Quick Tip – Formatting Drives in OS X

In Windows it’s a relatively simple process when formatting a drive, but if you’ve recently switched to OS X, you may be wondering how you can format drives too. The functionality isn’t really built-in to the Finder so we must use a system utility that is built into OS X.

This method will work on pretty much any type of drive that is compatible with most systems, regardless whether they are plugged in via USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, SCSI, SATA or even physical media such as a CD or DVD.

Let’s get started:

  1. Open a new finder window.
  2. Open the Applications folder.
  3. Open the Utilities folder.
  4. Open the application called “Disk Utility”

Another quick tip: A quicker way to open an application is by pressing Command + Space and searching for the application’s name, check to make sure you have the correct one highlighted then just hit enter.

Within disk utility it provides you with a list of all available drives on the left, many different function buttons along the top and a pane on the right to manage your selected disk.

  1. Click on the disk that you wish to format, and make sure that it is the correct disk.
  2. The pane on the right should now display a sort of tab bar of which reads First Aid, Erase, RAID & Restore. You’re going to want to hit the Erase button.
  3. Upon clicking on the Erase button you’ll now see two dropdown menus in the right pane, one reading “Format” and the other “Name”. Select the format which you desire, if you pick any of the formats that read Mac OS Extended, the disk in question will not have a cross platform compatible filesystem (Windows won’t read it). If the drive needs to be connected to Windows at some point, I would advise choosing either MS-DOS (FAT) or ExFAT as they are compatible with Windows.
  4. Now choose a name for your drive, it can be anything you want.
  5. You can choose your desired level of security by pressing on the security options button. It’s a useful function if you’re giving or selling the drive to someone. The higher the security level, the longer it’ll take to wipe the drive.
  6. You can also choose to erase the free space which basically doesn’t touch the data on the drive but effectively destroys the data on the empty area of the drive.
  7. As soon as you’re done configuring all of your preferences just hit Erase! And that’s it. If it’s a simple format with no security it should only take a few seconds, but depending on the security setting you selected it could potentially take from a few minutes, to hours to even days.