Usb Hdd For Mac And Pc

Summary :

Want to format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows PC? Do you know how to do this work easily? This MiniTool article will show you specific methods to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC, which are easy and safe to complete.

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As we know, external hard drives are widely used to backup data or interchange files among different computers. Well, is there an external hard drive that could be shared between Mac and Windows PC? Of course, there is. Actually, most external hard disks could be compatible with Mac and PC as long as you format them correctly.

Why Need to Format External Hard Drive for Mac and PC

To put it simply, if you want to share external hard drive between Mac and PC, you need to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC.

Currently, hard drives for Windows PC are always formatted with NTFS, while hard disks for Mac are formatted with HFS+. However, when we connect a NTFS formatted disk to Mac, Mac OS X doesn't allow us to write files to the drive neither edit files, though it can read a NTFS drive. Similarly, Windows OS will ask us to format the HFS+ formatted drive when we connecting such a disk, let along edit files saved on HFS+ formatted hard disks unless we resort to third party programs.

But luckily, there are file systems well supported by both Mac and Windows PC, and they are FAT32 (it might be called MS-DOS on Mac) and exFAT. As long as we format the external hard drive to one of these 2 file systems, it can be shared between Mac and Windows.

Further Reading

Both FAT32 and exFAT have advantages and disadvantages.

FAT32: FAT32 works with all versions of Windows, Mac OS, Linux, game consoles, etc.

However, single files on a FAT32 drive can't be larger than 4GB. If your external drive saves files larger than 4GB or you plan to save larger files to this drive, converting to FAT32 is not recommended.

In addition, a FAT32 partition must be not more than 32GB if you create it in Windows Disk Management. Of course, there is free partition manager that can help create a FAT32 volume up to 2TB, which also functions correctly.

exFAT: exFAT has very large file size and partition size limits, which means it's a good idea to format your external hard drive to exFAT.

Nevertheless, a lot of users complained that exFAT is slow, and they highly suggest using FAT32 if you can avoid file size constraints.

Three Options for Accessing NTFS Drives on Mac

Paid Third-Party Drivers

Some paid third-party NTFS drivers for Mac can be used to access NTFS drives on Mac. They work well and they have better performance than the free solutions which will be mentioned in the following part. Paragon NTFS for Mac is such a driver.

Besides, you can also use the paid third-party file system converters to convert NTFS to FAT32 or exFAT which are compatible with both Mac and PC. MiniTool Partition Wizard is one representative.

Free Third-Party Drivers

FUSE for macOS is a free and open-source NTFS driver that can enable write support. But, this solution is slower relatively. And the automatically mounting NTFS partitions in read-write mode can be a security risk for your Mac computer.

Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Write Support

The Mac OS has an experimental support for writing to NTFS drives. Usually, it is disabled by default and needs some messing around in the Mac terminal to enable it.

It doesn’t work properly all the time and could lead to potential issues with your NTFS file system. For example, it had corrupted data before. Thus, we don’t suggest using this tool and we believe it is disabled by this reason.

Here, we recommend using the paid third-party tools since they are easy-to-use and can do good work for you.

Then, we will introduce these three options for you in the following content.

The Best Paid Third-Party Driver: Paragon NTFS for Mac

Paragon NTFS for Mac can write, edit, delete, copy, or move files on NTFS volumes from your Mac computer. It offers a 10-day free trial. If you want to use it all the time, you need to pay for it.

With it, you don’t have to fiddle with terminal commands to mount partitions manually. Additionally, it can mount partitions automatically and safely. More importantly, it can code with the potential corruption. If you purchase a Seagate drive, you can even get a free download of Paragon NTFS for Mac.

All in all, it does its works well and gives you good user’s experience.

The Best Free Third-Party Drivers: FUSE for macOS

FUSE for macOS is a free solution to access NTFS on Mac. But it is less secure.

If you want to make automatically mount NTFS partitions in read-write mode on Mac, you need to temporarily disable the System Integrity Protection and replace one of Apple’s built-in tools with a binary that is more vulnerable to attack. Thus, your Mac is in danger when using this driver.

