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Coffs Computing Services

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FORMATTING HARD DRIVES

Most Hard Drives when you buy them are built to run on Windows Machines and not Macs. To make them work on Mac, you need to format the drive first.

There are 4 main formats, each with their own pros and cons. This guide gives you a quick run down of each format and how to format a drive on a Mac and PC.

Short version

Use ExFAT. It’s the most versatile and works well!

Long version:

NTFS

Pros: Works very well with Windows Machines.
Cons: Only works with Windows Machines. Note: Techy people will say “BUT YOU CAN GET NTFS DRIVERS FOR MAC!”. That is true, but it’s not the same, requires installation on each machine you want to use the drive on and is generally painful to deal with.

HFS+

Pros: Works very well with Macs.
Cons: Only works with Macs** Note: Techy people will say “BUT YOU CAN GET HFS+ DRIVERS FOR WINDOWS!”. True. But they’re all pretty bad.

FAT32

Pros: Works on *EVERYTHING*
Cons: Has a maximum file size of 4gb per file. For storing movies, this isn’t very good.It’s also a very old format, has a number of instabilities to do with the way it stores files, which can result in data loss if you unplug the drive while it’s writing data.

ExFAT

Pros: Works on almost everything (Excludes some older TV’s, Early versions of Windows (Before Windows Vista) and early versions of Mac OS (earlier than 10.6.5))
Cons: Not much. Works really well! If you unplug it while it’s in use, it will fall back to Read Only until you do a check on the drive (your computer will prompt you to do it).

Mac:

1. Plug in your Hard Drive

2. Right click on the Drive in the sidebar in the Finder

3. Select Get Into

4. Look under “Format” as to what format your drive is. (In this example, it’s FAT32 formatted)

Windows:

1. Plug in your Hard Drive

2. Right click on the Drive in My Computer

3. Go to Properties

4. Look under “File System” to see what format your drive is

 

WARNING: FOLLOWING THESE STEPS WILL ERASE ALL DATA ON THE HARD DRIVE. MAKE SURE YOU COPY YOUR DATA OFF THE DRIVE FIRST!

If the drive is brand new, ignore the above message!

How to format on a Mac

1. Plug in your Hard Drive

2. Open Disk Utility (it’s in Applications/Utilities)

3. Select the Drive

4. Select Erase

5. Pick ExFAT from the drop down menu

6. Give it a fancy name

 

7. Click Erase

How to Format on Windows

1. Plug in your Hard Drive

2. Open My Computer

3. Right click on the Hard Drive you just plugged in

4. Select Format

5. Select the Format you want to set your drive to (ignore all the other options, the defaults are fine)