WD hard drive formatting

Discussion in 'iMac' started by hanjoy81, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. hanjoy81 macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2013
    Hi, sorry if this is a stupid question. I am not very tech savvy.
    I currently have a windows laptop that I use and will be upgrading to a iMac very soon.
    My question is how do I reformat my WD harddrives that are set up for windows, without losing any of my files. I understand that I will need to back my files up somewhere else first, but how do I manage to get them back onto my newly formatted hard drive afterwards. I'm very confused about the transfer of data between mac and PC. Hope that makes sense
    Cheers, Hannah :)
  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Depending on what you do, you could use exFAT, which is read and written to by current Windows and OS X versions, as the WD HDDs probably use NTFS right now, which can be read by Windows and OS X, but cannot be written to by OS X, though there is third party software to enable writing to NTFS HDDs in OS X.


    Overview of the four major file systems (called "Formats" in Mac OS X) used on Windows and Mac OS X, compiled by GGJstudios. You can use Disk Utility to format any HDD to your liking.

    Any external hard drive will work with PCs or Macs, as long as the connectors are there (Firewire, USB, etc.) It doesn't matter how the drive is formatted out of the box, since you can re-format any way you like. Formatting can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility, found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Here are your formatting options:

    HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)

    NTFS (Windows NT File System)
    • Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
    • Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X
      [*]To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X, here are some alternatives:
      • For Mac OS X 10.4 or later (32 or 64-bit), install Paragon (approx $20) (Best Choice for Lion)
      • For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
      • For 64-bit Snow Leopard, read this: MacFUSE for 64-bit Snow Leopard
      • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx $36).
      • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and Lion, but is not advisable, due to instability.
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support NTFS
    • Maximum file size: 16 TB
    • Maximum volume size: 256TB
    • You can use this format if you routinely share a drive with multiple Windows systems.

    exFAT (FAT64)
    • Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
    • Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages.
    • exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support exFAT
    • Maximum file size: 16 EiB
    • Maximum volume size: 64 ZiB
    • You can use this format if it is supported by all computers with which you intend to share the drive. See "disadvantages" for details.

    FAT32 (File Allocation Table)
    • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
      [*]Maximum file size: 4GB.
    • Maximum volume size: 2TB
    • You can use this format if you share the drive between Mac OS X and Windows computers and have no files larger than 4GB.

    As formatting a drive erases all data, be sure to make a backup first.
  3. 53kyle macrumors 65816


    Mar 27, 2012
    Sebastopol, CA
    1) Copy all of your files from your external HD onto your PC (if possible).
    2) Open /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.
    3) Select the erase button from the bar at the top.
    4) Make the format MS-DOS (fat) and click the erase button near the bottom of the window
    5) Plug the HD into your PC. It should recognize it, but if it doesn't, I don't know what to do.
    6) Copy files onto the HD and plug back into your mac.
    7) Copy files from your external HD to your mac and repeat steps 2-4 except make the format Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
    8) Copy your files back onto your HD and enjoy your mac formatted HD.
  4. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Why steps 1 to 6? The HDD will be readable by Windows without problems, as NTFS can be read by OS X. And FAT32 (MS-DOS Filesystem) is limiting maximum file size to 4 GB.
    And Windows can format HDDs too, no need to use a still not existing Mac to do an unnecessary format.

    To add to my first post, exFAT is only necessary if you want to transfer data between Windows and Mac OS X often, but even then, you could just use one HDD for those transfers (I have one 2.5" 500 GB USB 3.0 HDD just for that, the rest (20 or so) are using HFS+).

    Maybe just let the HDDs be as they are and once you got your Mac transfer to your liking, if you want to use HFS+ or exFAT, using one HDD as temporary HDD to copy stuff to and copy stuff from.
    And if you use HFS+, use CarbonCopyCloner (version 3.4.7 is still free and available for download here and works with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion) or SuperDuper! for bigger transfers, as those cloning applications do not crumble like Finder does when it has to abort a file transfer due to a missing bit or byte.

    To learn more about Mac OS X: Helpful Information for Any Mac User by GGJstudios

Share This Page