Should new external hard drives be formatted?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by sandym, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. sandym macrumors newbie

    Sep 1, 2010
    Hi there,

    I just bought a new external hard drive and backed-up my computer onto it. Then today I realized that I didn't format the drive. All I did was follow instruction for hooking it up. Also, I'm a Mac user.

    Is it customary to do a full and proper format of newly purchased external hard drives? The most I did was verify the disk in disk utility when I first plugged in the HD to my computer. Is that enough?

    Thank you,

    P.S. Yes, I'm a n00b.
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Drives usually come formatted, but you should know which format. It could be formatted for Mac or Windows. I prefer to format drives myself, to make sure it's done right.

    Formatting in HFS (Mac OS Extended) or FAT32 or NTFS-3G can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility.

    • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
    • No individual file larger than 4GB.
    • Read/Write HFS from native Mac OS X
    • To Read/Write HFS from Windows, Install MacDrive
    • To Read HFS (but not Write) from Windows, Install HFSExplorer
  3. smirk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    Just in case the previous message wasn't totally clear to you, the answer depends on what computers you plan to use the drive with, and how you plan to use the drive.

    The native file system for the Mac is called HFS+, which Disk Utility calls "Mac OS Extended". If you will only use your drive with a Macintosh, then for best results you should format the drive as Mac OS Extended. There is a feature of Mac OS Extended called "journaling" which helps the disk stay stable in the event of something like a power failure while it's writing out files (I'm oversimplifying here). So when formatting, I would choose the "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" flavor.

    If you'll be sharing the drive with Windows PCs, then you may consider formatting it as FAT32, like the previous poster stated. Both Windows and Mac can read FAT32, but there are some restrictions mentioned in the previous post that you should be aware of. If you want to remove those restrictions for added complexity and possibly different restrictions, then you could format it as NTFS, which is a more modern Microsoft file system. The only problem is that the Mac can't write out to an NTFS drive, so you'd have to install a 3rd party tool to enable that.

    If you just want to use the drive to store your Time Machine backups for your Mac and that's it, set it to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" and you'll be set. To find out how your drive is currently formatted, select the drive on your desktop and choose File->Get Info and the Get Info window will state something like "Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled)".

    If the drive is already formatted from the factory the way you want, then you're good to go!

    Good luck!
  4. sandym thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 1, 2010
    Thank you both for your replies. What you've written makes sense to me.

    By the way, I plan on using my HDs with only my Macbook. Easy peasy.

    Smirk: I checked the info for both my external HDs. The new one I just bought says "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)", and the older portable one says "Max OS Extended". So I guess no format is necessary, then.

    The reason I began to doubt myself is that I always format a new SD card when I insert it into my digital camera, since the card needs to work with that camera day in and day out...I figured it would make sense to do the same with new HDs that would be communicating with my computer, and then began to worry. Should I just leave it, then?

  5. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Yep, you're fine to just leave it. It already came formatted to what you needed.
  6. INNOVA macrumors newbie

    Jan 22, 2010
    Help!! Formatting Hd

    Im new at this so please help! i was formatting my new ext hd and did a few times and now it does recognize the hd what did i do? :eek:

Share This Page