How to Format a USB Drive on a Mac – Step-by-Step Guide

Format a USB Drive on a Mac

How to Format a USB Drive on a Mac – Step-by-Step Guide

Using a USB drive is a convenient way to store and transfer files. However, there may come a time when you need to format your drive to fix errors, wipe out old data before selling it, or make it compatible with different devices. Formatting erases everything on the drive, so be sure to back up your files before you start. 

Formatting a USB drive on a Mac is easy to do through the Disk Utility application. In just a few clicks, you can quickly reset your USB drive to factory settings. This article will walk you through the step-by-step process.

What is Formatting?

Formatting prepares a drive to store new data by erasing existing files and setting up a file system. It’s like wiping a chalkboard clean so you can write new things on it. 

Formatting overwrites all of the existing data on a USB drive. So before formatting, be absolutely certain you have copies of everything you want to save elsewhere. Once formatting is complete, all previous files will be permanently deleted.

Why Format a USB Drive?

There are several reasons you may want to format your USB drive:

  • To delete all data and start fresh. Formatting erases everything on the drive.
  • To resolve corruption or errors. If your USB drive is having problems, formatting it can help wipe out any corrupted data.
  • To change the file system. Formatting lets you apply a different file system to make the drive compatible with other devices like Windows PCs.
  • For improved performance. Over time, fragmentation can slow down the drive. Formatting defragments it. 
  • To eliminate viruses. Formatting completely removes any malware that may have infected the USB drive.
  • To prepare a drive for selling. Formatting erases your personal data when recycling or selling the drive.

How to Format a USB Drive on Mac

Here are the steps to format a USB drive on a Mac:

1. Connect the USB Drive

Plug your USB drive into an available USB port on your Mac. Make sure that the USB drive you want to format is selected. 

2. Open Disk Utility

Disk Utility is a built-in app included on every Mac. You can find it by going to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Launch Disk Utility.

3. Select the USB Drive  

On the left side of the Disk Utility window you will see a list of available drives. Click on the USB drive you want to format from the list. This drive will now be highlighted with a blue border.

4. Click “Erase”  

Along the top menu bar in Disk Utility, click the “Erase” button. This will open the formatting options.

5. Choose the Format

You’ll now see several formatting options. For maximum compatibility, it is recommended to choose “ExFAT.” This format works with both Mac and Windows.

6. Name the Drive

In the formatting window, you can enter a name for the USB drive. Type in whatever name you prefer.

7. Click “Erase” 

Once you’ve chosen the desired format and named the drive, click the “Erase” button at the bottom of the window. This will start the formatting process.

8. Wait for Formatting to Finish

It may take several minutes for the formatting process to complete. The USB drive will show a status bar that fills from left to right. When it finishes, the drive will be ready to use. 

9. Eject the USB Drive

Once formatting completes, make sure to properly eject the USB drive before unplugging it. On Mac, click the eject button next to the drive name or right-click it and select “Eject.”

Tips for Formatting USB Drives on Mac

Here are some handy tips to keep in mind:

  • Back up your data first! Formatting deletes everything, so be sure to save your files elsewhere before erasing the drive.
  • Understand the different format types. The most common are:
  • Mac OS Extended (HFS+): Works natively with Mac but not Windows without extra software.
  • ExFAT: Works seamlessly between Mac and Windows. Recommended for sharing between different devices and operating systems.
  • FAT32: Compatible with Mac and Windows but has a 4GB file size limit per file.
  • Don’t physically remove the USB drive before formatting fully completes or you could corrupt it.
  • Always eject the drive properly on Mac before unplugging it.
  • Consider formatting your USB drive every few months for optimal performance. Fragmentation can slow it down over time.
  • If formatting did not fix a corrupted drive, try scanning it for viruses that may be causing issues.

Formatting a USB drive on a Mac takes just a few minutes but requires careful attention to avoid permanent data loss. Be absolutely sure to backup your files, select the right format, let the formatting finish, and properly eject the drive when done. Following these steps will ensure your USB drive works smoothly for storing and transferring files.


Formatting a USB drive on a Mac is a simple process using the built-in Disk Utility app. By erasing and resetting the drive, you can wipe out old data, fix errors, change file formats, improve performance, and prepare the drive for new use. Just be certain to back up all of your files first before formatting and permanently delete everything on the drive.

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jason matthew
jason matthew
Jason Matthews is a highly regarded technology journalist and the esteemed editor of, a leading online platform dedicated to all things related to computers, USB keyboards, and other essential peripherals. With a profound passion for the intricacies of technology, Jason has spent years immersing himself in the ever-evolving world of computer hardware and peripherals.

Jason's expertise lies in his ability to decode complex technical jargon and present it in a manner that is accessible to readers of all backgrounds. His in-depth knowledge of the latest advancements allows him to provide insightful analysis, comprehensive product reviews, and practical guides, ensuring that remains a trusted resource for technology enthusiasts and beginners alike.

With an unwavering commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements, Jason prides himself on his ability to anticipate emerging trends. His meticulous research, attention to detail, and dedication to delivering accurate information have solidified his position as a trusted authority in the field. Through his contributions to, Jason continues to empower readers, enabling them to make informed decisions in the dynamic world of technology.

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