software on your Mac computer, then open it and select the external hard drive, partition, or location where you want to retrieve data.
Step 2Start the scan to retrieve your lost data
Click the Start button. The software will now scan the selected drive and display all retrieved data in an easy-to-scour list.
Step 3 Preview the recovered files and save them in your chosen location
Review and select the target files, then launch the recovery process. That's it. The software will restore your lost data.
As you can see, how to format an external hard drive Mac is not particularly complicated. The Disk Utility allows you to format the desired drive to the desired system in a blink of an eye. Backing up the data on your drive with Time Machine also allows you to avoid the recovery hassle. If you still lost some data, you even know which software to use to recover all lost files.
Now it's your turn. Use this guide to format your unreadable external drive, download, and use the data recovery software if needed, and don't forget to share this article with your Mac-addicted friends. They might make good use of it too.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure for more details.
I’ve been using Time Machine, a built-in backup programdeveloped by Apple since I bought my first Mac. I tried multiple external harddrives, and I believe I know a thing or two about the process and type ofhardware that works best with the Time Machine.
I can’t tell you how many times I was able to recover my Macs after experiments I run in order to write articles on my site.
I intentionally infected my poor MacBook with malware, installed keyloggers, deleted parts of the operating system, and did other things that normal people usually avoid. I reported my findings on macmyths.com, and many readers were able to avoid the mistakes they would make otherwise.
During my experiments, I wasn’t afraid to cause any damage(excluding physical) to my Macs because, after each test, I restored the lastimage from my Time Machine drives.
Wifi External Hard Drive For Mac
Unfortunately, not all backups I made were successful. In several cases, I had to use older backups from my secondary drives because my primary drives had failed.
And after going through the school of hard knocks, I realized how important it is to pick a write hard drive for Time Machine.
Here I present my top recommended products, so you can learn from my mistakes.
Table of Contents
- How to choose hard drives for Time Machine
- My Recommendations for the Best External Hard Drive for Mac Time Machine Backup
How to choose hard drives for Time Machine
There are certain qualities that I look for when considering hard drives for any backup. The main factor in selection is reliability. It doesn’t matter how fast the disk is, how sleek it looks, or how good the discount was on Amazon.
If the drive fails when you need it, then it’s not worth even a penny.
The thing is that all hard drives fail. There is not asingle model that is 100% fail free. The difference is the failure rate.Devices produced by well known established companies have lower rates compared todrives from unknown manufacturers.
If Amazon is your choice when it comes to purchasinganything online, be aware that not all user reviews are real. So many times,I’ve seen several thousands of 5-star reviews on noname devices, and at thesame time, good devices get a couple of hundreds of reviews, and the average is3.5.
How is it possible? I think we all know the answer.
So, what’s my point? If you get anything from this article,I want to remind you that brands matter when reliability is the most importantfactor in choosing a backup drive.
If you are not familiar with which manufacturers have beenon the market for decades, here is the list (not complete) of companies whichproduce quality hard drives:
- Western Digital (WD)
The second most important factor is storage capacity. Ideally, you want as much storage as you can get. However, we need to be practical, because extra bytes come with extra price.
When the difference in price between 1TB and 2TB may not be too high, when we are moving up in size, doubling the storage comes with more than double price. We want to keep a balance between capacity and the price, if possible.
So, what’s the best size for the Time Machine backup drive? The minimum size for a Time Machine backup drive should be at least twice the size of the Mac primary storage. For instance, if MacBook’s disk size is 128GB, then 256GB will be minimum for a backup, and 1TB would be the best choice.
In other words, the best size for Time Machine backup drive 4x to 8x of the size of the primary disk, when 2x is a minimum.
When Time Machine runs for the first time, it takes the full backup of data on the disk. After that, it keeps deltas (only files that have changed).
Time Machine keeps local snapshots, hourly snapshots for the last 24 hours, daily, and weekly snapshots as storage permits. If the backup disk gets full, the Time Machine starts deleting the oldest snapshots.
This means if you don’t have enough space, your ability to go back will be limited.
One of the biggest complaints about Time Machine is the fact that it is slow. It is much slower than other (commercial) backup solutions because it runs on the background, so it doesn’t impact any programs you are using at the time the backup process runs.
If you want to know how to speed up the backup process, check my article here.
One of the ways to improve the time it takes to backup isgetting a faster drive. Pay attention to write and read performance. Writes areimportant when taking backups, and reads are significant when restoring.
When browsing various drives on Amazon or Best Buy, you can see that some of them marked as compatible with Macs. Contrary to what you might think, this does not mean that you cannot use drives described as PC drives.
This really means that the disk was preformatted for either PC or Mac, and you can use it right away with the corresponding computer.
However, almost all drives can be used with Macs as long asthey have proper connectors. You just need to know how to prepare the drive forMac, i.e., format it.
