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How to Format External Hard Drive in Mac (Monterey) 2021 Guide

Tracy King

Oct 20, 2021 to NTFS for Mac

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Applies to: Erase external disk, format unsupported (NTFS), corrupted, partitioned, or inaccessible external hard drive in Mac. 

On this page, we'll discuss when do you need to format an external hard drive and show you the complete process of formatting it in Mac Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, etc.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
1. Backup External Hard Drive Data Access and backup NTFS formatted external disk data on Mac...Full steps
2. Select Format for External Hard Drive It's essential that you set a format - APFS, HFS+, ExFAT, FAT32, or NTFS for external disk...Full steps
3. Format External Hard Drive in Mac Connect the external disk to your Mac computer and open Disk Utility...Full steps

How Do I Format External Hard Disk in Mac? 

Do you know which format is the best for an external hard disk in Mac? What to do when your external hard drive is unsupported, corrupted, partitioned, or inaccessible? Formatting the external hard disk is the best way out.

So why or when do you need to format the external hard drive for Mac usage? Check the list here, and if you are in any case below, turn to the tutorial guide below for help:

  • New external hard disk is shipped with NTFS or exFAT, not fully compatible with Mac.
  • To make NTFS formatted external disk supported by Mac. 
  • The external hard drive is corrupted.
  • The external hard drive is inaccessible.
  • To clean up the external disk, or disk only shows partial storage. 
  • To change the file system of the external hard drive on Mac.

So how do I format an external hard disk in a Mac computer? Follow the complete guide below, you can run disk formatting operations on your disk successfully without losing any data. Let's get started. 

1. Access and Backup External Hard Drive Data before Formatting

  • Goal: Back up essential files from an external disk.
  • Tools: NTFS reader software, Mac data recovery software

To avoid data loss due to disk formatting, it's smart that you back up external hard drive data in advance. According to the different states of your drive, you may need a different tool for accessing external disk files. Here is how to do so:

#1. Access and Backup NTFS Formatted Externa Disk Data on Mac

If your external hard drive is in NTFS format, saving some essential data on the disk, you'll need an NTFS drive reader for help. EaseUS NTFS for Mac with its Enable Writable feature allows you to read and write NTFS drive on Mac within only 1 click.

Download, install and run EaseUS NTFS for Mac on your Mac computer, follow the tips here to see how to access your NTFS external disk data in macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, etc. for free:

Step 1. Launch and activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac. Click "I already have a license" to unlock this software.

Activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac

Step 2. Connect an NTFS drive to Mac, EaseUS NTFS for Mac will automatically detect the device. Select your drive and you'll see it's now marked as 'Read-only". Click "Enable Writable" to add read and write rights to the drive.

enable writable write to NTFS drive

Step 3. When the state of NTFS drives turns into "Writable", click "Open". NTFS for Mac will open the NTFS drive on Mac.

Make changes to saved files on NTFS drive

Step 4. Now, you can check, read, write, and even modify saved data on the NTFS device.

Read,write, open, and modify files on NTFS drives

Then, you can open the disk to copy and save all essential files to another safe location on Mac as a backup. 

#2. Scan and Recover Data from Inaccessible External Hard Disk in Mac

If your external hard drive is corrupted, inaccessible, or repartitioned, or you can't directly open it on Mac even it's in an Apple-supported file system, you'll need to turn to professional Mac hard drive data recovery software for help. 

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a fully-featured data recovery tool that you can trust and try.

2. Select the Best Format for External Hard Drive in Mac

  • Goal: Decide and select the best format for external hard dive in Mac.
  • Tool: File system comparison table listed below.

To make your external hard disk fully compatible with Mac and run in the best state, it's essential that you set the best format for your external disk for different purposes in Mac. Check the comparison table and learn which file system format to set for your external hard drive:

File Systems Basic Information Usage Suggestions
APFS (Apple File System) The latest Apple file type, which was introduced in early 2017, is currently supported by macOS High Sierra and newer macOS. 
  • Set up external disk/SSD for fast read & write speed.
  • Set external hard disk as Time Machine backup disk.
HFS+ (macOS extended) The default file system in Macs with older macOS Sierra or OS X. Windows can read this file format.
  • Use external hard disk on old Mac computers.
  • Set external mechanical hard disk as Time Machine backup in Catalina or earlier.
FAT32 File type can be read and written on Mac, Windows, and Linux machines.
ExFAT Preferred file format for storage devices share between Windows and Mac.
  • Excellent choice for storing files larger than 4GB.
NTFS Windows default format and it is readable by macOS devices.
  • Use external disk natively with Windows, sharing and transferring big files on Mac only. 

According to this page, you can easily set the best format to your external hard disk in Mac:

  • To use the external hard disk on a Mac computer only, APFS or HFS+ is the best.
  • To make the disk work well with both Windows and Mac, ExFAT or FAT32 is a better option. 
  • To use the external disk mainly on Windows and share big files on Mac, NTFS is recommended. 

3. Format External Hard Drive in Mac (Monterey) in Disk Utility

  • Goal: To fix external hard disk errors, reset hard disk format, or restore full size to a malfunctioned drive.
  • Tool: Disk Utility

Mac built-in Disk Utility, similar to Disk Management in Windows,  is the default tool that you can apply to format or partition a hard drive on macOS devices. After you back up essential files and decide the best format for the external disk, you can apply this utility to format your drive in Mac now:

Step 1. Connect the external disk to the Mac computer.

Connect external hard drive to Mac

Step 2. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Double-click "Disk Utility".

Step 3. Select the external hard disk and click "Erase" at the top pane in Disk Utility.

Select external hard drive to format

Step 4. Select the best format for external hard dive in Mac, and click "Erase" to confirm the operation.

Select file system for external hard drive

Step 5. Click "Done" when the formatting process completes.

Complete formatting external hard drive in Mac

Formatting External Hard Disk in Mac Is Easy, Remember to Select the Best Format

On this page, we presented the complete procedure of formatting an external hard drive in Mac. To get started, you'll first need to access or backup essential data from the disk. If the external disk is with an NTFS drive, you can enable it readable and writable by turning to EaseUS NTFS for Mac for help.

After backing up the files, you'll then need to set a file system for the disk according to your needs. Later, you can apply Disk Utility to erase and reformat the drive with ease. Note that, formatting an external hard disk in Mac is easy. All you need is to set the best format for the target storage device. For a guide to format external USB, SD card, or other removable devices on Mac, follow this guide bridge your device with Mac now.