Formatting Flash Drive For Mac And Pc

By Adela D. Louie, Last updated: August 27, 2019

How to format a usb flash drive on a windows 10 pc for mac os x & windows pc compatibility If you need to transfer files larger than 4 GB between macs and wi.

In today’s technology, if you buy a USB hard drive, you can just simply use it directly using your Mac. However, there are instances that not unless that your flash drive is build to use for your Mac, you will not be able to format it.

Type the following command to see the list of all the drives and volumes. diskutil list Format an External Media. Note down the disk identifier of the disk you want to format. In our case here the disk identifier is disk2. Now type the following command to erase and format the external. Click the drive name on the left side list in Disk Utility, and then click the “Erase” tab Click the pulldown menu alongside “Format” and select “MS-DOS (FAT)” Optionally, give the drive a name Click the “Erase” button to format the drive for Mac & Windows PC compatibility.

Why is this so? The answer to this is because most of the computers actually run on Windows and they actually use a different file format which is known to be the Fat32.

Those drives that are formatted in Fat32 can be used in your Mac for reading and writing but there might be an instance that you might experience some trouble once that you use your macOS native format.

So, in case that you have a flash drive that is formatted into Fat32 or any type of format rather than having a Mac OS Extended or AFPS, then we are going to show you in this article how you could possibly format your flash drive using your Mac.

Part 1: How To Format Flash Drive On Mac

Here are the steps that you need to follow. Do these steps and you will then be able to format your flash drive on your Mac.

Step 1: Go ahead and plug in your flash drive in the USB port on your Mac.

Step 2: After that, go ahead and launch the Finder and click on your flash drive detected by your Mac.

Step 3: See to it that there are no files saved on your flash drive that you no longer need. This is because formatting your flash drive will remove all the data that is stored in it. If there are some files that you want to remain, simply copy these files to your Mac.

Step 4: After getting all the files that you need from your flash drive, go ahead and click on “Applications” and then click “Utilities” and then choose “Disk Utility”.

Step 5: And then, go ahead and click on your flash drive from the sidebar.

Step 6: Once that you have chosen your flash drive, go ahead and click on the “Erase” button located at the toolbar at the top of the window.

Step 7: On the next window that will appear on your screen, go ahead and key in a name for the flash drive that you are formatting from the box next to the “Name” option.

Step 8: And then select a format that you want from the drop-down menu.

Step 9: No, if you have previously stored a data on your flash drive that is highly sensitive, just go ahead and click on the Security Tab.

Step 10: From the security tab, go ahead and choose the level of the security that you want. The more that you move to your right, then the more “passes” the deleted tool will be but it will securely delete your files. However, doing to so will take more of your time to format your flash drive.


Step 11: After that, go ahead and click on the “OK” button and then click on the “Erase” button.

Part 2: Choosing the Right Format

There are formats that you need to choose from depending on the Mac that you are using. If you are using the macOS Sierra or a later version, then you have to options to choose from. One is the AFPS and the other one is the Mac OS Extended. The question now here is that which one should you choose.

You have to keep in mind that once you have formatted your flash drive into AFPS, then those Macs that are running on macOS that is older than the High Sierra will not be able to recognize it.

So, if you would want to use your flash drive on Macs that are running on High Sierra, then you have to choose the Mac OS Extended format.

However, you also have to know that AFPS is actually optimized for SSD or “solid state drive” and it includes flash drives.

That is why if you are going to reformat a flash drive on your Mac, then you should definitely choose the AFPS format as it is known to be the most reliable and faster than the Mac OS Extended. But again, that is if you do not have any plans in using it on a pre-High Sierra course.

And lastly, if in case that you would want to use your flash drive as one of your backup options in Time Machine, then you should definitely have it formatted in Mac OS Extended.

This is because Time Machine does not have the ability yet to backup flash drives that are formatted in AFPS. So, if you are using an AFPS formatted flash drive on Time Machine, it will just ask you to format your flash drive into Mac OS Extended.

Part 3: How To Format Flash Drive To Fat32 On Your Mac

Once that you have a flash drive, then what you would need to do is to have it formatted into Fat32. Why? This is because once that you have formatted your flash drive into Fat32, then you will be able to use it on both Windows and Mac PC when you want to save or transfer files with either of the two.

The Fat32 format can be used – read or write – with both Mac and Windows PC and because of this, it makes the device more versatile.

However, there are some limitations that you should need to know such as an individual file should only have a maximum size of 4GB. But do not worry because there is still something you can do about it and that is by formatting it to exFAT.

The exFAT format will not give any limitations on the file size that you are going to store on your flash drive and you can still use it on both Windows and Macs that are running in Mac OS X Snow Leopard or later version. For you to be able to format your flash drive into Fat32, here is what you need to do.

Step 1: Go ahead and connect your flash drive to your Mac.

Step 2: And then, go to Application and then click on Utilities.

Step 3: After that, go ahead and launch Disk Utility.

Step 4: And then, go ahead and click on your flash drive located at the sidebar in Disk Utility.

Step 5: After that, click on 'Erase' in the Disk Utility window.

