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How to format USB Mac

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How to format USB Mac: Those who choose to switch from Windows to macOS, especially in the early days, always encounter some small difficulties in trying to adapt to the operating system of the “bitten apple” (which, in the long run, is extremely intuitive). How do you say? Even you have just carried out the “” switch from PC to Mac and you want a hand to solve your first doubts related to the Apple world? No problem. Just tell me: what kind of problem do you have? You need to format a memory stick or a portable hard drive and do not know how to format a USB with a Mac ? Don’t worry: it’s a no-brainer and if you want, I can explain how to proceed.

In the following lines, I will therefore explain how to format the USB sticks and hard disks on macOS using a special tool already included in the system, useful to manage all the storage devices connected or integrated into the computer. All this, of course, explaining how to choose the right settings to use according to your needs.

Then? Can I know what are you still doing there impaled? Position yourself comfortably, take some free time just for yourself and start focusing on reading this guide right away. I am sure that, in the end, you will be able to say that you are happy and satisfied with what you learned and that you will also be ready to give me reason about the fact that it was a real no-brainer. How about we bet?

Preliminary information

Photo of a USB flash drive

Before getting to the heart of the tutorial, going to explain how to format a USB stick with Mac , there is some preliminary information that seems to me to provide you.

First, I want to clarify what exactly the formatting procedure consists of  . With the term in question, reference is made to that operation that allows you to prepare a certain mass storage medium in order to then be able to use it to store your data. In other words, the formatting allows you to establish such as hard disk, USB stick etc. they must manage the files they will subsequently contain, deleting the data currently contained in the unit.

In carrying out the formatting procedure, it is then essential to choose an appropriate file system , i.e. the system that determines the compatibility of the memory medium with the various operating systems and the various devices, the maximum size of the individual files that can be stored on the latter and the way in which they are managed on the drive. Below are the main file systems (macOS and not) and their characteristics.

  • HFS / HFS + and APFS – are the Mac file systems. APFS is newer and offers better performance, especially for SSDs. It is advisable to use them only if the memory medium to be formatted will be used exclusively on Macs.
  • FAT32  – is the oldest and most widespread file system on all devices (computers, mobile devices, Smart TVs, decoders, video game consoles, etc.). However, it has several flaws, including the inability to manage single files larger than 4GB and the tendency to fragment the data a lot (slowing down the opening). In its favor it has the advantage of being supported by practically any device and OS. It is ideal if you need to use a storage medium with many different devices and / or operating systems, as well as, of course, if you have specific needs relating to the use of the disk on a device that only supports the FAT32 file system.
  • NTFS – is the default Windows file system. It does not have the same support as FAT32 (on Macs it is supported only for reading, to use it for writing it is necessary to resort to special third-party solutions), but it offers better performance, is less subject to fragmentation and has no limit of 4GB per file . Clearly, it is the ideal solution for those who must use a storage medium mainly on Windows.
  • ExFAT  – is an advanced version of FAT32. It supports a wide range of devices and operating systems and has no limit of 4GB per file. Great for those who need to use a storage medium on multiple OS and devices and need to store files larger than 4GB on it.
  • EXT3 / EXT4  – are the file systems of the Linux world, so they should be taken into consideration only if you are formatting a disk for use with the operating system in question.

Since, as already mentioned, formatting a drive involves deleting all the data possibly present on it, it is necessary to make a backup of them.

Finally, I point out that if you have a recently manufactured Mac, with only Thunderbolt ports in USB-C format , in order to connect standard units with classic USB connector (USB-A) to your computer, you must obtain a special hub or adapter .

How to format Mac USB stick

Formatting USB stick from Disk Utility on macOS

Without the due clarifications above, let’s get to the heart of the matter and let’s find out how to format a USB stick on Mac . To carry out this operation, you can rely on Disk Utility : the default macOS tool for managing external and internal storage media. Thanks to it, in fact, it is possible to format USB sticks, hard disks and memory cards, divide disks into partitions, create DMG files and more.

To use it, first connect to one of the USB ports of the Mac the key on which you want to go to act, then call Disk Utility by selecting the relative icon (the one with the hard disk and the stethoscope ) that you find in the Other folder of the Launchpad .

Now that you see the Disk Utility window on your desktop, first click on the name of the stick in the left side menu (if you only see the partitions, to remedy click on the View menu , at the top, and choose the Show all devices item ) and then on the Initialize button , located at the top. Then select the file system you intend to use to format the drive from the Format drop-down menu , choosing between APFS , MacOS extended journaled (which would be HFS + ), MS-DOS FAT (which would be FAT32 ) or ExFAT .

