Best Format For Pc And Mac

Posted By admin On 16.02.22
Active7 years, 6 months ago
  • Mac OS Extended (Journaled) - This is the default file system format for Mac OS X drives. Advantages: Formatting your USB flash drive this way will give you full interoperability with Macs.
  • Mar 22, 2012  The best ways to format an external drive for Windows and Mac. Compare the different options for formatting an external hard drive to work with.

Note: I'm not asking how... I know that. I'm currently using Paragon Software's drivers which let you access all drive formats from all OSes (e.g. the Linux drive from OSX or the OSX drive from Win7, etc.) I'm specifically asking which is the best and why?

For instance, I want to share a data partition for documents, music and even my Dropbox account between all three OSes and I've done that between Win7 and OSX by throwing it on a NTFS partition. Just wondering now that Linux too is in the mix, if its better to set up HFS+ or linux format instead?

I'd love to share a user directory between all three, but I'm pretty sure permissions will make that impossible. However, I'm not sure.

Format external drives to Mac OS Extended before using with Aperture Tips on preparing a new external hard drive for use with Aperture. You may wish to use an external FireWire or USB hard drive to store your Aperture Library, referenced images, or Vaults. How to format a drive for Mac and PC compatibility Posted by Ant on March 11th, 2012 43 Comments If you have an external hard drive or USB flash drive that you’d like to use on both Macs and Windows PCs, choosing the right file system to format the drive can be confusing. It depends on which Mac and PC OSs are involved, but generally speaking, NTFS or exFAT. FAT32 (File Allocation Table). Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.

Again, to be clear though since I'ts brought up so much below, I am not asking for compatibility with the OSes as far as access is concerned. I have Paragon's drivers for all OSes to read and write to all formats. Again, it's a question of which format is best, and why.

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5 Answers

I recommend using NTFS. Ubuntu (and most other distributions) support full read/write usage with the ntfs-3g package.
Mac OS also supports full read/write to the NTFS drives.
My second choice would be ExFAT, because you need to download a driver from Microsoft in order to use those partitions in other operating systems.

After reading up on NTFS support in Mac OS, I have found that the only viable solution for you is to use ExFAT. The only 'safe' NTFS/write solution for Mac is a paid one, and I'm not sure if that's what you are looking for.

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NTFS and REFS are a bad choice because Linux and Mac can't properly decode it and EXT2/EXT3/XFS are bad choices because you need custom Windows drivers for it to work.

CDFS is a bad choice because it's optimised for CDs

FAT16 and FAT32 are bad choices because they can only hold very small amounts of data ( < 4GB)

Which pretty much only leaves ExFAT (called EFS on Windows), which is readable by pretty much everyone, can hold large amounts of data and doesn't perform to badly on speed, fragmentation or corruptibility either.


FAT32 is definitely the most friendly format between OSX/Windows/Linux.
It has a 4GB single file limit and 2TB partition size.

However, I don't think this is an issue at all with Dropbox. I've not had to even think about partition types and file system permissions, etc., and I sync between Mac/Linux and Windows often.

I think Dropbox will use certain features if they are available, but it doesn't stop you syncing to other file system types/operating systems.

I think it may skip some files. See: But for basic files it seems to work fine for me.

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Matt HMatt H
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I would use HFS+ - for one simple reason. Mac bundles. For instance if you use OS X, and Omnigraffle or Pages then that file is saved as a bundle. This is just a special directory - but for some reason it fails to work (at least for me) via other filesystems.

If for some reason you need to use the hard drive and Dropbox is not working, you can access those bundles on HFS+. But you can't on NTFS or ext4 if you manage to mount it in the other OS.

At the very least I'd pick the fs which supports hidden files with '.' format (leading dot). Also HFS+ is supported on Linux fine as long as you avoid journaling - so you will have two OS which can access that fs, and it supports massive files. HFS+ is my favorite, and my second is XFS which is only on Linux.


SMB shares (Samba or Windows Server shares) should work fine.

I have one OpenWRT router (could be a PC, but commercial routers spend less electricity) with external harddrive sharing between Linux, Windows, and multiple OS X version from Tiger to Lion via wireless or wired Ethernet.

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Best Format For Pc And Mac

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged windows-7macosubuntumulti-bootformat or ask your own question.

