> Format external hard drive for Mac and PC

Quickly Format an External Hard Drive for Mac and Windows PC

As we know, external hard drives are widely used to backup data or interchange files among different computers. Well, is there an external hard drive that could be shared between Mac and Windows PC? Of there is. Actually, most external hard disks could be compatible with Mac and PC as long as we format them correctly.

Why Need to Format External Hard If We Want to Share It on Mac and PC

Currently, hard drives for Windows PC are always formatted with NTFS, while hard disks for Mac are formatted with HFS+. However, when we connect a NTFS formatted disk to Mac, Mac OS X doesn't allow us to write files to the drive neither edit files, though it can read a NTFS drive. Similarly, Windows OS will ask us to format the HFS+ formatted drive when we connecting such a disk, let along edit files saved on HFS+ formatted hard disks unless we resort to third party programs.

But luckily, there are file systems well supported by both Mac and Windows PC, and they are FAT32 (it might be called MS-DOS on Mac) and exFAT. As long as we format the external hard drive to one of these 2 file systems, it can be shared between Mac and Windows.

Further Reading Both FAT32 and exFAT have advantages and disadvantages.

FAT32: FAT32 works with all versions of Windows, Mac OS, Linux, game consoles, etc.

However, single files on a FAT32 drive can't be larger than 4GB. If your external drive saves files larger than 4GB or you plan to save larger files to this drive, converting to FAT32 is not recommended.

In addition, a FAT32 partition must be not more than 32GB if you create it in Windows Disk Management. Of course, there is free partition manager that can help create a FAT32 volume up to 2TB, which also functions correctly.

exFAT: exFAT has very large file size and partition size limits, which means it's a good idea to format your external hard drive to exFAT.

Nevertheless, a lot of users complained that exFAT is slow, and they highly suggest using FAT32 if you can avoid file size constraints.


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How to Quickly Format External Hard Drive for Mac and PC Without Losing Data

Your external hard drive might have saved lots of files. If you want to share such an external hard drive between Mac and PC, please convert NTFS and HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT. To do this kind of conversion, we just need a Windows computer, a Mac machine, and a free partitioning software. For specific steps, please keep reading.

How to Convert NTFS to FAT32 or exFAT Without Data Loss


You Can Convert NTFS to FAT32 in 2 Steps

Step 1: Download MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition

Please download and install this free partition software on your Windows computer, which supports converting NTFS to FAT32 without losing any file.



Step 2: Convert NTFS to FAT32 Using This Software

After running the program successfully, we can see its main window:

convert NTFS to FAT32 select the NTFS partition

Here, please select the NTFS partition of external hard drive and choose "Convert NTFS to FAT" feature from the left action pane. If there is more than one NTFS partition, convert all of them one by one.

At last, click "Apply" button to make the change executed.

When Partition Wizard shows it applied the change successfully, the original NTFS will finally become a FAT32 partition . Then, you can share the external hard drive between Mac and Windows PC.

You Can Convert NTFS to exFAT in 3 Steps
However, if you want to convert NTFS to exFAT, 3 steps are required.

Step 1: Transfer Data out from External Hard Drive

You can choose to copy and paste those files to other external devices or internal hard disk of Windows, but it will cost much time. Instead, you can use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition to create a copy for your external drive, which is faster.

If there is only one NTFS partition on external hard drive, refer to the tutorial Copy Partition to get instructions. However, if there is more than one NTFS partition, view Copy Disk to get specific operations.

Step 2: Create exFAT Partition in Windows Disk Management


Once a backup has been created, please press on Win and R combination key to call out Run, and then type diskmgmt.msc to open Windows Disk Management.

create exFAT partition delete NTFS partition in Disk Management

Then, delete all NTFS partitions on the external hard disk via the function "Delete Volume".

create exFAT partition 1

Next, right click the unallocated space released by NTFS partition(s), and choose "New Simple Volume" to get the interface below:

create exFAT partition 2

Here, please click "Next" to continue.

create exFAT partition 3

Next, specify exact partition size in MB for new partition and click "Next".

create exFAT partition 4

Then, assign it a letter and click "Next".

create exFAT partition 5

Next, choose exFAT from the drop-down menu of File System, select an allocation unit size, and add a label for the new exFAT partition. Then, click "Next".

create exFAT partition 6

At last, click "Finish" to perform all changes, and then an exFAT partition will be created on your external hard disk so that it could be shared betweem Mac and Windows PC

Step 3: Transfer Data back to External Drive

If you want to share files that you have backed up between Mac and PC, now please transfer these files back to external hard drive.

How to Convert HFS+ to FAT32 or exFAT without Losing Data


Step 1: Backup Data in HFS+ Partition on Mac

Just transfer all useful files out from the external hard drive to other devices on Mac. Of course, if you have a backup already, ignore this step.

Step 2: Create a FAT32 or exFAT Partition on Windows PC

Some people may ask why create such partitions on Windows rather than Mac. That is because there are cases reporting FAT32 (MS-DOS) or exFAT partitions created on Mac did not work well on Windows.