What disk format is best for Time Machine? Time Machine only recognizes the drives formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled), also known as HFS+. If the drive is formatted with different format types, the Time Machine will offer to erase the disk and reformat before use.
To know the current format of the external drive, use theDisk Utility app. One way to start it is by using Spotlight Search: holdCommand and hit Spacebar. In the search bar type “Disk Utility” andhit Enter.
In the Disk Utility app, select the drive on the left. Onthe right, under the name of the drive, there will be information about thecurrent format. To reformat the disk in a new format, click on the Erase iconat the top. Note that all information on the disk will be wiped out.
In the pop-up window type in the new name for the drive (orkeep the old one). And pick Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as Format choice.
Once the format is complete, the drive is ready to be usedas a Time Machine backup drive.
Hard Drive For Mac External Hard Drive
As mentioned above, all drives are compatible with Applecomputers as long as they have proper connectors.
So, check your Mac for extension ports. If you have a newerMac, then you need USB-C hard drive, older ones support USB (2.0, 3.0, or 3.1)or Thunderbolt. Pick the drive that supports the Mac ports.
And last, but not the least – price. Yes, price isimportant, but I want to reiterate the importance of reliability over theprice. If you want to save on price, then go with a slower drive, but don’t gowith a cheap noname brand.
My Recommendations for the Best External Hard Drive for Mac Time Machine Backup
Best overall: Samsung T5 SSD
The device is so small that it can fit in your shirt pocket.It’s a little bigger than a matchbox and weighs just 51 grams.
As any SSD drive, T5 has no moving parts. It has a sturdy metal body, so it can handle drops of up to 2 meters.
It comes with two cables: USB and USB-C, which is superhelpful if you have old and new Macs. So you can use the USB cable with oldMacBook, copy data on it and then plug into a new MacBook with TouchBar andcopy again.
And T5 is crazy fast. I was able to run the Virtual Boximage directly from Samsung T5. I never thought it would be possible because Itried to run VMs from external drives before, and they were super slow, evenunusable.
With T5, however, I didn’t even know that I am running VM on the external hard drive. Partially, it was due to fast SSD inside and partially due to the USB-C connector.
According to the manufacturer, the transfer speed is up to 540MB/s. Don’t forget to buy a hard travel case when buying T5 to keep the cables together.
Samsung T5 is backed by a 3-year limited warranty.
Speed, portability, USB, and USB-C support.
Dimensions: 57.3mm x 74mm x 10.5mm.
Size limited to 2TB, which means if you have a 1TB on your Mac, this won’t work for you.
Learn more about SAMSUNG T5 On Amazon
Samsung T7 Touch
Do you want even more speed? Then check out Samsung T7. It’s a new drive from Samsung that continues the legendary line of SSD hard drives T3-T5.
The read and write speed of T7 is almost double of corresponding values of T5: up to 1000 MB/s for both reads and writes.
Additionally, T7 comes with fingerprint security, which is very important for someone who’s doing Time Machine backups. T7 supports up to 4 fingerprints and works similar to MacBook Touch ID.
Learn more about SAMSUNG T7 Touch On Amazon
Runner up: WD My Passport
If you need a larger drive than T5, then check out Western Digital My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive. Its upper limit is 5TB.
Let’s start with the following fact: My Passport supportsboth USB 3.0 and USB-C ports. It comes with two cables, and depending on whichport you have on your Mac, you can use one or the other.
The transfer speed of USB 3.0 is limited to 10.0 Gbit/s max.The max speed for USB-C is 40.0 Gbit/s, four times faster thansecond-generation 3.0.
Overall the read and write speed of My Passport is around110 MB/s.
The best thing about My Passport for Mac is that it alreadypreformatted for macOS. You can start using the drive as soon as you plug itin. No need to mess with disk utilities and other stuff. However, it also meansthat it is not compatible with Windows.
My Passport is a little bigger than T5 and has the followingdimensions:
- Depth 4.22 in/10.71cm
- Width 2.95 in/7.49cm
- Height 0.75 in/1.91cm
- Weight 0.51 lb/0.21kg
Reliability, durability, multiple size options up to 5TB
Slower than T5
Learn more about WD My Passport On Amazon
Budget pick: Toshiba Canvio Basics
If you need a reliable external hard drive under $100, thenconsider Toshiba Canvio Basics 4TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0.
This is not the fastest drive, but it’s reliable and cheap.You can buy a 4TB drive for less than $100, and in my opinion, it’s a greatdeal.
I use this device for my archives. If I have files that I amnot going to use for a while, then instead of deleting them, I shove them to myToshiba drive. You never know when you will need that old VM, and it’s nice tonot waste prime drive space either.
Note, however, this comes only with a USB cable, so if youhave a new laptop with USB-C ports, you will need to buy an adapter as well.
Super cheap and super reliable
Only supports USB 3
Learn more about Toshiba Canvio Basics On Amazon