Step 6: After that, go ahead and enter the name for the flash drive that you formatted.

Step 7: And then, choose the Format menu and then select MS-DOS (FAT32) or the ExFAT.

Step 8: After that, go ahead and click on the 'Erase' button.

Once that you are done with the provided steps for you, your flash drive will then completely wipe out all the data stored and it is re-formatted into either an ExFAT or FAT32 depending on what you have chosen on the previous steps.

Part 4: Getting Your Mac System Run Fast

Now that you have known with how you can format your flash drive on your Mac, now it is time for you to get your Mac cleaned up.

Getting your Mac clean on a regular basis after doing tasks can help your Mac maintain its speed and will also give you more space for your storage.

There is one great option for you to clean up your Mac in no time and this is by using the software called the FoneDog Mac Cleaner.

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The FoneDog Mac Cleaner will help you to speed up your Mac with just a few simple clicks. This software can also help you in scanning your Mac faster and find all of your junk files on your Mac.

It also has the capability of checking your Mac's system status which includes your CPU status, your memory usage and more. This way, you will have an idea of what is the data that is actually eating up a lot of storage space on your Mac and which is causing it to perform slower than the usual.

The FoneDog Mac Cleaner will not only help you in removing all of the junk files that you have on your Mac. It can also help you to completely uninstall applications that you no longer use together with all the files that are associated with that app. It can also serve as a Similar Image Finder, an Extension Manager, a Duplicate Finder, and more.

For you to start cleaning up your Mac, all you have to do is to follow all the steps that we are going to provide to you. Do not worry, this is really simple and easy to follow and it will not consume a lot of your time. In addition, the screenshots below are shown under the dark mode on Mac.

Step 1: Download and Install

Have the FoneDog Mac Cleaner downloaded from our official website at Once that you have completely downloaded the program, go ahead and have the program installed on your Mac.

Step 2: Launch the Program

After that installation process is complete, go ahead and run the program on your Mac. Once that the program is up and running, you will be able to see on your screen the system status of your Mac. With that information, you will have an idea which files are taking up a lot of space on your Mac.

Step 3: Select Cleaner

Cleaner provides you with the cleaning function for the system, photo, email, files, apps and other fields on your Mac.

Step 4: Choose iTunes Junk

Here, take iTunes Junk as an example to show you how to clean junks on your Mac to make your Mac run faster.
Note: As for the other tools like 'System Junk' and 'Email Junk', the steps to clean up them is the same as that in 'iTunes Junk' tool.

Step 5. Scan iTunes Files

After clicking into the page of iTunes Junk, press the Scan button to start scan all the iTunes backups, Cache, updates and downloads on your Mac.

Step 6: Review and Select Items

After that scanning process is completely done, you will be able to see on the left side of your window screen a list of category folders of all the junk files of iTunes that you have on your Mac. If you click each folder, you will see on the right side of your screen all the items that each folder contains.

Review each item on each folder for you to make sure that all the junk files shown on your screen are unnecessary any more.

Once that you are satisfied with the result, you can go ahead and simply click on the 'Clean' button to clean up all your junk files.

Step 7: Confirm Your Choice

There would be a pop-up window called Confirmation turning up. Please press the 'Confirm' button if you are sure to delete the selected files; otherwise, please press the Cancel button and return to the previous page.

Step 8: Cleaning Done

Once that the cleaning process is done, all those unnecessary files that you have there will all be deleted from your Mac.

Part 5: Conclusion

Now, as you can see, formatting your flash drive on your Mac is a very easy thing to do. All you need to have is the knowledge on how you can do.

And keep in mind that if you are going to format your flash drive, make sure that you choose the right format so that you can use it in any PC.

Formatting is easy, just like in cleaning up your Mac. Getting your Mac tidy is one of the best things that you should do for you to be able to maintain the speed of your Mac and of course for you to get more space on your storage. And the best way for you to clean up your Mac is by using the FoneDog Mac Cleaner.

>Clean up Mac >How to Format A Flash Drive on Mac?
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Last update: March 28, 2018

It's no surprise that PCs and Macs do not work well with each other, due to differences between the two operating systems (Windows vs macOS).

One main difference is file system. By default, Macs are with HFS+ (since 2017 there's new Apple File System, APFS, optimized for flash storage), while PCs are with NTFS.

If you have a USB drive, and you plan to use it on both a Mac and PC , things can get a bit tricky here. What do I mean?

If your disk was initially formatted to NTFS on a PC (or HFS+ on a Mac), most likely you'll suffer limitations, for example, the data on your drive can't be read or written on one of your computers.

Fortunately, there is a file system (actually two, I'll explain) that you can format your flash drive in order to be fully compatible with Mac and PC. In other words, you can access the drive and transfer data without any hassles.

That file system is — exFAT. Note that there is another file system called FAT32 that pretty much does the same thing but with one major flaw. See the table below for more info.

Quick Navigation

Major File System Comparison

Compatible with macOS?

Compatible with Windows?

