This blog post shares a few easy methods to format a Mac storage drive in the desired file system, without the risk of data loss. Read on to know how you can erase a Mac storage drive easily with the help of Disk Utility and Terminal. Also, learn about the risks and how to overcome them effectively.
As you are aware, an internal or external Mac storage drive requires formatting to work properly. You have different choices of file systems, namely APFS for macOS 10.14 or 10.13, Mac OS Extended for macOS 10.12 or lower, and MS-DOS (FAT) or ex-FAT for Windows compatibility.
A new Mac with its inbuilt SSD comes pre-formatted with a file system that contains the macOS itself. You may need to format a Mac drive or volume in the following situations:
Resolve corruption or unreadable error of the storage drive
Format the startup disk to reinstall macOS
Change file system format of an external drive (e.g. HFS to APFS or APFS to ex-FAT)
Format the storage drive in case Disk Utility fails to repair it
As formatting a drive removes all references to the data stored on it, it’s important to back up the drive before you erase/format it.
When you connect a corrupt/unreadable drive to your Mac, macOS will prompt you to initialize the disk. DO NOT click the Initialize button…read more in the bonus tips section at the end of this post.
Steps to Format a Start-up Disk Drive on Mac
Backup your Mac
Before formatting, back up the Mac start-up drive to an external storage medium to ensure that no data is lost in case of unexpected events. You can use the Time Machine backup.
To format a startup disk on Mac, you need to open Disk Utility in macOS Recovery mode, as follows:
a) Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R keys.
b) Release the keys once you see the Apple logo or spinning globe.
c) In the macOS Utilities window, click Disk Utility and then click Continue.
Note: To format Mac external storage drive, you can open Disk Utility directly from Desktop.
d) Press Command + SpaceBar to open Spotlight, then type ‘diskutility’ and hit Enter.
Format by Using Disk Utility
a) In the Disk Utility window, choose View > Show All Devices.
b) From the left panel, select the storage drive or a volume to format.
c) Click the Erase tab. Provide the Name, Format, and Scheme in the respective field then click Erase.
d) Your drive will be formatted with the opted file system.
How to Format External Hard Drive on Mac with Disk Utility
How to Format External Storage Drive on Mac without Disk Utility?
You can use the above steps to format an external storage drive as well. But, sometimes Disk Utility throws an error while erasing an external storage drive. In that case, you can format the external drive on Mac by using Terminal, as described below:
1) Press Command + SpaceBar to open Spotlight. Type ‘terminal’ and hit Enter.
2) In the Terminal window, type diskutillist (Note the name and identifier of the external storage drive)
3) Type diskutil eraseDisk FS DN D# (Here replace the FS with the required file system format, DN with the name of the drive, and D# with the drive’s identifier)
When the process completes, the storage drive is erased to the correct file system format.
How to recover data from an accidentally formatted Mac hard drive?
Wait! Did you accidentally format a wrong hard drive on your
Or, erased the Mac external drive without backing it up in the first place?
Data loss can happen to any of us. Further, Disk Utility does not provide any option to undo format. But you can get back your formatted data from the Mac hard drive by using a Mac hard drive recovery software, as explained next.
When you connect a corrupt or unreadable drive to your Mac, macOS will prompt you to initialize the disk. DO NOT click the Initialize button if the disk contains vital data, instead click Ignore to overlook the error or click Eject to eject the storage drive. Recover the inaccessible data from the storage drive by using a Mac hard drive recovery software prior to initializing it to the right file system.
For a new drive with no file system or the unreadable drive whose data is recovered, click the Initialize button on the error message box. In the Disk Utility window, perform the erase operation to initialize the disk with automatically chosen file system format.
The blog post shared simple
methods to format Mac start-up drive and external drive with a compatible file
system without losing data. The best way is to back up the drive and use Disk
Utility to format it.
In case Disk Utility fails
to format the drive, advanced users can use Terminal to perform the same task. However,
be cautious while using the Terminal commands.
The blog also suggested initiating Mac hard drive recovery if the drive was formatted accidentally and didn’t have the backup. Stellar Data Recovery Professional is specialized software that can help you salvage the data from accidentally formatted Mac hard drives.
The software supports a variety of hard drive brands, USB 2.0 and 3.0 alongside firewire and Fusion Drives.
Remember: The best data recovery result is achieved when the
formatted storage drive is not overwritten. So, it’s important to stop using
the drive immediately to avoid overwriting, and use Mac data recovery software
to get back the data from accidentally formatted hard drive.
Vishal is a data recovery expert @Stellar. He addresses data loss scenarios on a Mac. He intends to help people solve their macOS problems. Besides, Vishal prefers to read autobiographies, and his personal favorite is of Steve Jobs.