However, you can use it to manually mount NTFS partitions in read-write mode if you never mind using the Terminal. This will be safer, but you need to do more work. You can go to google the steps and see how complex they are.

Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Writing Support: Don’t Do This, Seriously

Although we mentioned this method in our article, we still don’t recommend it because it is the least tested. It is just for educational purposes, and it is available on Mac OS 10.12 Sierra. Perhaps, it will be unstable forever.

Usb Hdd For Mac And Pc

How to Quickly Format External Hard Drive for Mac and PC without Losing Data

Another way to access NTFS drive on Mac is to convert the NTFS/HFS+ to FAT/exFAT. Then, the drive can be used on both Mac and PC.

There should be some important data on the drive. To keep it safe, you can choose this best NTFS/HFS+ to FAT/exFAT converter: MiniTool Partition Wizard.

How to Convert NTFS to FAT32 or exFAT Without Data Loss

To format hard drive for Mac and Windows without data loss, we suggest using MiniTool Partition Wizard and its 'Convert NTFS to FATS32' function. If you are a personal user, you can try its Professional Edition.

Step 1: Run MiniTool Partition Wizard

Download this software to your computer. Then, you can open the software and input the license key to the pop-out window to get its Professional Edition.

Step 2: Convert NTFS to FAT32 with This Software

After running the program successfully, we can see its main interface as follows:

Here, please select the NTFS partition of external hard drive and choose 'Convert NTFS to FAT' feature from the left action pane. If there is more than one NTFS partition, convert all of them one by one.

At last, click 'Apply' button to make the change executed.

When MiniTool Partition Wizard shows it applies the change successfully, the original NTFS will finally become a FAT32 partition.

By this way, you can easily format an external hard drive for Mac and PC without losing any data. Then, you can share external hard drive between Mac and PC

You Can Convert NTFS to exFAT in 3 Steps

However, if you want to convert NTFS to exFAT to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC, 3 steps are required.

Step 1: Transfer Data out from External Hard Drive

You can choose to copy and paste those files to other external devices or internal hard disk of Windows, but it will cost much time. Instead, you can use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition to create a copy for your external drive, which is faster.

If there is only one NTFS partition on external hard drive, refer to the tutorial Copy Partition to get instructions. However, if there is more than one NTFS partition, view Copy Disk to get specific operations.

Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard

The Free Edition of this software also enables you to do this job.

Firstly, you need to delete the partition by using this software. Just open the software to enter its main interface. Then, choose the target partition and click 'Delete Partition' from the left action pane. After that, you should click 'Apply' to keep this change.

Secondly, the target partition will become unallocated. Here, you need to choose that partition and click on 'Create Partition' from the left action pane.

Thirdly, you will see a pop-out window. Here, you can choose 'exFAT' from the 'File System' setting option. At the same time, you can also set some other parameters for this partition, including 'Partition Label', 'Drive Letter', 'Size And Location'. After that, please click on 'OK'.

Fourthly, you will go back to the main interface. Then, please click on 'Apply' to save these changes.

Finally, an exFAT partition will be created on your external hard disk so that it could be shared between Mac and Windows PC

Step 3: Transfer Data back to External Drive

If you want to share files that you have backed up between Mac and PC, now please transfer these files back to external hard drive.

How to Convert HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT without Losing Data

Besides, you can format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows by converting HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT without losing any data.

Step 1: Backup Data in HFS+ Partition on Mac

Just transfer all useful files out from the external hard drive to other devices on Mac. Of course, if you have a backup already, ignore this step.

Step 2: Create a FAT32 or exFAT Partition on Windows PC

Some people may ask why create such partitions on Windows rather than Mac. That is because there are cases reporting FAT32 (MS-DOS) or exFAT partitions created on Mac did not work well on Windows.

Please skip to Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 to get steps to create a FAT32 partitions or go back to Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard to get operations to create an exFAT partition.

How to Make an Empty External Drive Compatible with Mac and PC

If there is no file saved on your external hard drive, how to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC?

