How to Format External Hard Drive in Windows & Mac?

By Dominic Chooper on July 13, 2023

You will need to format an external hard drive to use it with the operating system of your PC, whether it is Windows or a Mac system.

Regardless of the system you are using, the process is pretty straightforward and can be completed by using the inbuilt features on your computer system.

Here in this article, you will learn about a couple of quick and easy steps.


Why Do You Format an External Hard Drive?

You will need to format an external drive to make the drive work with the operating system of your PC. This is because different file systems process data by using different file systems.

Ideally, you will need to format the external hard drive to make it compatible with the file system installed on your computer.

Other reasons to format an external hard drive are:

Here are a few methods to follow for formatting your external hard drive.

Ways to Format an External Hard Drive

You can format an external hard drive after connecting it to your PC very quickly from the Windows File Explorer.

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If you want, you can also format it by running the format command in the Command Prompt, or from the Disk Management feature.

If you are using a Mac system, you can format the external drive from the Utilities features under Application.

Here are the specific steps to follow.

In Windows

Method 1: Format from File Explorer

The easiest of all ways to format an external hard drive on your PC is from the Windows Explorer.


(You may also click on the This PC icon).

Selecting external drive format

Click on the small square box next to Quick Format

After formatting, the drive will open automatically in Windows Explorer.

If you want to check it, you can go to the Disk Management by choosing the option from the window that appears after right-clicking on the Start Menu. It will be marked as Healthy (Primary Partition) as shown in the image below:


Method 2: From the Command Prompt

You can use the Command Prompt to format your external hard drive. However, for that you will need to run a few specific commands, such as diskpart, before in order to clean the drive and then create partitions for better formatting.

Assume, you want to format Disk 0.


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Type the following command in the Command Prompt window, hitting Enter every time after each command is executed properly:

Diskpart List Disk select disk 0 clean

When the disk is cleaned, you will then need to run the following command in the Command Prompt:

This will create a primary partition

Now, to complete the process, you will need to type in the format command along with the file system you want it to be formatted in. For example, to format an external drive in the NTFS format, the command to type is:

When you hit Enter, the formatting process will be initiated. It will take some time. When the drive is formatted fully, finally, type exit to close the Command Prompt.

Method 3: From the Disk Management Feature

You can format your external hard drive directly from the Disk Management feature in Windows.


Choosing MBR

Selecting New Simple Volume

New Simple Volume Wizard window

Specify Volume Size

Assign Drive Letter or Path

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If it is selected already, as it is in this case, leave it like that.

Volume label

Clicking on the Finish button

This will start the formatting process. Close all windows when it is complete.

In Mac Systems

If you are using a Mac computer, you can also format an external hard drive.

Method 4: From the Utilities Feature

You can use the Utilities feature in Mac to format an external hard drive.


Clicking on Utilities

Selecting Disk Utility

Clicking on the Erase tab

Clicking on the Erase button

This will start formatting the external hard drive as shown in the image below:

When the process is complete, close the window.


Formatting an external hard drive is very easy. But you must keep in mind that it will remove all that you stored on the drive.

So, make sure you have created a proper backup of the data. Also, ensure you select the right disk to format.