MiniTool: How to Quickly Format External Hard Drive for Mac & PC

You can format a hard drive or USB flash disk specifically so that it will be compatible with both Mac OS X and Windows PC computers. This excellent cross-platform compatible ability is yet unknown to many users, it’s not a complex process though, and if you frequently use both a Mac and Windows PC you will find this particularly useful because any data, media, or files stored on the the drive will always be accessible from any operating system.

Most external hard disks could be compatible with Mac and PC as long as we format them correctly.

Why Need to Format External Hard If We Want to Share It on 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.

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

Your external hard drive might have saved lots of files. If you want to share such an external hard drive between Mac and PC, please convert NTFS and HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT. To do this kind of conversion, we just need a Windows computer, a Mac machine, and a professional partitioning program.

We’ll walk you through the entire process in a few simple steps.

solution 1 Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive to FAT32

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

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.

format empty external drive to FAT32 delete NTFS or HFS+ partition

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.

format empty external drive to FAT32 create FAT32 partition 1

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.

format empty external drive to FAT32 create FAT32 partition 2

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

solution 2 Solution 2: Format External Hard Disk 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 Solution 3: Create One HFS+ Partition for Mac and One NTFS Partition for Windows

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.

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.

create a NTFS partition on Windows delete all partitions

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.

create a NTFS partition on Windows 1

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.

create a NTFS partition on Windows 2

Now, we 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.

create a NTFS partition on Windows 3

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

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

create HFS+ partition on Mac select external disk

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

create HFS+ partition on Mac click + to create

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.

create-HFS+ partition on Mac error message

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

There are file systems well supported by both Mac and Windows PC as we resort to third party programs in formating External Hard, 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.

See the full article on how to quickly format external hard drive for Mac and PC without losing data.