There are many reasons why you may want to format an external HDD or small flash drive. For instance:

  • You brought a new unformatted hard drive
  • If the drive is not properly formatted, it won’t work
  • You want to use your external hard drive in both MAC, PC and Linux (use FAT32)
  • Before you sell your SDcard or Pendrive, you should format it to erase its data
  • Your camera’s SD card (FAT32) can only hold a file up to 4GB file. To get larger file size format it to exFAT.

Warming: Formating a drive, also erase its data. Although you can still get it back, but it’s much harder after formatting. So if you can’t afford losing you data, take backup.

Which Format to choose?

Choosing a right file system is a bit tricky, so here are some pros and cons of all file system.

NTFS: This is windows propriety file system. Most external drives come preformatted in NTFS so that they can be used easily with Windows. However, NTFS drives are read only in MAC, but you can get write access by using software like NTFS-3g. It also works in Linux. And to support NTFS on Android use Stick mount or Paragon NTFS, HFS and exFAT.

HFS+: This MAC propriety file system and is used in iOS and MAC. If you format your external hard drive to HFS, you can use it on MAC and Linux (by removing journaling). However, to use it on Windows you can HFS explorer (read only).

ext4: This is a default file system for linux OS (including Raspberry Pi). To read an ext4 drive on Windows, you can Ext2Read and OSXfuse for MAC. However, I have not really use this format much, so we just skip it.

FAT32: This oldest file system and work with all OS i.e. Windows, MAC, Linux, Android, even TV, and PS3 etc. This is why it’s used in all small flash drive. Although it lacks all modern features and comes with 4 GB limit for single file size.

exFAT: is the extended version of exFAT. It works fine with Windows and MAC (all the modern version). For Android, you can use Stick mount app (root needed). However being a windows propriety file system, it does not play well in open source environment. But unlike FAT32, it does not have 4GB limit for single file size. Thus making it ideal for SDcards of the high-end camera.

How to Format an External Hard drive or Pen drive

Now that we know the good and bad about every file system, let see how to format a drive in Windows, MAC, and Linux.


Formatting a drive on Windows is quite simple. Plug in your external HDD to the USB port of your computer> then go to my computer > find your external drive > right-click it > and select format.

A new window will open, select the desired file system, keep the allocation unit size to default and check mark quick format (or it will take more time). Once done hit the format button and that’s it. Within seconds, you will have your drive in the new format.

Note: While formatting a pen drive you will see FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS as the available file system. However for external HDD you won’t see the FAT32 (windows don’t suggest fat32 for bigger drives) However to get other format option you can use third-party software.


Start by connecting your external HDD to MAC’s USB port. Under the finder men, go to Go > utilities > Disk Utility or type disk utility in the spotlight and hit enter.

Best Format For Flash Drive Mac And Pc

Once under disk utility. Select your external HDD on the left side and then select partition option.

Now in the Partition area, click under Partition Layout and select 1 Partition. Then, click on Options. A new window will open, here select Master Boot Record and then click Ok.

Now in the right side of windows, give a name to your drive, from the drop-down select desired file system format. Make sure the size is set to an entire volume of your external drive. And once done, click on Apply.

Note: Here you will also see an option to format a large hard drive to FAT32 which is not available in Windows.

See this animated gif (Imgur)


Unlike windows and MAC, Linux does not a have built-in partition tool. So, you will have ti install a GUI tool called GParted and then plug in your external drive in the computer.

Open your terminal and type in the following command to install GParterd.

sudo apt-get install gparted

Once installed, type the following command to launch the program.

sudo gparted

A new window will open. Click on the top right side, select the volume you want to format.

Once you see the volume you want to format, right click on the block and select format > choose the file system you want > and click OK to confirm.

Note: Since, I am running Linux in a virtual machine, in final step my Format to option is not highlighted, But in your case, you will be able to click it and select the file system you to format in. To see the final step, I suggest you check out this howtogeek article.


Say you don’t have any computer with you, now can you still format your external HDD? Well, if you have an Android (ROOT) then yes, you can still format your drive to popular formats like NTFS and HFS.

To do this, install Paragon exFAT, NTFS & HFS+ from Play store. The main function of this application is to mount NTFS or HFS formatted HDD on Android, but there is another useful option hidden under settings — i.e. formatting a drive.

Once installed, open the app, mount your drive and then go to the settings, There select the new file system for your drive, give it a name and hit format.