Can mac and pc use the same external hard drive

Of course it has gone through a few iterations and upgrades since that time. ExFAT is a better performing file system and can handle 16 Exibyte file sizes. Which is enough for most of us. Now that we've taken that little history tour and you understand what a modern Windows PC is expecting of its file systems let's take a quick look at the Mac.


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So there you have it. With certain areas dedicated for your Mac to use. This is also known as separating an External Hard Drive up into sections known as partitions.

Formatting From a PC

The PC cannot see this part of the external drive and is not aware it is there. Partition 3 - a shared part of the disk that is formatted to ExFAT and both your Mac can read and write and the Windows PC can read and write to this part of the hard drive. Partitions just like external hard drives can be given a name and it's probably a good idea that the name reflects the partitions purpose. USB 2. Buy an external hard drive that supports the physical connections and speed you need for both Mac and Windows.

USB 3. Not sure on the differences between USB ports have a look at my article on connecting up an external hard drive. There is an explanation in that article with pictures of the different USB standards.

The 8 best external hard drives and SSDs for Mac and PC users in 12222

And you are going to need to do that step first. And secondly, because the Mac is picky and at least that way you'll know its happy with the way the external drive is set up.

A large enough external hard drive to accommodate everything you want to put on it. Don't scrimp here, you'll regret it later. It only takes a few minutes, I'll tell you how, so why worry about it.


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First I will cover the scenario where you want the complete drive interchangeable and compatible between the Mac and the PC. If the drive needs an external power supply, plug that in ahead of connecting up the USB cable. If the picture hasn't appeared on the desktop and you're not sure what to do next take a look at my article " Connecting up an external hard drive on a Mac " - link to article.

The icon for Spotlight search should be at the top of your desktop. This is how you set up the formatting of the external hard drive. If this is your first time through this process and the external hard drive isn't already formatted in Mac OS Extended Journaled file system, select that as your option and then click erase at the bottom right of that window. Wait a few minutes and your done. Then you can go through steps 1 - 5 above to get back to this stage. Once you have selected the ExFAT formatting you'll be able to click on the Erase button toward the bottom right of that screen and in a few minutes the hard drive will be formatted.

And you are done, the entire external hard drive is now capable of being read and written to by both Mac and PC. If this is all you want to do then you can go ahead and use the drive on your Mac but before unplugging the drive. This is because both Mac OS and Windows will hold some data in its memory related to that hard drive and its files and that information will only get written down when you tell it to. Ejecting your external hard drive tells Mac OS to write that data so you can safely remove the drive from the computer.

The equivalent is ejecting your external hard drive from a Windows PC so that it writes down all necessary data to the drive and then its safe to take out the USB cable. Hover over the Icon for the External Drive on the desktop. Right click and select the Eject option.

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Wait till the fan stops moving if your external drive has a fan or for the light on the hard drive to go off. If the external drive is already formatted to Mac OS Extended Journaled file system, there is no reason to do it again. You are ready. Staying within Disk Utility you can now go on to create the partitions on the external hard drive. Return to WDC.

This allows the drive to be used on both Windows and macOS. Please select the Operating System OS in which the drive is to be formatted from the list above to display the instructions. For instructions on how to do this, please see the instructions below: Connect the WD drive to the Mac computer.

Formatting From a Mac

Double left-click on the Mac HD , the internal Mac hard drive visible on the top-right corner of the desktop screen. Choose Applications from the left-side panel. From the Applications folder, open Utilities , and lastly double-click on Disk Utility. Disk Utility will now be open. From the left-side pane, choose the drive that is to be re-formatted. Typically there are two listings for each drive unless more than one partition exists on a particular drive. Choose the drive listing that is farthest to the left Not indented for the drive to be formatted.

It is usually directly above the name of the drive. Erase After selecting the appropriate drive, additional option buttons will become available on the top part of the Disk Utility window. Click on Erase. The Erase dialog window will now appear. Assign the name that will be given to the drive. Select the Format file system from the drop-down menu. For this article, we chose exFAT , see image below. Select the Scheme Partition Table Scheme from the drop-down menu.

See image below. Begin by connecting the WD drive to the Mac computer.

External Hard Drive For Mac and PC with Data Interchangeable

Once the drive appears on the desktop, click on Go on the top tool bar. From the drop-down menu, click on Utilities. In Utilities , select and open Disk Utility. When Disk Utility opens, select the drive that is to be partitioned and formatted from the left-side panel. Typically there are two listings for each drive, unless there is more than one partition on a particular drive. Choose the drive listing that is farthest to the left for the drive that will be formatted.

It is usually directly above the name of the drive, and is the drive selection that has the total size being displayed. Once selected, click on Partition on the right-side area.

Compatible Hard Drive Format

In the Partition area, click under Partition Layout and select 1 Partition. Then, click on Options. To the right, insert a name for the drive, and click on Format. From the drop-down, select ExFAT. When done, click on Apply. A window will come up showing that formatting and partitioning the drive will erase all data that is on the drive.

If there's no needed information within the drive, then click on Partition. To create a new partition, click the drive in the list on the left side of the Disk Utility menu.

How to Set Up External Hard Drive for Mac and PC, Time Machine Backup and File Storage