Buying an external hard drive or SSD for your Mac is not all that different from buying one for your Windows PC. Most laptops with either operating system now come with at least one oval-shaped USB-C port, and it's the one you'll want to use for connecting your external drive. The main difference is that many drives made specifically for Macs use the upgraded Thunderbolt data transfer protocol, which promises super-fast data transfers for photographers and video editors who need to store mountains of footage and access it very quickly. As a result, they are typically external SSDs, or even multidrive RAID arrays, which means they also tend to be expensive.
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So what's a Mac user to do who just wants to back up his or her files using Time Machine, or stash a large video collection? Spoiler: A Thunderbolt drive isn't your only option; far from it. In fact, in many cases it makes sense to choose an inexpensive non-Thunderbolt drive that isn't targeted toward Mac use. Read on as we solve this and all of your other Mac external-storage quandaries.
Before we get to Thunderbolt, we need to address a basic building block of hard drives that has always affected compatibility, and probably always will: the file system.
An external drive's file system is the most important factor that determines whether or not it's readable by Macs, PCs, or both. Starting with macOS 'High Sierra,' Cupertino ditched its venerable Mac OS Extended file system, commonly abbreviated as HFS+, and switched to an entirely new file system. It's simply called the Apple File System (APFS), and it's the first format to be used across both Macs and iOS devices.
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There are many benefits to switching from HFS+ to APFS, including better security thanks to native encryption, but the most important thing to note for external-drive shoppers is backward-compatibility. Any drive formatted with HFS+ will work just fine with a Mac that's running High Sierra or later.
Neither Apple File System nor HFS+ works with Windows, however. If you plan to use your external drive with computers that run both operating systems, you should consider formatting your drive with the exFAT file system. You won't get the security and efficiency of APFS, but you will get the convenience of being able to transfer files back and forth between Windows and macOS simply by plugging in and unplugging your drive.
Of course, you can easily wipe and reformat most external drives, so you're not limited to buying only those intended for use with Macs. If you really fancy a consumer-oriented drive formatted for Windows (which will usually come pre-formatted in the NTFS format), you can use the Disk Utility in macOS to reformat it after you bring it home from the store. Some highly specialized external drives might not work with Macs even if they're formatted correctly, but consumers looking for extra space simply to store backups or large video collections aren't likely to encounter them.
External Drives: SSDs vs. Spinning Platters
Once you've settled on a file system, you then have to determine which storage medium you want: solid-state or spinning disk. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and—unlike the file system—the type you buy is the type you're stuck with for the life of the drive.
A solid-state drive (SSD) offers quick access to your data because it stores your bits in a type of flash memory rather than on spinning platters. SSDs are often smaller and lighter than spinning external drives, as well, which is also thanks to the lack of moving parts. Their small size means they can often fit into a jacket or pants pocket, which makes them a better choice if you're looking for a portable external drive that you'll be carrying with you frequently. (See our overall picks for favorite external SSDs.)
One major downside, however, is that they're more expensive. You could pay more than 20 cents per gigabyte for an SSD, while spinning drives can be had for less than 10 cents per gigabyte—and often much less. External SSDs also have lower capacity limits, with most drives topping out at 2TB. Compare that with external spinning drives, which are easy to find even in capacities in excess of 8TB for desktop-style drives, or up to 5TB for portable ones.
For professional videographers who edit lots of 4K footage and gamers or movie buffs who have large libraries of multi-gigabyte titles, an external RAID array made up of multiple platter-based drives is worth considering, since it combines the near-speed of an SSD with the gargantuan possible capacities of spinning drives. An array contains two or more drives that all work together to increase throughput, or guard your precious files against corruption via drive redundancy if one of the drives fail. (Or both; it depends on how the array is set up.) The result is that you can get SSD-like speeds, with throughput of more than 400MBps, and capacities that top out close to 50TB. You'll pay handsomely, of course—some Mac-specific arrays cost thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, if you're looking to buy an external drive mainly to back up your files (which you should definitely do), and it will rarely leave your home office, an inexpensive spinning drive will work just fine. These come in both portable and 'desktop' versions.
The portables are obviously smaller, and are based on the kinds of 2.5-inch platter drives used in laptops. Desktop-style external hard drives are larger, are based on the beefier and more capacious 3.5-inch drives used in full-size desktop PCs, and require their own AC power source. Portable drives don't have a power plug; they get the juice they need to run through their data interface.
Does Thunderbolt Matter, or Will USB-C Do?
So, to recap: Faster, smaller (both physically and in terms of gigabytes) solid-state drives come at a premium, while spinning drives offer a much better value while sacrificing speed. But what happens when you throw yet another variable into the mix: the connection between your drive and your Mac? As you might have guessed, the answer is more trade-offs.