Max. file size

Max. partition size




No limit

No limit




No limit

No limit









No limit

No limit

As you can see, exFAT is the only file system that works with all versions of Windows and macOS and does not have any max file-size or partition-size limits. Therefore, it's perfect for a USB flash drive or external disk especially you need to save files more than 4GB in size. You should go ahead and format your storage drive with exFAT instead of FAT32, assuming that all devices you want to use the drive support exFAT.

You may notice that in NTFS is marked 'Partially' under the Compatible with macOS column. This is because an NTFS-based drive can be read by Macs but you can't write data to the drive.

Now that you've learned exFAT is the ideal file system to go. How to know what current file system your flash drive is with, and how to format it to exFAT?

Read on for step by step instructions...

How to Check a USB Drive's File System?

First of all, plug your flash drive into the USB port on your computer. Make sure your device can be detected and recognized. I'm here to use a 32GB Lexar USB key as an example.


If you are on a Mac...

Once the Lexar disk shows up on the desktop, right click on the drive icon and select 'Get Info'.

Alternatively (in case the disk does not show up on your desktop), open Finder, on the sidebar menu locate your USB drive under Devices, right click and select 'Get Info'.

In the new dialogue, pay attention to General > Format, where it says 'MS-DOS (FAT32)'. That means my Lexar disk is currently with the FAT32 file system.

If you are on a PC…

Go to This PC, under 'Devices and drives', highlight the disk that represents your USB flash drive, right click and select Properties.

In the new Properties window, check General > File system and you'll see what type of file system your flash drive is currently with. Note: since I've formatted my Lexar drive on my Mac, now it shows exFAT.

How to Format Your USB Flash Drive to exFAT?

Important: make sure you have at least one backup of all the data stored on the device before you proceed. Because the process of reformatting a disk drive will very likely erase all content and make recovery impossible. See this USB drive recovery guide for more information.

Also, since I don't know whether you are on a PC or Mac to perform this operation. I'm here to break down this guide into two parts. The first part is for Mac users, the second part is for PC users (Windows 10 based). In no particular order.

Part 1: Formatting USB Drive on Mac

Please note: since OS X 10.11 El Capitan (the latest is 10.13 High Sierra), Apple made a few changes to Disk Utility (see details from this ComputerWorld post). The app now has a new user interface that looks slightly different on Yosemite or earlier OS X versions.

Step 1: Open Disk Utility. The quickest way is search on Spotlight and click the result under 'TOP HIT'. Alternatively, you can access it via Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 2: Under 'External' tab, highlight your flash drive. Note: right below your device name, it also shows information about the drive e.g. size, file system, etc. In my case, I can see it's a 32GB volume in MS-DOS(FAT) file system.

Step 3: Now click the 'Erase' button at the top. In the new pop-up window, choose the format to be 'ExFAT'. You may also change the device name if you want. Then hit the 'Erase' button to continue. Kind reminder: make sure you have backed up the data before you do this.

Step 4: Wait until the erasing process to complete. It should be very quick (only a few seconds to format my 32GB Lexar drive).

Step 5: This step is optional. I'm showing this to verify that the USB drive has been reformatted to the file system I wanted. I saved several files to the disk, and open Disk Utility again. And yes ... it's now with the exFAT file system.

Part 2: Formatting USB on a Windows PC

Please note: I'm here to use a Windows 10 based HP laptop to format my Lexar drive. If you are on an earlier operating system like Windows 7, XP, etc. The screenshots may look slightly different. For example, in Windows XP 'My Computer' is equivalent to 'This PC' on Windows 10.

Step 1: Locate your USB stick under 'This PC', right click on it and select the 'Format…' option.

Step 2: A new window pops up prompting options you need to select before starting. The only thing you have to check is under 'File system', make sure you have chosen 'exFAT'. You may also rename the device drive under 'Volume label'. Then click the 'Start' button to continue.

Step 3: You'll see this warning. Once again, make sure you've backed up all important data stored in the drive. Click 'OK'.

Step 4: It says 'Format Complete', done!

Pro tip:

Chances are that you may encounter some issues formatting a flash drive on a PC or the disk is malfunctioning. If so, the following articles may be of help to you:


Formatting Pen Drive For Mac And Pc

Most of the external hard disks and flash drives are formatted for Microsoft Windows operating systems. That makes using the drive a bit troublesome on Mac machines. FAT32 is popular but the 4GB file-size limit makes it inconvenient, for instance when you want to make a bootable macOS Sierra USB drive which the system file takes about 8GB of storage space according to Apple.

Thankfully, exFAT — a strict upgrade over FAT32, is a file system optimized for USB flash drives. Like I said, if you want to use the device for both a PC and Mac, you should consider reformatting it to exFAT once you figure out the drive isn't with another file system.

Best Flash Drives For Macs

Hope the above guide is helpful to you. Once again, as a kind warning: formatting a flash drive will likely erase all files and data stored in the device, it's important to ensure you have made at least one copy of the data before you get started.

Format Flash Drive For Mac And Pc 2018

Influenced by the startup culture in the Silicon Valley, Jessica loves building things from zero to one and is keen on following news related to the Big Five tech giants and many SaaS startups.