How to Format Hard Drive for Windows & Mac?

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If you are looking to format your Hard Drive using some hassle-free methods then you are at the right place. Read this full article to find out how to format internal and external hard drives on Windows and Mac Operating Systems.

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Both macOS and Windows allow users to utilize their in-built utilities to format their hard drives. This procedure is often associated while configuring a new computer, though there are many other reasons one may choose to format a hard drive.

You may have a problem with your storage device or have purchased a new external storage device and are trying to work with your Mac or Windows computer.

In this article, we'll look at different ways to format hard drives on both Mac and Windows computers.

But before we proceed to the main topics, let’s discuss the most common situations in which you need to format your hard drive first.

Table of Contents

Common Scenarios When You Need to Format a Hard Drive 

1. The computer won’t boot

If your computer won’t boot or is stuck on a black screen all the time, you can format your computer’s hard drive. Of course, you can always try other remedies first to fix this problem. However, if all attempts to repair the disk have failed, formatting the computer drive may be the only way to get the computer working again. Maybe that is the only way to make it work.

2. Your computer is running extremely slow

If your computer is running extremely slow, you can speed it up simply by formatting your hard drive. I didn’t see any obvious errors, I just confirmed that my computer was running slow. In this case, there may be a logical problem with your PC rather than a hardware problem. This is how you format your PC’s hard drive and the only way to keep your PC running fast and smoothly.

3. Operating System Update

As you know, outdated operating systems always have many potential risks and are vulnerable to attack. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep your PC’s Operating System up to date. However, updating your Operating System automatically formats your computer’s hard drive. Therefore, you should back up your drive data before upgrading.

4. The hard disk is filling up

After using your PC for several years, the internal hard disk tends to get cluttered. In this situation, you will need more free space left on your hard drive to store more files. 

This means the drive is full. In this case, you can free up more disk space by deleting all unnecessary or useless data. 

However, this method cannot clean the hidden temporary files that still take up much space. This allows you to format the drive and thoroughly clean the drive.

5. Registry Errors

If your computer is experiencing many registry errors, you should format your computer drive to correct these errors as soon as possible. The Windows Registry is an essential component of your computer as it contains many configurations and settings for your PC operating system, applications, etc. Therefore, after a registry crash, data tends to get corrupted as well. So, if you encounter such an error, you should back up your data and format the drive immediately.

6. Virus/Malware Attack

If your computer is infected with a virus, you should also format your hard drive. Your computer is prone to crashes in this scenario, and your hard drive is also at risk. You can use antivirus software to get rid of the virus first, but the safest method is to format the drive to prevent further damage.

Regardless of your reason for formatting your hard drive, there are a few things to consider before you begin. First, you need to decide which file system to use. So let’s see which file system to choose.

How to Choose a File System while Formatting a Hard Drive?

Operating Systems use file systems to store data on storage devices. Unfortunately, there is no standard file system that all hard drives use, so the type of file system employed depends on the drive itself and the computer's Operating System. 

However, if you’re using macOS, you can use APFS (Apple File System), and if you’re using Windows, you can use NTFS. Both are the latest, fastest, and most secure file systems available for Mac and Windows Operating Systems.

Below we have added a helpful table to help you know more about these file systems you might consider.

File SystemsOverview
NTFSThis is what Windows uses by default. However, like most file systems, NTFS has limitations outside of Windows. For example, windows platforms can read and write, but macOS and Linux users can only read data from NTFS formatted drives.
APFSAPFS Is a default file system for Mac computers. This file system is incredibly quick and efficient and should be your go-to choice unless you require something more specialized.
Mac OS JournaledProtects the integrity of hierarchical file systems using the Mac format (Journaled HFS Plus).
Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)It uses Mac format, requires a password, and encrypts the partition.
exFATexFAT is a popular format for external storage devices such as flash drives and solid-state drives because it is compatible with both Windows and macOS systems and does not impose any limits on the size of files stored on it. Although less widely employed than NTFS, exFAT is a convenient option for plug-and-play operations.
HFS+The Mac operating system uses HFS Plus as its standard file system, the same as Windows utilizes NTFS. Therefore, despite the limitations on Windows machines, Apple users can easily read and write HFS Plus formatted drives.
FAT32FAT32 is an outdated file system that originated with Windows 95 and is compatible with most files. However, it has the limitation of not being able to store anything bigger than 4GB.
Overview of different File Systems

How to Format a Hard Drive on Mac?

