Not every flash drive out there can be used with a Mac computer right out of the box. Some flash drives have to be formatted first before you can store files on them. In this article, we are taking a closer look at the Disk Utility, which comes with all recent versions of the Mac OS X operating system and how you can use it to format USB drive on Mac.

Format Flash Drive on Mac

Format Flash Drive Mac with Disk Utility

Your Mac computer comes with a handy utility appropriately called Disk Utility, which can be used to format any storage device. To use it:

  1. Connect the flash drive that you want to format.
  2. Go to Applications and Utilities and launch Disk Utility. The application will appear on the screen, and you will see the main window, with a list of available storage devices on the left and various disk management options on the right. At the bottom of the main window are storage device details, including disk description, connection type, USB serial number, total capacity, write status, S.M.A.R.T. status, and partition map scheme.disk utility macOS
  3. Select your storage device from the list on the left and click on the Erase tab. Before you can click on the Erase button located in the Erase tab, you must select which file system you would like to use and give it a name. If you’re not sure which option you should choose, continue reading this article to find out more information about the main file systems used by macOS and Windows.How to Format USB Flash Drive on Mac
  4. With everything set, you may click on the Erase button to start the formatting process. Depending on the size and speed of your flash drive, it may take a minute or two. Once the formatting process is finished, you should be able to transfer files to the newly formatted flash drive.

Understanding File Systems

macOS and Windows support different file systems. The main file system of macOS is HFS Plus. It was developed by Apple and first introduced in 1998 as an improved version of HFS, supporting much larger files and using the Unicode encoding.

Microsoft has also developed their file system for Windows, NTFS. This proprietary file system was introduced in 1993, and it supports metadata and advanced data structures to improve performance, additional extensions for improved security, and file system journaling.

How to Recover Data After Format

We all make mistakes, and you wouldn’t be the first person in the world to accidentally format a USB flash drive. Disk Drill, a premium data recovery solution for Mac OS X with support for all popular file formats and common storage devices, is here to help you recover deleted files from USB flash drive. Disk Drill’s advanced data recovery algorithms can find lost files even after complete format.

format usb flash drive mac

Back up Before Formatting a USB Drive

Before formatting a USB device that may contain important data, it is a critical safety step to back it up. You can accomplish this in several different ways depending on the amount of data on the device and the space available on your Mac.

💽 Backup to your internal drive

If you are using a small USB device and have enough space on your Mac’s internal disk, this might be the best way to back it up before formatting. Just connect the device to your Mac, create a new folder on your internal drive, and copy the data from the device to the folder. 

💾 Backup to another USB device

If you don’t have enough room to back up the drive internally, you can use a second USB device as the backup target. In some cases, you may need to use a USB hub if you don’t have enough free ports to perform the operation. Simply connect the two devices and copy the files from the source to the target device.

☁️ Backup to the cloud

You can quickly and easily obtain as much storage space as you need in the cloud. This allows you to use the cloud to backup your USB drive if you don’t have room on your Mac or another USB storage device available. The process will be similar with any cloud backup service. Just get an account and sign up for the amount of storage you need. Then connect the USB to your computer and transfer its data over your network to the cloud. 

How to format a USB drive to FAT32 on a Mac

Use the following steps to use your Mac to format a USB drive to FAT32.

  1. Back up the USB device before proceeding with this process.
  2. Connect the USB device to your Mac or MacBook.
  3. Open Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  4. Select the drive and click Erase.
  5. Name the device if you wish.
  6. Open the Format dropdown menu and select MS-DOS (FAT).
  7. Click Erase and wait for the process to complete.format usb flash drive to fat32 file system in macos

Preventing data loss on your USB devices

Following are several suggestions for methods that help you prevent data loss on your USB devices.

  • 🗄️ Backup your USB devices regularly – We cannot stress the importance of backups enough. If you’re not doing it, get started as soon as possible. The time and expense of making a backup will seem minor when your backup saves you from a data loss scenario.
  • 🏷️ Label your devices – Putting a label on your devices is a simple and effective way of knowing what’s on them and avoiding inadvertently formatting the wrong drive. Get in the habit of labeling drives when you format them or add a name or change the name of an existing device.
  • 🦠 Avoid viruses and malware – Always run updated antivirus software on your Mac to keep it free of malware. Also, try to avoid connecting your USB devices to any other computer that you cannot verify as being free from viruses and malware.
  • 🛡️ Keep it secure – USB drives are portable by nature and can easily be lost or stolen. Make sure you always know where your device is and who may have access to it to make sure it comes home with you at the end of the day.
  • Avoid extreme environmental conditions – Too much heat, moisture, or humidity can damage your USB drive and make it very difficult to recover its data. Keep your devices in a dry, cool place and never leave them in direct sunlight.
Arthur Cole

Arthur Cole is a freelance content creator. He also has a more than 10-year experience in program development for macOS, Windows, iOS, Android.Arthur Cole is a writer with deep expertise in programming, who can easily...

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Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.