Looking To Format an External Hard Drive For PC And Mac: Here Is What You Need To Know

Using an external hard drive is something that almost all of us do. This helps us keep a physical backup of all the data that might get lost if a laptop or a PC crashes. We look at how you can format a hard drive for both PC and Mac. 



Are you aware of the differences that come when formatting an external hard drive, a C partition, or an internal drive?

While many of us use Windows and Mac systems, we are not too aware of what goes into formatting external hard drives. 

A slight disclaimer to begin with- this article is not intended to help with the actual steps to format an external hard drive. Rather, we look at some important aspects you should know as a precursor to formatting your external hard drive. 

If you are someone who is looking to sell your Mac or PC, you would want to take a backup of all the files on an external hard drive. While this may sound pretty simple, this is easier said than done. 

The Need to Format a Hard Drive to work on both PC and Mac

Even though both PCs and Macs are increasingly popular, both come with their fair share of differences. In terms of users as well, both of them have their loyal following. While Apple’s operating file system is either APFS or HFS+, Windows uses NTFS. 

Most external hard drives out of the box are formatted with NTFS. Why?

For the simple reason, that hard drive manufacturers feel that an external hard drive is more likely to be plugged into a PC than a Mac, given the sheer numerical superiority of PCs. 

Let us say that you have to sell your old system, or that the computer or laptop is giving you warning signs of crashing. However, the question is- one external hard drive formatted with NTFS will not allow you to read and write files on a Mac!

Does Apple’s macOS Support NTFS Read and Write Capabilities?

The straightforward answer is No! 

While users can read files on an NTFS, Apple does not allow them to write files. This means that an NTFS formatted hard drive on an Apple needs to work with the help of an NTFS for Mac software. 

According to experts, there can be any number of reasons why Apple does not support NTFS read and write for external hard drives. Let us look at some of them- 

  1. NTFS or New File Technology System is Microsoft’s software. In other words, Microsoft owns all the rights to it. Apple being a competitor would not feel comfortable in using software that is created by Microsoft. 
  2. To use the NTFS, read and write, Apple would have to pay Microsoft a lot of royalty. This will not be a small figure and would run up to billions of dollars in added expenditures for the Cupertino-based company. 
  3. Promoting NTFS would simply mean that Apple’s File System, APFS would be rendered redundant. It would almost appear that Apple has conceded that NTFS is superior to APFS. 

APFS, NTFS, or something else: Which is the Best File System for an External Hard Drive?

According to experts, NTFS should be the preferred choice for your external hard drive file system. This is because NTFS is a secure, safe, and usable format for storing files on the external hard drive. 

This is also because it enjoys full compatibility with Windows. When plugging into a Mac system, all you need to do is download one of the trustworthy NTFS for Mac by iBoysoft. With the compatibility of M1 Mac and macOS Big Sur, iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is the best app to read and write to NTFS drives on Mac. You can download it and try it for free!

You do not have to go into the complicated technical bits like Apple’s Terminal to make the changes. At the end of the day, you do not want to tamper with too much that can damage your system. Using third-party software that is fully compatible with Apple’s macOS, including the latest Big Sur is something that all experts do. 

This allows them to enjoy the flexibility and usability of NTFS. At the same time, while not having to tinker around with the internal software on their Macs. 

The Bottom Line

Most users, including me, use external hard drives on an everyday basis. They are great for storing large file sizes and accessing them whenever there is a need to. We hope that the article has been able to give you some background on what you need to keep in mind before formatting an external hard drive. 


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