To Format your internal or external hard drive on your Mac computer, follow the below steps:

  1. Log in to your macOS Computer.
  2. Go to Applications>Utilities and launch the Disk Utility
  3. Now, select the hard drive you want to format.
format hard drive on mac

4. Click on Erase to format your hard drive. A window will appear where you can select the file system you want and how often you wish to overwrite the drive. Overwriting multiple times takes longer but is safer and prevents files from being restored.

How to Format Hard Drive on Windows?

Method 1: Format Internal and External Hard Drive Using Windows Format Wizard

It is simple to format a hard drive in Windows, especially if you don’t alter the default settings. On the other hand, understanding the specifics of each option is necessary if you wish to change any of the settings.

Before we get to these, we need to find the drive to format by following these steps:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Go to My Computer or This PC
  • Right-click on the drive you want to format
  • Click on Format
  • Windows will open the Format Wizard

Each setting in the wizard is explained below so you know which to change.

Capacity: The drive’s storage capacity can be shown through a drop-down menu. The total storage capacity will be the only option if you haven't created any partitions. If the instructions are hard to understand, leave the original settings as is.

File System: File system to format the drive. Since it has a default file system (usually NTFS for internal drives and exFAT for external drives), it is recommended to leave it as is. If you want to change the filesystem, you can do it here. However, that internal drives can only be formatted with the NTFS file system.

Allocation Unit Size: Allocation unit size indicates how large each memory block is on the drive. Again, leaving the defaults is the best option in most cases.

Volume Label: The volume label is the name you give the drive after formatting. If the volume label is untitled, Windows will automatically assign a name.

Quick Format: The Quick Format field is on by default. This means that Windows will wipe the drive’s file structure, but the information is still accessible using hard drive forensics tools. You can quickly recover data from a hard drive after quick format if you performed it by mistake.


Sometimes it’s best to leave them at the default settings. Then, once everything is set up, you have to click Start and wait for the progress bar to fill; once it fills up, the hard drive will be formatted successfully.

Method 2: Format Hard Drive On Windows Using Disk Management

Follow the below steps to format your hard drive on a Windows computer using disk management:

Step 1: Click on Start at the bottom left corner.

Step 2: Type Disk Management in the search field

Step 3: Right-click on the hard drive that has to be formatted, and select format from the pop-up list.

Step 4: Give a descriptive name for the drive in the Value label field.

Step 5: Choose NTFS in the file system dropdown.

select file system as ntfs

Step 6: Check the Perform a quick format option and click OK

Step 7: After formatting restart the computer and check the drive for its functionality

How to Format an External Hard Drive for Windows 10 on macOS?

Sometimes you want to format a hard drive or flash drive for Windows on a Mac computer because you might use different computers in different places such as using a Windows computer at home and Using a Mac-based computer at the office.

Formatting an external hard drive for Windows 10 on a Mac computer is possible. You don’t need to use your Windows system to format your external hard drive for Windows 10. This is because Mac computers have the potential to format any external hard drive with a Windows-compatible file system such as exFAT or FAT. 

Follow the below simple steps to start the formatting process of your external hard drive for Windows 10 on a macOS computer:

  • Open Finder
  • Follow the path “/applications/utilities” and click Disk Utility
  • Locate and click on the external hard drive which you want to format in the left menu
  • Now, click on the Erase tab from the main screen.
  • Finally, click the format drop-down option and select exFAT or FAT as the file system.

Bonus Tip: How To Recover Data From a Formatted Hard Drive?

Suppose you lose data after formatting your hard drive or your external hard drive is not working properly and want to recover files before formatting. In that case, you can use a professional data recovery tool like Remo Recover

Refer to this article to recover data from a formatted hard drive.  


This article helped you to format your hard drive. Ensure you always back up your computer before formatting a hard drive, as formatting will erase all the data. If you have any queries regarding this article, please use the comment section below.

About the Author: John Harris

With a decade of experience in data recovery, John Harris, Senior Editor at Remo Software, is your go-to specialist. His focus includes partition management, Windows solutions, and data troubleshooting, delivering insightful content that serves both users and search engines. John's expertise shines through in illuminating blog posts, untangling data loss intricacies across diverse storage platforms.…