Next, type the name you want to the USB disk in the Name field , select the mapping scheme between the GUID Partition Map (which is the default macOS one) and the Master Boot record (MBR) (for the drives to be used on Windows) from the menu pulldown scheme , and click the Initialize , to start the operation.

Within a few seconds, the formatting procedure will be completed. When completed, you will be shown a special message on the screen, accompanied by a green tick . So press the Finish button to close the alert.

If you want, before starting the formatting process you can also adjust the degree of security with which the operation is performed, i.e. the number of times the data on the formatted USB stick must be overwritten, so as not to result possibly recuepraibili using the use of special tools, such as those I told you in my guide on how to recover deleted files ,

To do this, before clicking on the Initialize button in the Disk Utility window, click on the Security Options button and set the security level you prefer by moving the cursor on the appropriate adjustment bar. You can decide whether to perform a very fast but not very safe format (that is, which allows the recovery of deleted data quite easily) or very safe but slower. In all, there are four increasing duration and security modes that you can select: once you have made your choice, press the OK button .

How to format USB from Mac for Windows

Formatting USB stick from Disk Utility on macOS

If you need to format a USB drive from Mac for Windows , just put into practice the same procedure that I described in the previous chapter , however, taking some precautions to make sure that the USB stick can then be used without problems on Microsoft home operating systems.

All you need to do, after connecting the USB stick or hard disk to the Mac, launched Disk Utility , selected the device name from the left sidebar and clicked the Initialize button located at the top, is to choose a file system between  MS-DOS (FAT) and ExFAT  from the Format drop-down menu and set the mapping scheme to  Master Boot Record (MBR) (which is currently used by Windows) from the Schema drop-down menu . Finally, adjust the security options (if you want) and click on the Initialize button , to proceed.

How to format USB Mac in NTFS

Paragon NTFS for Mac

Want to format a USB on Mac in NTFS , the default Windows file system? Although this, by default, is supported by macOS only for reading and therefore cannot be used on Apple brand computers for different operations (writing, editing and formatting of hard disks, sticks), I inform you that, by using some special software, it is possible to bypass this limitation.

Among the programs useful for the purpose, most widespread and appreciated, there is  Paragon NTFS for Mac which is paid (costs 19.95 euros) but you can try it for free and without limitations for 10 days.

To download it, go to the program’s website and click on the Download button on the right. When the download is complete, open the obtained .dmg package and start the Install Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X file located inside it, by double-clicking on it.

In the window that opens, check the box next to I accept the Software License Agreement , click the button Next , type the password administration of the Mac and press the button Install Assistant . Afterwards, first click on the Next button , to start the trial period of the program, and then on the Restart one , to end the setup and restart the Mac.

If in doing this you see a warning about the fact that a system extension has been blocked , click on the Open Security preferences button and press the Allow button found at the bottom of the System Preferences screen displayed on the screen.

Once again logged in to your user account on your Mac, you can format your drive or drives by setting the file system NTFS : to do that, connect the USB device to a USB port on your Mac, launch Disk Utility , select the name USB stick from the left sidebar, press the Initialize button located at the top, select the NTFS item  from the Format drop-down menu and the Master Boot Record (MBR) option  from the Schema drop-down menu , after which proceed in a similar way to what I indicated in the chapter at the beginning of the guide on the “generic” formatting of the USB stick on Apple computers.

For more details about the practices described in this chapter and to find out what other programs you can use to use the NTFS file system on MacOS, makes’ refer to my tutorial focused specifically on how to format NTFS with Mac .

How to format USB on Mac from Terminal

Formatting USB stick from Terminal on macOS

In conclusion, I want to explain how to format a USB stick from Terminal , then calling the Disk Utility commands from the command line. The procedure may seem a bit more “geek”, but it is still quite simple to implement.

To succeed in the task, first connect the USB stick (or another) of your interest to one of the USB ports from the Mac, then call up the Terminal by selecting the relevant icon (the one with the black window with the row of code ) found in the Other folder of the Launchpad .

At this point, type the command  diskutil list, followed by pressing the Enter key on the keyboard, in order to view the list of storage devices connected to the Mac.

Locate, therefore, the USB key on which you want to go to act from the list presented to you and issue the command  diskutil erasedisk fileSystem nuovoNome /dev/percorsoMemoria(instead of filesystem you need to enter the file system you choose, instead of  newName you type the name you want to device, while instead of  pathMemory you must enter the path where the USB stick is located), press the Enter key on the Mac keyboard again and wait for the procedure to be started and complete.