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How to format a storage drive for Mac

Rob Mead-Green | July 5, 2016
Disk Utility is built into OS X and easy to use. Here's how to format your drive for OS X

There are all kinds of reasons why you might want to format a storage drive for yourMac - from cleaning it up for a fresh install of OS X to creating an encrypted drive for work. Or even creating a Windows partition. Fortunately Disk Utility, built right into OS X, can help. And it's easy to use too.

Format storage drive for Mac step 1: Launch Disk Utility 

The first thing to do is head to Applications > Utilities, which can be found through the Finder and you'll want to open the Disk Utility application.

Once it's open you'll see the list of available drives on the left. Choose the drive you'd like to format and then click on the Erase option from the four options available in the main window.

Format a storage drive for Mac - Applications

Format storage drive for Mac step 2: Choose your format

Disk Utility automatically chooses OS X Extended (Journaled) as the default format for the drive format, but if you'd like to use something else click on the Formatting options to reveal its drop-down window. In our case we used a USB to demonstrate the formatting options.

The other options you'll now see are:

OS X Extended (Journaled) - useful for creating secure drives that require a password to access. Encrypting laptop and external drives is a great idea if you're always lugging your laptop around and don't want anyone to access the contents of the drive should you accidentally lose it. Ditto for removable drives like external drives and USB keys.

Mac OS Extended (Case-Sensitive, Journaled) - by default OS X treats lower-case and upper-case files on a drive the same; but if that's an issue for you, you can create a case-sensitive drive where they are treated differently. So a file namedMacworld.txt and macworld.txt would be treated as two separate files. While this can be an option for some people, it's not recommended. 

MS-DOS (FAT) - you might want to use this if you regularly share drives with PC-owning friends or colleagues and want them to be able to access the files you place on the drive on their computers. Or to create a Bootcamp partition so you can install Windows on your Mac.

ExFAT - the same as for MS DOS (FAT) above, only this option has been optimised for flash drives - both internal and external.

Format a storage drive for Mac - Format

Format storage drive for Mac step 3: Name your drive

Once you've chosen the drive format you want to use, you'll now need to give the drive a name.  This can be anything you like, but choose something obvious like 'Macintosh HD' if you're going to use the drive as your Mac's main drive or 'Bob's Mac' or 'Videos' if you're using the drive to store videos, etc. 


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