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How to Format a USB Drive on a Mac

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Introduction

USB drives are great for carrying or backing up data. Formatting is the process that erases all existing data on a USB drive and sets up the file system it will use. The file system is what tells the drive how to store the data that is to be written to, read or deleted from it. The type of file system that is needed on a USB drive varies depending on the type of device it will be used with.

While most devices will alert you if you connect a USB drive with an incompatible file system that needs to be formatted, refer to your device's documentation to find out what file systems are compatible with your device.

This guide will show you how to format a USB drive using a Windows PC.

macOS Logo.

Types of USB Drives

While the process to format USB drives is the same, they may come in different physical forms:

  • USB flash drives
    USB Thumbdrives.
  • External USB hard drives or solid state drives
    USB external drive.

1 Format a USB Drive with a Mac

Any and all data on the USB drive will be destroyed during this process. Make sure the drive is blank, or copy the data to a safe place before proceeding.

  1. Insert a USB drive into your USB port.
  2. macOS will recognize the drive and show its icon on the desktop.
    macOS desktop showing USB Disk connected.
  3. Launch Disk Utility.
    1. Select Search in the top-right corner.
      Spotlight icon highlighted.
    2. type in "Disk Utility". Select the Disk Utility search result.
      Disk Utility search in Spotlight.
  4. Select your USB drive from the list on the left.
    Disk Utility with USB Disk highlighted.
  5. Select Erase at the top.
    Disk Utility with Erase highlighted.
  6. Type in a Name for the drive, then select a Format.
    Erase dialog with Name and Format highlighted.
  7. Format types to select from are shown below.
    macOS drive format types.
  8. Select Erase.
    Erase
  9. A progress bar will open. Wait will the drive is formatted.
    Erase
  10. Once complete, select Done.
    Erase
  11. Quit Disk Utility. Select the Disk Utility menu at the top, then Quit Disk Utility.
    Disk Utility menu with Quit Disk Utility highlighted.

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USB drives are great for carrying or backing up data. Formatting is the process that erases all existing data on a USB drive and sets up the file system it will use. The file system is what tells the drive how to store the data that is to be written to, read or deleted from it. The type of file system that is needed on a USB drive varies depending on the type of device it will be used with.

While most devices will alert you if you connect a USB drive with an incompatible file system that needs to be formatted, refer to your device's documentation to find out what file systems are compatible with your device.

This guide will show you how to format a USB drive using a Windows PC.

macOS Logo.

Types of USB Drives

While the process to format USB drives is the same, they may come in different physical forms:

  • USB flash drives
    USB Thumbdrives.
  • External USB hard drives or solid state drives
    USB external drive.

Any and all data on the USB drive will be destroyed during this process. Make sure the drive is blank, or copy the data to a safe place before proceeding.

  1. Insert a USB drive into your USB port.
  2. macOS will recognize the drive and show its icon on the desktop.
    macOS desktop showing USB Disk connected.
  3. Launch Disk Utility.
    1. Select Search in the top-right corner.
      Spotlight icon highlighted.
    2. type in "Disk Utility". Select the Disk Utility search result.
      Disk Utility search in Spotlight.
  4. Select your USB drive from the list on the left.
    Disk Utility with USB Disk highlighted.
  5. Select Erase at the top.
    Disk Utility with Erase highlighted.
  6. Type in a Name for the drive, then select a Format.
    Erase dialog with Name and Format highlighted.
  7. Format types to select from are shown below.
    macOS drive format types.
  8. Select Erase.
    Erase
  9. A progress bar will open. Wait will the drive is formatted.
    Erase
  10. Once complete, select Done.
    Erase
  11. Quit Disk Utility. Select the Disk Utility menu at the top, then Quit Disk Utility.
    Disk Utility menu with Quit Disk Utility highlighted.