Please skip to Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 to get steps to create a FAT32 partitions or go back to Step 2: Create exFAT Partition in Windows Disk Management to get operations to create an exFAT partition.

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How to Make an Empty External Drive Compatible with Mac and PC

If there is no file saved on your external hard drive, it's very easy to share it among Windows and Mac, and we also need a Windows computer, a Mac machine, and the free partition manager MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.

There are 3 solutions for this case, so please choose the one you like most.

solution 1 Solution 1: Format External Hard Drive to FAT32


Since users are unable to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB in Windows Disk Management, they need to use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.

Note: when you connect an external hard drive which is formatted with HFS+ with computer, Windows may ask you to format the drive. Please choose Cancel.


Please download and install this program on your Windows computer.



Then, launch it to get the main interface:

format empty external drive to FAT32 delete NTFS or HFS+ partition

Here, please select the NTFS partition or HFS+ partition of external hard drive, and click "Delete Partition" feature from the left action pane. If there are multiple partitions on the external disk, please select the disk and click "Delete All Partitions" feature instead. After that, an unallocated space will be released:

format empty external drive to FAT32 create FAT32 partition 1

Here, you can create one or more FAT32 partitions in unallocated space. Select the unallocated space and choose "Create Partition" feature from the left side.

format empty external drive to FAT32 create FAT32 partition 2

Then, set properties for this new partition, including partition label, partition size, drive letter, file system, etc., and click "OK" to go back to the main window of Partition Wizard.

Tip: please choose FAT32 rather than any other file system when setting file system.


At last, click "Apply" button to make all changes performed.

solution 2 Solution 2: Format External Hard Disk to exFAT


Firstly, please delete the NTFS or HFS+ partition in either MiniTool Partition Wizard or Windows Disk Management to release unallocated space. Then, you can create an exFAT partition in Disk Management by following steps introduced in the section Step 2: Create exFAT Partition in Windows Disk Management.

Once a FAT32 or exFAT partition is created on your external hard drive, you can share it on both Mac and Windows PC.

solution 3 Solution 3: Create One HFS+ Partition for Mac and One NTFS Partition for Windows


Alternatively, you can create 2 partitions on the external hard drive: one is for Mac, and the other is for Windows. As to size for each partition, it depends on your own demands.

Step 1: Create a NTFS Partition and a FAT32 Partition

Please run MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition, then delete all the original NTFS or HFS+ partition(s), and create a new NTFS partition as well as a FAT32 partition, and the latter will be formatted to HFS+ in Mac machine.



create a NTFS partition on Windows delete all partitions

Then, select the external hard drive and choose "Delete All Partitions" to create an unallocated space:

create a NTFS partition on Windows 1

Here, select the unallocated space and choose "Create Partition" feature from the left action pane.

create a NTFS partition on Windows 2

Now, please specify partition label (Windows is recommended), partition type (primary or logical), drive letter, file system (NTFS), cluster size, and partition size (you can change the length of the handle to adjust partition size). Then, click "OK" to continue.

create a NTFS partition on Windows 3

Now, we can see a NTFS partition is created. Please use the same way to create a FAT32 partition labeled with Mac.

At last, click "Apply" button to make all changes performed.

Step 2: Format the FAT32 Partition to HFS+ Partition on Mac

Please go to Utilities → Disk Utility to get the window below:

create HFS+ partition on Mac select external disk

Then, select the external hard drive and click "Partition" tab on the top.

create HFS+ partition on Mac click + to create

Now, find the FAT32 partition and format it to OS X Extended (Journaled), which is the desired HFS+. Finally, click "Apply" button to make all changes performed.

Tip: you may receive the prompt "The volume 'MAC' is not journaled. As a result it can not be resized". Just ignore the message and click "OK" button to continue.


create-HFS+ partition on Mac error message

After NTFS partition and HFS+ partition are created on your external hard drive, it can be shared between Mac and Windows PC.

Kindly Reminder: you might be unable to share all files saved on external drive since Windows doesn't support HFS+ partition while Mac doesn't support NTFS partition completely.


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Well, is it possible to make an external hard drive compatible with Mac and PC without formatting it? Definitely, it is, but third party program is required.

How to Share External Hard Drive Between Mac and PC Without Formatting

If you want to use external hard drive formatted with NTFS on Mac, you'll need to install programs that let you use your NTFS drive on your Mac. Paragon NTFS is a good app, but you'll need to pay $19.95 for it.

However, if you want to use an external drive formatted with HFS+ on Windows PC, you'll need to install programs that let you get read and write access to HFS+ partition on Windows PC. MacDrive is a good choice, but it is also a paid software.

Of course, there is freeware available. Just search on GOOGL or other search engines.

Are you planning to format an external drive for Mac and Windows PC? If yes, now try one of our methods to format it. Should you have any problem, just feel free to leave us messages in Comment part below.