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In this article, the TechExploring team will pass the bridge between two operating systems and delve into the reaches of how to best format external hard drive for Mac and PC.
Apple and Microsoft do not always see eye to eye when it comes to software technology or even data administration. The two companies have been friendly rivals for decades now and one of the main reasons why users had to pick a side and stick to it was due to the entirely different way that the two very different operating systems read data.
Choice and Convenience
Presently, companies or professionals backing up, migrating, transferring, or unifying their data from one operating system to the other do not have many alternatives.
They could upload their data to a cloud. However, uploading terabytes of data means hours, if not days of time, not to mention the monthly cloud storage fees.
They could create a network between the two. The very different types of data management would require users to install at least one third party program on each operating system. While most of them are available for free, not many users are willing to trust programs that directly affect their hard drives. Additionally, the Mac and PC may not always be so physically near to each other.
For now, the best solution available for portable terabytes of data transfer remains the almighty external HDD. However, an external hard drive for Mac and PC is usually subject to the same data management restrictions imposed by the operating systems. Mac OSX runs data in the HFS+ format, while Windows manages its data with the NTFS format.
Nevertheless, the bridge between the two operating systems can be achieved with an external hard drive for Mac and PC formatted as exFAT.
On File System Architectures
File Allocation Table, otherwise known as FAT, was one of the most used file systems architecture in the early ‘90s.
Windows NT was the first Microsoft operating system that got the opportunity to introduce to the world the New Technology File System, more commonly known as NTFS. The 2000 version also ran optimally on the NTFS format. Windows 2000 also saw a greater popularity than Windows NT.
After the launch of Windows XP, the FAT32 system was considered antiquated and was used mainly for flash drives in order to more easily transfer data between PCs that ran with the NTFS format and older PCs that still ran FAT32.
Out With The Old…
The last version of NTFS released by Microsoft was with Windows XP in 2001 which means that PCs have not really seen any update on their file system architecture in a decade and a half.
HFS Plus, or HFS+, was proprietarily designed by Apple for the OSX. Its design is an overall upgrade of the Hierarchical File System format, or HFS. Currently, some support for Microsoft Windows exists but it is very limited and based on only viewing the data and not being able to access it.
Both the Windows 10 and Mac OSX operating systems can read files from a FAT32 drive. However, the legacy file system architecture does come with some downsides.
First of all, individual file size on FAT32 is capped at 4GB. The file-size cap limits users who want to transfer long or high-quality video files for example.
A second huge drawback of FAT32 drives comes with its partitioning. The largest partition Windows can make on FAT32 is 32GB. Users would have to create over 30 partitions set to FAT32 on a 1TB external hard drive for Mac and PC. The largest partition OSX can make on FAT32 is 2TB, which is definitely a major improvement from Windows but could still be an inconvenience to some users.
… In With The New!
exFAT is a redesign which was initially presented in 2007. Although that makes it almost a decade old, it still makes the system statistically newer than NTFS and FAT32. From the very start, exFAT was designed as the go-to format for data backup, storage, and transfer. The file system architecture was made for the best external hard drives.
The following tutorials will teach users how to format an external hard drive for both Mac and PC to exFAT on Mac OSX and Windows 10.
How To Format an External Hard Drive For Mac and PC
Note: Formatting an external hard drive will remove all the data already present on it. Please, backup any data you are interested in keeping which is already present on the external hard drive for Mac and PC before converting the drive to exFAT.
Note: Users will not have to format the same drive to exFAT both on OSX and Windows 10 and should choose whichever operating system is more accessible to them.
How to Format an External Hard Drive on Mac OSX
In this tutorial, the Tech Exploring team will be covering the latest version of Mac OSX, OSX 10.11 El Capitan. For previous OSX 10.10 Yosemite and all other earlier versions, the process is not much different, but the Disk Utility program is in a different location.
Connect the external hard drive to the Mac computer. Both wired and wireless connections apply.
NOTE: Formatting external hard drive for Max and PC via a wired connection is generally faster.
Access Mac HD. The icon is by default located in the upper right corner of the desktop. In Mac HD, on the left-side panel, access Applications. In Applications, access Utilities. Finally, in Utilities access Disk Utility.
In Disk Utility, a list of all currently connected storage devices will be visible. Access the hard drive which will be formatted to exFAT.
After accessing the drive in Disk Utility, from the top-side set of buttons, click on Erase.
An Erase window will pop up. Set a name for the hard drive and then click on the Erase button to continue.
After the erasing process finishes, click the Done button to continue.
Back in the Disk Utility window, from the top-side set of buttons, click on Partition.
A Partition window will pop up. In the Format drop-down list, choose exFAT. Click the Apply button to continue.
The Disk Utility will automatically begin to format the external hard drive for Mac and PC. The duration of the process is based on the external drive’s total storage and RPM.
After several minutes of waiting, the process will finish. Click the Done button to finish formatting the external hard drive for Mac and PC to exFAT.
On Windows 10
In this tutorial, the Tech Exploring team will only be covering Windows 10. The process is not much different for the older versions of Windows but the location of the Disk Management program is not in the same location.
Connect the external hard drive to the PC. If drivers begin to automatically install, wait until the process finishes. Both wired and wireless connections work. Choose the fastest. In most cases is the wired connection.
Right-click on the Start button, portrayed by the Windows logo in the taskbar. After the options popup, select Disk Management.
In the Disk Management window, the bottom-side pane will display all available storage devices connected to the PC. Right-click on the external hard drive which will be converted to exFAT.
NOTE: One or more blue bars on the external hard drive panes are indicators that show the drive has already been set to a certain format and partitioned. Make sure there is no additional data that needs to be backed up before continuing.
NOTE: If the external hard drive is labeled as Not Initialized, then users will have to initialize the drive before formatting the external hard drive for Mac and PC.
In the right-click pop-up, click on Delete Volume. Once the process completes, the external hard drive’s storage will be listed as Unallocated in the Disk Management window.
Right-click on the external hard drive again and after the new right-click pop-up, click on New Simple Volume.
Proceed through the steps of the New Simple Volume Wizard by reading each step and then clicking Next.
Partitioning will be available as part of the New Simple Volume Wizard. By default, the Wizard will list the maximum storage capacity of the external hard drive. Click the Next button to continue.
NOTE: We recommend not changing this value and leaving the external drive to be just one partition.
Assigning the drive letter will be available as part of the New Simple Volume Wizard. By default, the Wizard will assign the next available alphabetical letter to the drive. After selecting the desired drive letter, click the Next button to continue.
Choosing the file system will be available as part of the New Simple Volume Wizard. Set the file system to exFAT from the drop-down list. Then, set the Allocation unit size to Default and the Volume Label to the desired external drive name. Finally, check the box to Perform a quick format.
Once everything is set, click the Next button to continue and then the Finish button to exit the Wizard. The Disk Management program will begin to format external hard drive for Mac and PC.
At the end of the process, the external hard drive for Mac and PC will be formatted and listed as exFAT with an entirely blue bar.
Although we have received no endorsement whatsoever, the Tech Exploring team would also like to recommend its readers a portable and solid pick when looking for an external hard drive format for Mac and PC.
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is an external hard drive that has yet to disappoint us, even after undergoing practical tests for this format external hard drive for Mac and PC tutorial. It is fast, portable, and reliable. We have been using the 2TB and 4TB Fast models; we acquired ours from Amazon but the model available for sale on many other retailers.
Our team hopes that this tutorial on quickly formatting external hard drive for Mac and PC to exFAT will help you transfer the data you need to the operating system you want. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments section.