How to Format a Disk on Mac? 2024 Step-By-Step Guide

Tracy King updated on Jan 11, 2024 | Home >Computer Instruction

Can I format the disk on Mac? Do you know how to format disk on Mac for free? Follow this page, and you'll learn what the best format for a Mac disk or hard drive is, and how to successfully format a disk on Mac with 2 reliable disk formatting tools. 

Note that solutions here also work on formatting disk - HDD/SSD, format external hard drive, format USB/SD, etc., on Mac. Let's get started here.

image of formatting disk on Mac

What Does It Mean to Format a Disk on Mac?

Disk formatting is the process of preparing a data storage device such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, floppy disk, memory card or USB flash drive for initial use. In some cases, the formatting operation may also create one or more new file systems. - by Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, the target of formatting a disk is to get a device ready for data storage or change the device file system format. When it comes to Mac users, the target of formatting a disk on Mac is as similar as listed below:

  • Clear disk drive for storing more data and files
  • Set a new HDD/SSD ready for upgrading the Mac disk

When you purchase a hard drive or SSD to upgrade your Mac disk, you must format the disk to a macOS-supported format. So what is the best format for a Mac disk or hard drive? Follow the next part, and you'll get the answer.

What Is the Best Format for a Mac Disk or Hard Drive

While setting up a hard drive on Mac, you'll need to set a suitable format for Mac computer. APFS and Mac OS Extended (Journaled) are the two best formats for using on Mac disk.

Briefly, APFS, known as Apple File System, is the latest file system provided by Apple for Mac users. It was first released in 2016 and is now widely used on macOS High Sierra and later macOS systems.

Meanwhile, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) was set as the default file system on Mac computers in 1998. This file system format is only used on hybrid and mechanical drives on Mac. macOS High Sierra or newer systems also support this file system format.

What's the difference between APFS and Mac OS Extended (Journaled)? Check and follow this tutorial guide and learn the details:

related articles

[macOS Format] APFS vs. Mac OS Extended

Which file system is the best for your system? APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled)? To help you understand, we have explained APFS and Mac OS Extended in detail. 

image of format disk to apfs

In a word:

  • If your Mac is running macOS Mojave or later, use APFS format.
  • If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra or older versions, use Mac OS Extended (Journaled). 

Aside from these, there is also other file system available on Mac computers listed here in this table:

File System Abbreviation Suitable Storage Device
Mac OS Extended (Journaled) JHFS+ Internal disk
Mac OS Extended HFS+ Internal disk
MS-DOS fat32 FAT32 USB (32GB or smaller)
exFAT exFAT USB or external hard drive (64GB or larger)

Bonus Tip: Some of you may wonder if exFAT is suitable for Mac drive, the answer is no. ExFAT is basically a file system format designed for big external storage devices (larger than 32GB). You can set exFAT as the file system to an external hard drive instead of an internal Mac hard drive.

How Do I Format a Disk on Mac? 

After knowing the suitable file system format for a Mac disk, it's your turn to format it on Mac. So, do I format a Mac disk? Here are two internal disk formatter tools that you can apply to format the Mac hard drive or SSD:

  1. #1. Disk Utility
  2. #2. Terminal

Which one should I pick? For inexperienced Mac users, you can try Disk Utility. It's more like Disk Management on Windows, which simply allows you to execute disk management operations with the software interface. The process is more visible and easier. Terminal equals to DiskPart on Windows, which process command lines to the OS and executes disk management tasks. 

So how do I use these two tools to format a disk on Mac? Here are your two guides:

#1. Format Disk on Mac with Disk Utility

Step 1. Connect your hard drive to your Mac as an external hard drive via a connection cable.

Step 2. Go to Finder, click "Applications", and click "Utilities".

Open Disk Utility

Step 3. Double-click "Disk Utility" to open this tool.

Step 4. Select the new target disk in Disk Utility, click "Erase" at the top pane, and set a new format to the disk - APFS or Mac OS Extended. Click "Erase" to confirm.

Select file format and format disk on Mac with Disk utility

#2. Format Disk on Mac Using Terminal

Step 1. Keep the new hard drive to your Mac computer via a connection cable.

Step 2. Press Command + Space keys to open Spotlight, type: terminal, and hit Return.

Open Terminal

Step 3. Type the listed command lines one by one and hit Return each time to complete formatting disk on Mac: 

  • diskutil list
  • sudo diskutil eraseDisk APFS MBRFormat /dev/disk2.

Also, you can replace APFS with Mac OS Extended if your Mac uses macOS High Sierra or older operating systems.

Once done, you are ready to transfer files and macOS to the new disk on Mac by then. Note that the above two methods also work on formatting other types of storage devices on Mac, for example, to format USB on Mac.

You can also apply them to change storage devices' file system formats, such as to format USB to FAT32 on Mac, etc.

Formatting Disk on Mac Is Easy with Proper Formatting Utility

On this page, we discussed what will happen if you format a disk on Mac and what's the best format for a disk on Mac. We also covered two reliable disk formatting tools for Mac users to format internal hard drives and SSDs on Mac to referred formats like APFS, Mac OS Extended, etc.

You May Also Be Interested In:

related articles

How Do I Format a Disk in Windows 10 [Beginners' Guide]

If you also have a Windows computer and need a detailed guide to format disk on Windows 10/11, etc., you can follow this guide for help.

format disk Windows 10

FAQs about Formatting Disk on Mac

If you have further questions about formatting disks on Mac, refer to the questions listed below, and you will get a satisfying answer:

1. How to format external hard drive on Mac Monterey?

To format external hard drive on Mac with macOS Monterey, you can try the following tips:

  1. First, connect your external hard drive to Mac and see if it's readable and writable on Mac.
  2. Next, if yes, back up valuable files from an external hard drive to another drive on Mac.
  3. Third, open Disk Utility, select the external hard drive, and choose to erase the disk on Mac.

Note that if your external hard drive is with NTFS, it's read-only, but you can't make changes to the drive, you should first add read-and-write right to your NTFS external hard drive on Mac with reliable NTFS for Mac software. Then back up all essential files, and format the disk.

2. Do I need to format the external hard drive for Mac?

If your external hard drive is with exFAT or FAT32, you don't need to format it for Mac. Both exFAT and FAT32 are compatible with Windows and macOS.

If you need to clear data on the external hard drive, or your external hard drive is with NTFS, and you need to make it readable and writable on Mac, you'll need to format the disk.

3. Is exFAT for Mac?

Yes, exFAT is a supported format on Mac. exFAT is known as Extended File Allocation Table, which works for both Windows and Mac computers. It's widely used on external storage devices with big storage capacity, such as USB drives, external hard drives, and SD cards, etc.

Was This Page Helpful?


Updated by Tracy King

Tracy became a member of the EaseUS content team in 2013. Being a technical writer for over 10 years, she is enthusiastic about sharing tips to assist readers in resolving complex issues in disk management, file transfer, PC & Mac performance optimization, etc., like an expert.

Read full bio

Totalav antivirus software

EaseUS Data Recovery Services

Request a free evaluation >>

EaseUS data recovery experts have uneaqualed expertise to repair disks/systems and salvage data from all devices like RAID, HDD, SSD, USB, etc.