Every current Mac comes with oval-shaped USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt speeds. The MacBook Pro models released in 2021 come with the latest Thunderbolt 4 interface, while other recent Macs use the older Thunderbolt 3. Both have the same maximum 40GBps maximum throughput, many times the speed of regular USB-C ports.
Unfortunately, you won't find all that many Thunderbolt 3-compatible drives on the market, and even fewer that support Thunderbolt 4. There are even some Mac-specific drives still sold with USB 3.0 connectors. Moreover, the Thunderbolt drives you can buy are constrained by the maximum throughput of the drive itself, rather than the Thunderbolt interface. Until recently, most external SSDs topped out at around 600MBps, for instance, due to the traditional bus types used by the drives inside the chassis. That's more than fast enough for backups and occasionally transferring multi-gigabyte files, but many times lower than Thunderbolt's maximum throughput.
However, that speed ceiling is rising. While older external SSDs have been limited by the internal electronics (generally a drive and controller using the older Serial ATA bus inside the drive), late-model drives use different internal components, based on PCI Express drives using the NVMe protocol. These kinds of components in newer drives help Thunderbolt reach more of its speed potential. Drives with rated peak reads and writes in the 1,000MBps to 3,500MBps range indicate one of these newer-tech drives. (Again, see our roundup of the best external SSDs for more discussion of this.)
You can insist on Thunderbolt support if you know you need all the speed you can get, but a USB-C drive will be a better pick if you're more price-sensitive, or need to also use the drive with a PC. With USB-only drives, some manufacturers include a USB Type-C cable for people who own a USB Type-C-only Mac, and you can always pick up a converter for a few dollars online if the drive you're eyeing doesn't offer one. And don't forget that the 27-inch iMac and Mac Pro still come with USB 3.0 ports, so they won't require adapters.
Other External-Drive Considerations
Drives intended for PCs sometimes come bundled with software that will automatically back up your files to the drive when it's connected, but such software isn't as much of a consideration for Mac users, who already have an excellent built-in backup option in the form of Time Machine. (See our guide to using Time Machine for backups.)
The first time you plug in an external drive, Time Machine will ask if you want to use it as a backup drive. While you can customize backup options in System Preferences, such as asking Time Machine to exclude certain folders, there's no action required on your part if you're happy with the default settings. The next time you plug in your drive, Time Machine will automatically set to work creating a backup.
Unless your drive is never going to leave your home or office, you should also consider its physical durability. Rugged, waterproof drives are a good option not just for surfers and BMX riders, as their marketing seems to suggest, but also for people who are carrying their drives to and from school or work, where they might occasionally get spilled on or dropped on the floor. (Check out our favorite rugged drives.)
Finally, you might want to consider how the drive will look when it's plugged into your Mac. Some drives come in a variety of colors. Many others feature copious amounts of aluminum and industrial-chic styling to match the design cues of your MacBook or iMac.
So, Which Drive Should I Buy for My Mac?
We've selected a host of our favorite drives up top; all were tested on both Windows and macOS systems. For more options, check out our main list of best external hard drives and our top picks for external SSDs.
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Seagate internal drives must be formatted before use. Drives that will be bootable are formatted during the process of installing the operating system (ie, Windows or macOS). If you have a drive that is formatted for a different type of computer or a drive that is not preformatted, you will need to format the drive before you can use it. Western Digital My Passport 4TB. The overall best external hard drive for Mac or PC.
There are lots of people who mistakenly think that the USB drives and hard drives format don’t really matter. But the reality is quite different. Whether it is a hard drive or USB or internal drive, Mac uses different format support. So, you can’t simply use the same drive with both Windows and Mac. As a result, you will need to format the hard drive for Mac. Using the Mac preferred file system is important otherwise the files will be of no use to you.
In this article, we are going to discuss how to format a hard drive for Mac and some related terms too.
Part 1. Situations When Formatting a Hard Drive on Mac:
Before you get deep, you must understand what is the drive formatting. Some people confuse the term with reformatting. Basically, formatting is the process of preparing the storage devices such as hard disk drive, solid-state drive, USB flash drive, or any other for initial use.
The basic operation is termed as low-level formatting which means erasing the existing data on the disk. But it leaves the track to recover the data using the recovery tool.
There is another term related to disk formatting and it is called reformatting. It is called high-level formatting as it is used to prepare the disk for different file system formats. It is usually done during the OS installation or adding a new disk. Reformatting is done to free the storage space from the previous content stored in it.
You can consider disk formatting in macOS in various circumstances. Whether your system has corrupted data, damaged software, impending system upgrade, storage is full, or it is running slow, formatting will fix a lot of issues. Take a look at the scenarios given below and you will be sure that disk formatting will help you.
- If you want to quickly erase all content from the drive permanently without leaving a trace of data on it.
- If you want to change the format of the disk such as PC format like FAT or exFAT to Mac format.
