How to Format a USB Flash Drive or External Hard Disk on Mac to make it work on both Windows and Mac

If you have recently switched from Windows to Mac, you might face compatibility issue with the USB Flash Drive or any other External Storage. You will face no trouble with the external storage on Mac even you format it on a Windows computer because Mac is capable of reading Storage Formatted by Windows PCs. However, formatting an external drive on MacOS is little tricky. New users always face this problem, and you must learn it if you have already switched or want to switch. MacOS or OS X has the option to format the storage in such way that can be used on Mac as well as Windows. So let’s learn what you really need to do.

Why Mac-Formated USB Flash Drive Doesn’t work on Windows?

Mac Formatted Disk

Whether you format a USB Flash Drive or any other type of External Storage, Mac will format it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) by default unless you select any other option manually. Mac do this to make the storage fully compatible with the system. So Windows OS will not recognize such formatted drives. Follow the instruction below if you want to make external storage compatible for both, Windows and Mac.

Format External or USB Flash Drive on Mac to use it on Windows as well as Mac

  • Connect USB Flash Drive or External Hard Disk Drive to the Mac
  • Launch Disk Utility

Disk Utility Open

  • Select the External/USB Storage. Please note that if your external drive has multiple partitions, there is no need to format the whole drive. You can format just one of the partition or all, it depends on your need.

Windows Compatible Format on Mac

  • Now select MS-DOS (FAT) as Format option.
  • Click on Erase to finish formatting USB Drive.
  • Now it will work on both, Windows and Mac.

Note: If you get any error, please format it once keeping the default option (Mac OS Extended Journaled), and then format again selecting MS-DOS (FAT) option.

I am Unable to Format USB Flash Drive on Mac Selecting MS-DOS (FAT) Option, What to do?

Sometimes you may face trouble while formatting the USB Drive. In such case, you need to select the USB Drive and then format it. Earlier we told to format selecting the disk partition, but now you need to select the whole drive, not partitions. In this case, all the partition will be removed from external drive (if any).

Formatting whole drive and partition

Under Disk Utility, select the External Drive. Select MS-Dos (FAT) for Format and Master Boot Record for Scheme, and then click on Erase option. Once formatting is complete, select its partition and format it as well selecting MS-DOS (FAT) option just like we did above.

Related; Windows vs Mac