Hard Drive Format for Mac and PC

Both Mac OS X and Windows allow users to format their hard drives using built-in utilities. Even though most people associate formatting with system installation, there are many other reasons why you might want to format your hard drive.

When you purchase a brand-new hard drive, there’s no guarantee that it will be pre-formatted from the factory, nor is there any guarantee that it will come with the right file system. Optimization is another good reason for hard drive formatting. Data fragmentation remains an issue even in the era of mobile devices, and in some cases formatting is the fastest way how to solve it. Of course, you may also just want to quickly delete the content of an entire hard drive.

hard drive format mac

Regardless of why you want to format your hard drive, there are some considerations to be made before you begin. First and foremost, you need to decide which file system to use. Mac OS X uses the HFS Plus file system, while Windows uses the NTFS file system. Both Mac OS X and Windows also support the FAT32 file system, but we don’t recommend it for hard drives. Because FAT32 supports only up to 4 GB large files, it should be used only with flash drives. If you need to format external hard drive Mac or Windows, you may also consider the exFAT files system. Developed by Microsoft, this modern file system is optimized for situations where the NTFS file system is not a feasible solution, and the file size limit of the standard FAT32 file system is unacceptable.

How to Format a Hard Drive for Mac

Mac OS X users have at their disposal a handy tool called Disk Utility. With it, it’s possible to easily format and storage device with just a few clicks. You can launch it from the App list or use Spotlight. The main window of the utility contains a list of storage devices, storage device details, and formatting options.

Select your storage device, choose your desire file system, specify the name, and click on the Erase button. Click on the Erase button again to confirm your decision and wait for the process to end.

How to Format a Hard Drive for Windows

To format a hard drive for Windows, open the File Explorer and click on This PC. If the hard drive you want to format is connected to your PC, it should be there. Right-click on it and select the Format option from the context menu. Keep in mind that you can only format storage devices that are currently not in use. Windows will present you with a formatting window where you can specify various formatting parameters. After you confirm your selection, it should take just a few moments for the formatting process to finish.

Recover Data from a Formatted Hard Drive

Realizing that you’ve forgot to back up a critically important file from a newly formatted hard drive feels horrible. Without a capable data recovery tool, there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s why countless people from around the world have turned to Disk Drill, selecting it as their data recovery tool of choice.

Disk Drill
Data recovery for free
Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery

Disk Drill data recovery app

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...

Read full bio
Approved by
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.