How to Reformat External Drive for the Specific System

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Just like regular equipment, your external drive also wears out and depreciates over time. When this happens, you’ll slowly notice that your external drive can’t work the way it used to. Information gets lost, data can’t be read, and worst scenario, the entire drive won’t function anymore. One way to solve the issue is to buy a new one. Or, you can still have a chance of fixing it by wiping it clean. This can help erase any issues or malfunctions that might be present on your drive.

So how do you reformat your external drive anyway? We’ll dig into that later in the article. First, let’s talk about the reasons for reformatting an external drive.

Why Do You Need to Reformat Your External Drive?

You’ve probably heard a lot of people say that they need to reformat their hard drives. Now, have you ever asked yourself why they do it? There are several reasons as to why people actually need to reformat their hard drives from time to time. Here are some of them:

  • Your external HDD contracted a virus 

This is by far the most common reason for anyone to reformat their hard drives. Viruses usually come from software downloaded from the internet, opening affected emails, or viewing certain data that contain viruses. Viruses would slowly creep into your system and slowly spread itself until it covers your entire computer system. One of the key functions of viruses is to slow down your computer and make it produce errors on a constant basis. If your computer has a very strong virus and you plug your external drive into it, then there’s a high chance that it will contract the virus. The virus goes into the drive, spreads there, and enters the next computer the drive gets connected to. 

Usually, the virus can be remedied by using a good antivirus software. However, if the virus is too strong and has spread too far, then your antivirus won’t work anymore. In this case, the best thing to do is to simply wipe out your hard drive. Doing this will erase all data and restore all settings.

  • Your external HDD’s read/write function no longer works 

When this thing happens, it’s most likely because the format of your external hard drive isn’t compatible with the operating system you are using. Mac devices use a different format for external drives, and the same goes for Windows computers. Fortunately, it is possible to change the format of your hard drive to fit the OS that you are using. In the process of reformatting your hard drive, there are options that allow you to change the format of your hard drive. We will discuss the details of the types of formats and how to change them later on in the article.

  • You just need to maintain it 

As I already mentioned above, it’s good to reformat your external drive regularly so that you can do some maintenance on it. I would suggest that you format your drive at least once a year so that you can clean it up. Just make sure that you back up all of your data to make sure nothing gets lost during the maintenance.

  • Your files are corrupted 

Yet another common reason for formatting an external hard drive is when your files are either lost, missing, or corrupted. In most cases, they can still be recovered with the help of a recovery software. However, when the problem becomes too big, you’ll be forced to wipe the drive clean.


What are the Pros and Cons?

From what you’ve read above, you can see that reformatting your external drive can solve a lot of problems. Although it is a quick solution to many issues, a lot of people still don’t use it because of the hassles after formatting. Just to give you an idea as to whether it is the best solution for your external hard drive issues or not, let’s take a look at some of its pros and cons.

How to Reformat External Drive for the Specific System


  • You can wipe out all viruses that are present on your external drive.
  • You can fix glitches in the settings of your drive by reverting the system to factory settings.
  • You can destroy any corrupted files before they can cause permanent damage.
  • You can enhance its performance via regular reformats.
  • You can change the format of your external drive in the process.

Now that we know some of the pros, let’s discuss some of the cons.


  • All of your data are wiped out.
  • The reformat process takes time.
  • If you have made any configurations in the settings, you’ll have to set them up again.
  • You’ll have to find an equally big space to back up all your existing files.

By looking at the pros and cons of reformatting, we can see that the pros do outweigh the cons. This shows us that reformatting an external hard drive is a great solution for any related problems. It is also a good practice to regularly reformat your device in order to clean out any corrupted partitions or viruses that haven’t been spotted yet. This way, you’ll be able to use it continuously.

The next question is: how can you reformat your device? Before we do so, it’s important to first understand the formats that hard drives come in. Basically, there are three:

  • NTSF – this format allows you to read and write on your HDD using Windows
  • HFS+ – this format is one used by Mac OS X
  • FAT32 – this is a universal format which supports read/write function on all operating systems

Here’s a brief explanation of the different formats for hard drives and their differences:

By looking at the choices given above, your first reaction would most likely be to convert your external drive into FAT32 format since it is compatible with all operating systems. However, this comes with a downside. Unlike NTFS and HFS+, FAT32 has absolutely no security settings. If anyone were to steal your external drive, they’d be able to get your information right away.