It's very easy to share it between Mac and PC and you also need a Windows computer, a Mac machine, and the free partition manager MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.

There are 3 solutions for this case, so please choose the one you like most to format external hard drive Windows 10/8/7.

Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive Windows 10/8/7 to FAT32

Since users are unable to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB in Windows Disk Management, they need to use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.

Note: when you connect an external hard drive which is formatted with HFS+ with computer, Windows may ask you to format the drive. Please choose Cancel.

Please download and install this program on your Windows computer to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC.

Firstly, open the software to enter its main interface as follows. Here, please select the NTFS partition or HFS+ partition of external hard drive, and click 'Delete Partition' feature from the left action pane. If there are multiple partitions on the external disk, please select the disk and click 'Delete All Partitions' feature instead. After that, an unallocated space will be released.

Secondly, you can create one or more FAT32 partitions in unallocated space. Select the unallocated space and choose 'Create Partition' feature from the left side.

Then, you should choose 'FAT32' from the 'File System' option in the pop-out window. Meanwhile, you can set properties for this new partition and click 'OK' to go back to the main window of Partition Wizard.

At last, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

Solution 2: Format External Hard Drive Windows 7/8/10 to exFAT

Firstly, please delete the NTFS or HFS+ partition in either MiniTool Partition Wizard or Windows Disk Management to release unallocated space. Then, you can create an exFAT partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition by following steps introduced in the section Step 2: Create exFAT Partition with MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Once a FAT32 or exFAT partition is created on your external hard drive, you can share it on both Mac and Windows PC.

Solution 3: Create One HFS+ Partition for Mac and One NTFS Partition for Windows

Format Mac Hdd

Alternatively, you can create 2 partitions on the external hard drive: one is for Mac, and the other is for Windows. As to size for each partition, it depends on your own demands. By this way, you can easily format an external hard drive for Mac and Windows.

Step 1: Create a NTFS Partition and a FAT32 Partition

Please run MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition, then delete all the original NTFS or HFS+ partition(s), and create a new NTFS partition as well as a FAT32 partition, and the latter will be formatted to HFS+ in Mac machine.

Then, select the external hard drive and choose 'Delete All Partitions' to create an unallocated space.

Here, select the unallocated space and choose 'Create Partition' feature from the left action pane.

Now, please specify partition label (Windows is recommended), partition type (primary or logical), drive letter, file system (NTFS), cluster size, and partition size (you can change the length of the handle to adjust partition size). Then, click 'OK' to continue.

Now, you can see a NTFS partition is created. Please use the same way to create a FAT32 partition labeled with Mac. At last, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

Step 2: Format the FAT32 Partition to HFS+ Partition on Mac

Please go to Utilities → Disk Utility to get the window below:

Then, select the external hard drive and click 'Partition' tab on the top.

Now, find the FAT32 partition and format it to OS X Extended (Journaled), which is the desired HFS+. Finally, click 'Apply' button to make all changes performed.

Tip: You may receive the prompt 'The volume 'MAC' is not journaled. As a result it can not be resized'. Just ignore the message and click 'OK' button to continue.

After NTFS partition and HFS+ partition are created on your external hard drive, it can be shared between Mac and Windows PC.

Note: You might be unable to share all files saved on external drive since Windows doesn't support HFS+ partition while Mac doesn't support NTFS partition completely.

Bottom Line

Are you planning to format an external hard drive for Mac and PC? If yes, now try one of our methods to make external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC.

Should you have any problem, just feel free to leave us a message in comment part below or send an email to [email protected].

Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC FAQ

How do I make my hard drive compatible with Mac and PC?
If you want your hard drive to be compatible with both Mac and PC, you should format the hard drive to the file system that is supported by both of these two operating systems. FAT32 and exFAT can meet your requirements.
What is the best hard drive format for Mac and PC?
Although both FAT32 and exFAT are compatible with Mac and PC, exFAT is a much better choice because it has fewer limitations. For example, it has a larger file size and partition size limits.
If you formatted your hard drive to exFAT with Apple's HFS Plus, Windows will not recognize the exFAT drive. You can consider using a third-party partition tool to format your hard drive to exFAT.
Windows can only read a Mac hard drive that is formatted to FAT32 or exFAT using third-party software. If the file system of the Mac hard drive is HFS+ or APFS, the drive will become unreadable in Windows.

