In this article, you’ll find your in-depth guide on how to format USB on Mac with relative ease!
How to Format a USB on Mac | A Guide for the Average Mac User
A Few Things to Consider Before You Know Format A USB Drive on Mac
Before you find out how to format a USB on Mac, you have to consider a couple of things first.
First, you should figure out which file system you want to format your USB. Second, you should find out what file system your USB is using.
File System Definition: A file system is a system available on drives that determines how the drive stores and organizes data. There are multiple types of file systems available.
The file system you choose will depend on how you plan on using the drive. Some file systems don’t work on some operating systems.
Below you’ll find the several file systems you can choose for Mac. Aside from that, you’ll also find a short description of their compatibility with other operating systems.
- ExFAT: Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux
- OS X Extended (Journaled), OS X Extended (Journaled, Encrypted), OS X Extended (Case-Sensitive, Journaled), and OS X Extended (Case-Sensitive, Journaled, Encrypted): Only compatible with Mac
- MS-DOS (FAT): Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. However, it limits file sizes to only up to 4 Gigabytes (GB)
Once you know which file system you want, it’s time to figure out what your USB’s file system is.
How to Check a USB’s File System on Mac:
There are two simple steps to finding out your USB’s file system.
Step 1: Plug In Your USB Drive
Depending on the kind of USB drive you have, it’s possible you’ll be unable to plug it in your Mac. If you’re using a USB-C type, you may want to purchase an adapter beforehand.
Once you’ve plugged in the drive, open “Finder.”
Step 2: Find Your USB’s Information
Once you’re on the “Finder,” look for your USB device on the left side under the “Devices” list. Right click on your USB.
On the drop-down menu, click “Get Info.” You should find a pop-up that will show your USB’s information.
Check beside the “Format “label to find the file system of your USB and you’re good to go.
Now that you know your USB’s file system and which file system to convert it into, it’s time to format your USB on your Mac.
How To Format A USB Drive on Mac:
Step 1: Plug the USB in the port
Plug in the USB into the USB port of the computer. Again, if your USB is incompatible, an adapter should do the trick.
Step 2: Back Up Any of Your Files
Once you’ve got your USB plugged in, the first thing you should do before formatting your USB on Mac is to back up any of your files.
When you format your drive on Mac, or anywhere really, all the files in the drive will be deleted. Because of this, it’s important that you back up your files first.
It’s especially important to do so when you use the drive to store sensitive information.
On that note, you can either transfer your files and save it in your Mac or transfer it to separate drive. Additionally, you have the option of backing it up through cloud storage.
Step 3: Go To Disk Utility
After you’ve backed up your data, you can format your USB. To do so, you will need to go to “Disk Utility.”
You can use Spotlight search by pressing Command+Space on your keyboard. Type in “Disk Utility.”
Additionally, you can go to the sidebar and select “Applications,” then go to “Utilities.” Once there, you can then head on to “Disk Utility.”
Step 4: Select the USB Drive and Erase the Contents
When you’re in “Disk Utility,” check for your USB drive which you should find on the sidebar under “External”. Select your USB of choice.
After you’ve done that, you’ll see five buttons at the top. Click on the “Erase” option between the “Partition” and “Mount” buttons.
A pop-up will then appear where you can type in a name for your USB drive. Aside from that, there are also the “Format” and “Scheme” options.
You can ignore “Scheme” and leave it as is. However, you should change the file system to the one you want to format your drive into in “Format.”
Step 5: Format the Drive to Your Desired File System
Choose the file system that best suits your needs from the drop-down menu in “Format.”
The best file system for a USB that you plan on using for multiple devices with different operating systems is ExFAT. Unlike the MS-DOS (FAT), it doesn’t have a file size limit of 4 GB.
However, if you don’t plan on using the USB on other devices, then the OS X Extended file systems should work for your purpose.
Step 6: Choose A Security Level
If you store sensitive information you want to erase when you format your USB but are worried that the drive might still keep backups, then you need this additional step.
Click the “Security Options” button at the bottom left of the Erase pop-up. You’ll then see a slider that allows you to choose the level of security you want.
Check the slider that has four notches measuring the level of security of when you erase the files on it. The farther right you go on the slider, the more secure it is.
Below is a short description of each level of security.
- First Notch (Fastest): This option is the least secure level of erasure because data recovery software can still get your data. However, it means the formatting won’t take as long.
- Second Notch: This option will erase your data and rewrite over it twice.
- Third Notch: This option will erase and rewrite your data over three times.
- Fourth Notch (Most Secure): This will erase and rewrite data on the drive seven times. Although this is the most secure, it can take a while for the USB to reformat.
As you can see, the more secure the erasure process is, the longer it will take to reformat it. Once you’ve chosen your security level and clicked “Ok,” you can then move on to the final step.
Step 7: Format Your USB Drive
Click the “Erase” button and your Mac should begin reformatting your drive. However, this doesn’t end here.
Once reformatting is over, you should safely remove your USB drive. Otherwise, you may reduce the life span of your USB.
All you have to do is go to “Disk Utility” and right-click on your chosen USB drive. On the drop-down menu, click “Eject (name of USB).”
After that, your USB should then be safe to remove and you’re done formatting your USB on Mac.
Hopefully, this guide covered everything you need to know about how to format USB for Mac. Again, a reminder, before ejecting your USB drive, don’t forget to safely remove it to avoid any possible damage!
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