Aside from security, FAT32 formats are also more prone to having disk errors. Finally, FAT32 is just not as efficient as HFS+ and NTFS. That’s because FAT32-formatted drives have an imposed limit of 2GB for the maximum size of any file you can store. Therefore, if you have a 5GB application you want to store, it will be impossible. That said, a lot of people still prefer HFS+ and NTFS formats instead of FAT32 due to its limits and disadvantages.

Now that you have an idea of the different kinds of HDD formats and how they affect your hard drive, we can now finally learn how to reformat your external drives. We will be discussing how to reformat an external hard drive on both Windows and Mac computers.

How to Reformat Your External Drive Using on Windows

Formatting your external HDD in your Windows computer is fairly easy. All you have to do is follow these steps: 

how to reformat external drive in windows

  1. Connect your drive to your computer and look for its icon in the “My Computer” option.
  1. Double-click the icon and back up all the files that you have inside. You can perform a back up by simply copying your files from your external drive to your internal drive. After creating a backup, return to the icon and right click on it. After that, click the Format button.
  1. A window should appear prompting you to choose which type of formatting you want to do. The two choices are either a full format or quick format. Obviously, a full format will do a better job than a quick format since the full format totally wipes the slate clean.
  1. Click the Start button and wait for your drive to be reformatted. When it is already reformatted, you will see a window that says the formatting is done. After that, you may return all of your files back into the hard drive.
  1. In its default format, the hard drive won’t be able to write on OS X computers since it’s in NTFS format. Let’s say that you want it to be able to read and write in OS X computers too. First, you have to download a software called NTFS-3G in the OS X computer you’re going to use. NTFS-3G is an open source software that’s completely free to download.
  1. After you have installed the NTFS-3G into your Mac, go to Terminal and type in the code:
    1. sudo mkdir/Volumes/NTFS sudo/usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g/dev/disk1s1/Volumes/NTFS -olocal -oallow_other
    2. Replace the /dev/disk1s1 part with a code given by NTFS-3G. You’ll be able to find it by typing “diskutil list” in another Terminal window.

After you’ve followed the process, you should be able to read to NTFS format.



How to Reformat Your External Hard Drive on Mac

How to reformat external drive using Mac

Just like on your Windows computer, reformatting your external drive is also really easy on Mac. All you have to do is follow these 6 steps. 

  1. Connect your hard drive to your computer and open your hard drive. Back up all of the files on the hard drive so that you won’t lose important information when you reformat your device.
  1. Navigate to the Disk Utility option (if you can’t find it, you can always search for it using Spotlight). The name of your hard drive should appear on the left side of the window. Click it.
  1. A new window should appear with a few options for you to choose from. Click the Erase option found somewhere at the top. Another window should appear with more options to choose from. If you see the Volume Format list, click the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) option. After that, click the Erase button.
  1. By clicking the Erase button, you will now reformat your hard drive and wipe out everything inside. Wait for the hard drive to reformat, then put back all of its original files that you’ve backed up.
  1. As I’ve mentioned above, the default format of a Mac PC or laptop is HFS+. This means that the external hard drive can’t be written on using a Windows computer. For this, you have to download a software called the HFSExplorer on your Windows computer. It’s like the Mac counterpart of the NTFS- 3G. Just like the NTFS-3G, HFSexplorer is also an open source program that’s completely free to download.
  1. Once you’ve downloaded the HFSExplorer, connect your HFS+ hard drive to your computer. Open your HFSExplorer and click the File button. Under the file button, you can see an option called Load File System from Device. Click that option and wait for it to process. After it’s done, you’ll now be able to read and extract files from your Mac to your newly formatted external drive. You might not be able to write on your Mac drive’s files, but you can copy those files into your computer and edit from there.




There are a lot of things that you can do for your hard drive when you choose to reformat it. First, you’ll be able to wipe off any viruses, corrupted files, potential errors, and glitched configurations. This happens because reformatting your hard drive wipes out all of the data inside it, including all error-filled data and viruses. Furthermore, it also returns the hard drive’s settings to its old settings, thereby removing any of your configurations.

Another great thing about reformatting your hard drive is that during the process, you can even fix the format issues. You can change the format of your hard drive so that it can be read and written by using your chosen operating systems.

Reformatting your hard drive is a type of maintenance activity that can let you evaluate your hard drive and get rid of anything that may potentially damage it. That said, you can really see how important this process is. The step by step guide provided above will teach you how to perform one of the most crucial practices for your hard drive.

By the way, if for any reason disk reformatting seems for you too complicated – time to by a new drive suitable for your system. Check out Best portable hard drive list

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