Sep 28, 2020 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

'How to format hard drive for Mac and PC? I want to resell my computers and would like to get rid of my data beforehand, but can't seem to format my system!'

It doesn't matter what kind of situation you are in, it is important to learn how to format HDD for Mac and Windows. You might want to resell your system, get rid of something, or simply want to make more free space on it.

While it might sound complicated, both Mac and Windows give us dedicated features to manage our disk space. You can use it to manage your storage, merge partitions, and even do a disk format for Mac and PC. In this post, we will cover dedicated solutions on how to format your hard drive in Mac and PC.

Part 1. Why should you consider formatting your hard drive?

You might already know the consequences of formatting a hard drive. It will erase all the data stored in it, making it empty in one go. Therefore, before you format Mac/PC drive, make sure that you have taken a backup of your important data. Once it is done, you can do a hard disk format for Mac and PC to enjoy the following advantages.

  • It will help you get rid of any sensitive data from your hard drive so that the other user can't access it.
  • Once the disk is formatted, it will make it empty and let you store new content on it. Therefore, you can consider formatting a partition if you are running low of space.
  • In case if the hard drive has been corrupted by a virus, then you can format it entirely to get rid of any malicious activity.
  • By formatting a partition, you can manage the storage on your PC/Mac and merge the free space with another sector as well.
  • It will automatically defragment the disk, which will let you reclaim the lost space on the storage unit.
  • You can also resolve any disk issue by formatting your hard drive.
  • After formatting a disk, you can reassign a file system to it, and make it compatible with your PC/Mac.

Part 2. Major Formats of Hard Drive for Mac and PC

Usb Hdd For Mac And Pc Computer

Over time, more than a hundred different kinds of file systems and formats have been developed for Mac and PC hard drives. Though, here are some of the most commonly used and compatible formats.

  • exFAT: It stands for Extended File Allocation Table and is developed by Microsoft. The file system is mostly used to allocate space on external storage units like USB drives or SD cards.
  • NTFS: The New Technology File System is used by Windows NT operating systems. It is the common format for the native hard drive of the system and is equipped with tons of new-age memory allocation techniques.
  • FAT32: The File Allocation Table format is used to store data on units that have a capacity of more than 32 GB. It mostly works on external storage units like flash drives and is compatible with both Mac and Windows.
  • APFS: The Apple File System is the native technique for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and even watchOS. It provides high-end encryption and is a replacement for the age-old HFS+ system developed by Apple.

There are different other kinds of file systems that your hard drive can support. To check it, just select the partition or the external disk, right-click, and visit its 'Properties'. Go to the 'General' tab to know details about the file system of the disk.


Part 3. How to Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC on Windows?

If your Mac or PC has a Windows OS installed, then you won't face any trouble managing it. Every major version of the operating system provides a dedicated solution to format hard drive as well as external storage units. Also, you can manage the internal partitions, merge them, create new ones, and do so much more. Here's how to format hard drive on your Windows PC.

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  1. First, you need to access the Disk Management tool on your Windows. To do this, just click on the Start menu and look for 'disk management'. Alternatively, you can also access it from the Control Panel.
  2. This will open a dedicated window for various disks on your system. Simply select a partition that you wish to format and right-click it. Choose the 'Format' option to proceed.
  3. As the formatting wizard will open, select the kind of file system that you wish to convert it to. For instance, it can be NTFS, exFAT, and so on.
  4. You can also allocate it to the relevant size or label it here as well. If you have less time, then you can choose to quickly format it by enabling the relevant option.
  5. In the end, you will get a confirmation prompt like this. Just click on the 'Format' or 'Yes' button and wait for a while as the disk would be formatted.

