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How to Format an External Drive for Mac Compatibility

This is a simple procedure and is achieved the same way for all drive types and through all connections, be they USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt. Formatting a drive will erase all data and partitions on the disk:

Format a USB Flash Drive for use in Mac OS X
Format to Mac Filesystem
  1. Connect the hard drive or USB key to the Mac
  2. Launch Disk Utility, located in Applications > Utilities
  3. Locate the drive name from the left hand side of Disk Utility and click on it
  4. Click on the “Erase” tab across the top
  5. Next to “Format:” click the contextual menu and select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”
  6. Name the drive if you want, the name can be changed at any point
  7. Click the “Erase” button and confirm again on the next pop-up window
Format a USB Drive for use on a Mac

That’s all there is to it, the drive will now format and erase everything on it.

Smaller external hard drives, SSD’s, and USB flash keys format quickly, while a larger hard drive may take a while longer. When completed, the drive will be formatted to the Mac OS X compatible HFS+ filesystem.