How To Format External Drive /SSD For Mac And Windows Compatible / Which You Should Choose(ExFAT or NTFS?)

Table of Contents

  1. What is Hard Drive Formatting?
  2. How to Format an External Hard Drive
  3. How to Fully Erase an External Hard Drive
  4. Final Thoughts

If you’ve run into issues with your hard drive, formatting is one of the first steps you should take to troubleshoot it. Formatting allows you to overwrite all data on the hard drive, resetting the file structure and how the drive interacts with the operating system. It is also can be usable to hard drive or SSD for use with another Operating System.

Before getting to that, though, it’s important to understand what hard drive formatting is. Let’s talk about hard drive formatting, file systems and how formatting doesn’t necessarily erase all data from your hard drive first.

What is Hard Drive Formatting? Most people relate to hard drive formatting. Though that’s true to a degree, it’s not the sole purpose of the process. Instead, formatting is used to get the hard drive to a state in which it can be used by the computer, which requires all written data to be erased from the drive.

Outside of formatting for initial use, you may need to reformat your hard drive if you encounter errors. In the same way a fresh install of your OS can solve most issues, reformatting your hard drive is a critical step in troubleshooting problems. Just be sure your data is backed up with an online backup service,
Before getting into the formatting process, though, it’s important to go over what you’ll be formatting the hard drive with: a file system.

File SystemsFile systems are what operating systems use to store data on a storage device. Unfortunately, there isn’t a de facto file system that all hard drives use. The one yours uses largely depends on the drive and the OS you’re using. Because of that, we’re going to go over the most commonly used file systems so you’ll know what’s what.
  • NTFS: NTFS is what Windows uses by default. Like most file systems, it’s restricted once you move outside of Windows. You can read and write on Windows platforms, but macOS and Linux users will only be able to read data from an NTFS-formatted drive. 
  • ExFAT: ExFAT isn’t exclusive to any OS. Windows and macOS can read and write data to it. Though not as prevalent as NTFS, you’ll often find flash drives and external solid-state drives formatted to ExFAT out of the box because multi-platform support and the lack of file size restrictions make it an ideal choice for plug-and-play setups. 
  • FAT32: FAT32 is the older, uglier cousin of ExFAT. Like that file system, it works across Linux, Windows and macOS, and in years past, it was the de facto option for flash drives. It can’t store files larger than 4GB, though, so it has fallen out of favor in recent years. 

How to Format an External Hard DriveNow that we have formatting and file system basics out of the way, it’s time to show you how to format an external hard drive. We’ll show you how to do it on Windows and macOS using the Samsung T5, which is one of the best external hard drives, as you can see in our Samsung T5 review.
We chose the T5 because it’s formatted to ExFAT out of the box, meaning it works with Windows and macOS straight away.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Windows Formatting a hard drive on Windows is a simple affair, especially if you leave everything as default. That said, if you want to change settings, you’ll need to know the details of each.
Before getting to those, you have to find the hard drive you want to format by following these steps.
  1. Open File Explorer
  1. Navigate to “my PC”
  1. Right-click the drive you want to format
  1. Click “format” 
Windows will then open the formatting wizard. We’re going to run through each setting in the wizard so you know which settings you need to change. 
  • Capacity 
  • File System:
  • Allocation Unit Size
  • Volume Label
  • Quick Format

How to Format External Hard Drive on macOS it is easy in macOS formatting . like Windows, macOS will give us the tools to format, partition, restore and repair our hard drive from a single screen that which is in utilities.
To find the screen, follow these steps.

  1. Open Finder
  1. Follow the path /applications/utilities and click “disk utility”
  1. Find your drive in the left-side menu and click it
  1. Click the “erase” tab on the main screen
  1. Select the file system you want to use and give the drive a name
After that, you’re done. macOS doesn’t give you as much control as Windows does, but as we explained, much of that control is irrelevant. well formatting quite simple, with Apple going lets check step-by-step instruction above the points.
If you wanna send files from a Mac to Windows and vice versa with external hard drive then we need to have to external drive formatted in a file system both Operating systems can read and write also. our choice is NTFS, fat32 or exFAT or MacOS Extended (HFS+) .

Note: most od the external drives are coming pre formatted in NTFS which is a Windows file system. Macs computer can only read but can not write to a NTFS file system. so if we are buying external hard drive then it need to reformat with MacOS Extended or exFAT

Click On below to watch Video About Formatting

How to Fully Erase an External Hard Drive
As mentioned throughout this guide, formatting your hard drive doesn’t erase all the data from it. Binary data needs to be written to the drive at all times, so instead of removing it, your OS deletes the file structure, meaning you can’t access the data on your drive.
For all intents and purposes, your data is erased. You can write new data to the drive, and your OS will show that all the space is available. If you’re disposing of a hard drive, though, someone can still access the data using a forensics tool. Essentially, those tools allow people to bypass the structure of the OS and piece together the files using the binary data. 
As we said, the hard drive always needs to be filled with binary data. The only way to fully erase your data is to overwrite what’s there with new binary data. Though the built-in utilities on Windows and macOS help in parts, a hacker could reverse engineer the process to find the data on the drive. 
There are few options to fully remove data. If you’re getting rid of the drive, a classic solution is to tap it a few times with a hammer to break the disks inside before recycling. If you need to remove data quickly and still want the drive to function, though, you’ll need a separate utility. 
It’s an open-source project that rewrites the data on your drive using random processes to ensure it isn’t recoverable. You can boot to DBAN instead of your OS to start the process, which is ideal if you’re recycling or selling your computer.

Final Conclusion 
We hope we’ve explained the differences between formatting and erasing an external hard drive.. Formatting isn’t only used to get rid of data on a drive. It’s also used to make a drive compatible with a different OS. The Western Digital My Book, for example, comes formatted to NTFS, but you can reformat it to ExFAT for use with macOS.  

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