- If you see the message that the disk is not readable by Mac.
- If you want to resolve a disk issue that can’t be fixed by the Repair feature of Disk Utility.
- If the macOS installer can’t see the disk or unable to install it.
- In case the macOS installer says that the drive can’t be installed because it is a part of Apple RAID.
Under all these situations, formatting is most likely to fix your problems and you will be able to use the drive on Mac.
Part 2. How to Format a Hard Drive on Mac:
Formatting is a very simple procedure that is operated in a similar way for all sorts of storage media. So, whether you wish to format the internal hard drive, external drive, or a USB flash drive, the procedure is the same for all. Here is the step by step guide you need to follow to format the hard disk on Mac. Before you erase a disk, make sure that you have a backup of the files you want to keep.
Step 1: Connect the USB drive or external drive to Mac and launch the Disk Utility from Applications.
Step 2: From the left side panel, pick the volume or the drive that you want to format and switch to the Erase tab.
Step 3: As you click on the Erase button, you will see several fields in the section. Enter the given information-
- Name- Enter a name for the disk such as Macintosh HD/SSD/USB Drive or anything else you want.
- Format- You have to choose a Mac supported format from the list. The most recommended format is APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). There are numerous other formats too which will be displayed in the drop-down menu. You can select any format as per your requirement.
- The scheme- If this option is available, then you should choose the GUID Partition Map from the option.
Step 4: After specifying the fields, click on the Erase button at the bottom of the window and Disk Utility will format the drive.
Once the formatting is complete, you can use the disk for a backup drive, sharing, time machine backup, or any other requirement. In case if the drive doesn’t appear in the Disk Utility interface, you will have to disconnect all the extra and non-essential devices connected to Mac. Make sure that the External drive is on and connected properly. Restart your Mac and then carry out the task.
Part 3. How to Perform Mac Data Recovery After Format:
There are situations when Mac users don’t get the chance to create a backup of their data and forced to format the hard drive. But you don’t need to panic. You can get your hands on Recoverit data recovery for Mac. If you have mistakenly formatted the data that you still need, Recoverit is the best chance you have to get the files back. It is a complete data recovery solution that is capable of recovering all kinds of files with wide format support of 1000+.
You can download the software from the official website and install it immediately on Mac. Once the setup is complete, follow the steps below to recover formatted drive files.
Step 1: Specify Location:
Run the program and specify a location from the main drive. If data is lost from an external drive or USB flash drive, then you’ll have to connect the drive with the system and then specify the location.
Click on the Start button to initiate the scanning process.
Step 2: Scan Results:
Depending on the data that is lost or deleted, scanning will take some time. As the process finishes, the files will be displayed on the screen according to their respective format.
You can decide whether you want to look for files according to file type or file path. You can also stop the scanning process in between if the results are displayed before the scanning finishes.
Step 3: Preview and Recover Formatted Data:
As soon as the data is displayed on the screen, you can have a preview of the files. Select as many files as you want and have a preview of the files. Tap on the Recover button to save the files on your system.
As you are retrieving the files, keep in mind not to save the files in the previous location. Depending on the amount of recovery, it will take a while and ultimately you’ll have your files back. If the normal scan doesn’t work for you, Recoverit also has a deep scan mode to look deeper for the deleted and lost files.
Part 4. Different Formats of Hard Drive for Mac:
Mac Hard drives have wide support for formats but there are two major formats that are preferably used by the Mac users. It also depends on the macOS version you are using. The key point to consider is that the drives formatted with the newer versions won’t be recognized by the older devices. So, when you are formatting a USB drive, it will be ideal to choose the right format which is Mac OS Extended.
The supported Mac formats for the drive are explained below:
The APFS format is optimal for Solid State Drive such as flash drives. Hence, if you are formatting a flash drive, you should definitely choose the APFS format. Along with the flash drives, this format is also faster and more reliable for Mac hard drives.
Mac OS Extended:
Talking about Mac OS Extended, it is perfectly suitable if you want to use a drive for backup. The Time Machine feature of Mac still doesn’t have support for APFS disk. In case you select this format, Time Machine will prompt you to reformat the drive.
When you are formatting disk on Mac, keep some things in mind. Never ever change the inbuilt format of a Mac drive.
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Part 5. Tips for Formatting a Hard Drive on Mac:
Even though formatting doesn’t seem like a big deal, still it can be very helpful. So, you must stay active and keep all things in mind. Here are some tips that might help you when you are about to format a Mac hard drive.
- Disk Utility in macOS Sierra and later chooses a compatible format for you automatically. But you should know the default format for your drive. It is advised not to change the default format of a Mac hard drive under any circumstances.
- You can check the format of a drive inside the Disk Utility Menu bar. Just click on the Get Info option and you’ll know the current format a drive is using to store files. Open the System information and select the storage. In the right-side panel, you will see the respective format for each volume on your Mac.