Important Note: Formatting an external device

Windows also let us format an external device like SD card, pen drive, etc. quite easily. Simply right-click its icon from My Computer and from the context menu, click on the 'Format' option. Choose a file type and formatting option and click on the 'Start' button to format the disk.

Part 4. How to Format Hard Drive for Mac and PC on Mac?

Just like Windows, macOS also gives us a seamless option to format the hard drives for Mac (and PC). The operating system has an inbuilt tool, which is known as Disk Utility. Using it, you can erase a hard drive, create new partitions, and even repair your disk as well. To learn how to format in Mac your hard drive, follow these steps:

  1. To start with, just go to Finder > Applications > Utilities to view all the available tools and features. From here, you can launch the Disk Utility application.
  2. Here, you can view all kinds of storage units available on your system (both internal and external). Simply go to the left panel and select the disk you wish to format.
  3. On the right, you can view details about the selected disk. Go to its toolbar and click on the 'Erase' option.
  4. This will display the following pop-up on the screen. You can give the partition/drive a label, select its partition scheme, and specify its file format as well.
  5. Click on the 'Erase' button in the end and confirm your choice as Mac would format the selected disk.

In no time, the entire disk would be emptied and you can manage it the way you like. You can follow the same drill to format an external device on Mac as well.

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Part 5. How to Recover Formatted Hard Drive on Mac?

By following the above-listed methods, you would be able to format hard drive for Mac and PC seamlessly. Though, if you have formatted a hard drive accidentally, then you might end up losing your important files. In this case, you can take the assistance of Recoverit Data Recovery software to get back your lost or deleted content from Mac. The data recovery tool is available for free and supports all the major macOS and Windows versions. Following a simple on-screen process, you can easily extract your data from your Mac's hard drive or an external device.

Recoverit - The Best Word File Recovery Software

  • Recover Word documents from all storage devices like Mac.
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  • Scan and preview the files before you recover them from MacBook hard drive.

If you have deleted a partition on Mac or have lost it due to any other reason, then you should use Recoverit Data Recovery. It can help you restore partition data on Mac by following these easy steps.

Step 1: Select a Location

Firstly, launch the Recoverit Data Recovery application on your Mac and from its home, pick a location. A list of all the available locations will be displayed. You can just pick a source and start the scan.

Step 2: Scan the Location

This will commence the data recovery operation on the selected location. You simply need to wait for a few minutes for the scan to finish successfully.

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Step 3: Preview and Recover

Once the process is completed, you can just preview the extracted data on Recoverit's interface. Make the needed selections and click on the 'Recover' button, so that you can save your files to a safe location.

Important Note:

If you are running the latest version of macOS, then you should consider disabling its System Integrity Protection feature first. This will allow third-party apps like Recoverit to access the partitions and file system on your Mac. Restart your Mac and press the Command + R keys to boot it in the Recovery mode. Launch the Terminal app by visiting the utility menu and enter the command: csrutil disable. In the end, restart your Mac in the normal mode and launch Recoverit again.

Part 6. Tips for Formatting Hard Drive

If you want to get positive results while formatting your hard drive on Mac or PC, then consider following these steps:

  • Since formatting will erase all the existing data on your hard drive, make sure you have taken its backup beforehand.
  • When your system is formatting the drive, don't halt the process in between as it can make the storage unavailable.
  • As both Windows and Mac provide native solutions to format the hard drives, you should avoid using any unreliable third-party tool.
  • While formatting, you would be asked to pick a file system for the disk. Therefore, make sure that the file system is supported by your Mac or Windows.
  • Instead of a quick format, you should follow the standard process. This will save the empty space on your system and avoid disk fragmentation.


Now you can easily format hard drive for Mac and PC like a pro, without facing any trouble. Apart from formatting the internal drive, we have also listed a smart solution to format external devices as well. Not just that – the guide has also included a working solution to recover data from a formatted drive. If you have accidentally formatted a drive, then use Recoverit Data Recovery. An excellent recovery tool for Mac and Windows, it will make sure that you never suffer from an unwanted loss of data again.

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