After you’ve purchased an external hard drive, you’ll need to format it so it will work with your computer’s Operating System. If you have a Mac, you’ll need to format it for the Mac OS. If you have a PC, it will need to be formatted for Windows.
An external hard drive will work with either a Mac or a PC, but not both at the same time. In other words, you won’t be able to save your work to a Mac-formatted external hard drive and then use the same drive with a PC (it probably won’t even show up as an available device.)
Sometimes, people express confusion about this to me. I think I know where that confusion comes from.
You can plug a PC-formatted external hard drive into a Mac and look at the files. But for the most part, that’s all you can do. You can’t change the files or drag and drop files from your Mac onto the PC-formatted drive.
So again: an external hard drive can be formatted to work with either a Mac or a PC, but not both at the same time.
Before proceeding with the “how to,” I do have to give the standard formatting warning: Formatting your external hard drive will erase everything on it. If you have data on your external hard drive, save it to another location before formatting your drive. Formatting erases everything. There is no Undo.
To format an external hard drive for a PC
- Plug external hard drive into PC
- When drive appears as a device in My Computer, right-click it
- From the flyout menu, choose Format
- Make sure the Quick Format box is checked
- Click Start
- In the warning box, Click OK
To format an external hard drive for a Mac
- From Finder, choose Go on the menu bar and select Utilities
- In Utilities, select Disk Utility
- In the left pane of available drives, select your external hard drive
- Select the Erase tab near the top of the Disk Utility window
- In the Format dropdown list, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
- Enter a name for your drive in the Name field
- Click Erase
- In the warning box, click Erase