- If you want to erase your disk before you install the latest High Sierra on your Mac for the first time, then opt-out for the Mac OS Extended format. During the installation of OS, the macOS installer will automatically decide whether to use APFS or Mac OS Extended for the disk.
- You can also use the FAT32 format on Mac for USB drives if you wish to use it on both Mac and Windows. The FAT32 format can be read and written on both OS and hence it is the most versatile format for use.
- If you wish to transfer big files from Windows to Mac, you’ll still have an alternative, i.e. exFAT. This format doesn’t have a file limit but it can only be read on Mac OS X Snow Leopard or later.
So, before you pick out the format, look out for the advantages and the disadvantages of the formats to choose the optimal format for Mac. The Windows supported format is usually listed as an MS-DOS format in the list of formats.
Wrapping It Up:
As you can see, now you know how to format hard drive/ USB flash drive/ internal drive/external drive on Mac. So, from now on whenever someone is in need, you can help them. And formatting doesn’t always finish without complications. So, if you lost some important files while formatting the drive, you can use Recoverit data recovery software for Mac to restore them in the original condition. Recommend the software to your friends and family and let them know that there is a master tool for recovery for both Mac and Windows OS in the market.
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How To Transfer Files from Mac to External Hard Drive Without Formatting.
Mac OS X one of the best operating system for Apple computers there are lots of series of computer available in Apple Stores. But sometimes performing several tasks on mac are very difficult in this article we went show you how to migrate folders and files of mac to external hard drive.
So, first of all, you’ve to select the best external hard drives for mac backup from which you can easily restore important documents in case of the reboot of mac. Generate a backup on mac of videos, photos, and files on an external drive.
How To Migrate Files From Mac To Hard Drive
It was easy to move files from mac to mac but moving files from Mac to external hard drive is kinda hard which also relate to recovering files from the external hard drive.
However, sometimes due to the virus and some other error the data stored in external hard drive corporate and to recover the files from external hard drive recovery software for mac.
Now focus on, given below steps by steps guides let you know how to transfer files from mac to external hard drive.
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Move Files To External Hard Drive (Drag and Drop)
Connect the external hard drive to your mac using a USB cable and wait until the hard drive successfully connected to your computer. (Name of the drive should appear on your Mac screen).
Step 2 :
Open “Finder”, then locate the files to move to external hard drive.
Step 3 :
Create a New Folder in hard drive, then drag each file you want to backup from Mac system to external hard drive.
Step 4 :
Close the external hard drive once all files moved to from mac to external hard drive.
Using Disk Utility To Transfer Files Mac To External Hard Drive
Sometimes your external hard drive doesn’t allow you to transfer files from Mac. Because it’s your hard drive may be formatted with NTFS which is normal in a windows environment.
While OS X is able to READ from a drive that is formatted at NTFS, it cannot WRITE to one. You will get a warning saying that the drive cannot be modified. To fix this error you’ve to use Disk Utility. Remember to save everything to Mac before formatting the apple external hard drives.
How To Formatted External Hard Drive In Mac OS X
Step 1 :
Plug-In external hard drive to Mac using the USB cable. Wait until the hard drive name appears on Mac Desktop screen.
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Step 2 :
In Mac OS X disc into your mac and restart your computer. Continue pressing the “C” key when the system is started.
Step 3 :
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Choose the language and then select Disk Utility from Utilities menu. Now select the disk which you want to connect to your mac and click on “Verify Disk”.
Step 4 :
Click on “Repair Disk” button to repair the external hard drive. Click on “New Image” and named your hard drive then select “128-bit” or “256-bit AES” from the encryption menu to add security to the backup.
Step 5 :
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Click on the “Save” button and type the administration password, Conform it. (Wait till process to begin ).
Step 6 :
Now choose the new backup from the device. After completing the imaging process, select ”Image” and then Click on “Scan Image for Restore”.
Step 7 :
Press “Command Q” when the scan completes and then again press the same key to quit Mac OS X Installer window.
Reformat The External Hard Drive In Mac OS X
In my research. I’ve found that lots of Mac users how to purchase a new hard drive for mac. When they connected that hard drive to the Mac OS X system. The external Mac hard drive successfully connected to mac but files can’t transfer.
To resolve this issue, you’ve to reformat your external hard drive using Mac OS Extended option.
Step 1 :
Connect hard drive to Mac via USB slots.
Step 2 :
Now go to Utilities Folder > Disk Utility. Select the external hard drive.
Step 3 :
As long as you don’t have any important files in the external hard drive, choose “Ease” Tab and then select “Mac OS Extended(Journaled)”.
Step 4 :
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Enter the new named of drive and Click Erase.
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I hope any of these methods will work for you to transfer files from mac to external hard drives with or without formatting the drive. Give your feedback via comment box.