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You’ve bought yourself a beautiful SSD drive to put on your Mac.

Or maybe you’re thinking of buying one and you’re doing some research ahead of buying.

And now you’re asking yourself what is the best format for SSD on Mac?

Read on and find out which and why.

Best Format For Mac SSD Drives

APFS (Apple File System) is the best format for a Mac SSD drive. Apple created APFS for the faster solid state drive technology.

When you want the fastest speed from your SSD drive. And the best security features use APFS. It is the faster file system format for your Mac running MacOS High Sierra (10.13) or later.

Choices On What Format Should An SSD Be For Mac

It doesn’t matter if your Mac is a MacBook Pro. MacBook Air or M1 Mac. The best format to pick for your external SSD depends on a couple of things.

1. How old your Mac computer is.

2. The version of the Mac operating system (Mac OS X) your Mac runs.

3. If you want to use your SSD for a Time Machine backup then your OS X version matters.

Because the APFS format is a fairly recent file system. The support for APFS external drives has grown better through the Mac OS releases since 10.13 – High Sierra.

APFS is the default file system format for a Mac computer running Ventura or later for a Time Machine backup.

A Mac running MacOS Catalina and earlier. Can’t use an APFS drive as a backup place for a Time Machine backup.

You’ll need to format your SSD drive as Mac OS Extended instead.

Best Format For New Mac SSD

The best format for your SSD on your new Mac is APFS (Apple File System). Because of APFS’s greater speed. And enhanced security.  New Mac’s shipped by Apple. Like the Apple silicon M1 Mac and M2 Mac come with APFS on their internal drives by default.

Though for your external SSD drive you do have a choice. APFS is the best file system format when you’re only running your SSD external disk drive on your new Mac.

But if you plan to share your drive with an older Mac running an earlier Mac OS x operating system release. Then choose Mac OS extended. Any Mac running Sierra. Or an older Mac operating system won’t be able to work with an APFS formatted external drive.

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What Does Format Mean On A SSD On Mac?

A file system format on an external SSD (Solid State Drive) is how your Mac first recognizes your drive.

The file system format allows your Mac computer to understand what is on your drive. And how your external drive is laid out.

Your Mac uses the format of your drive to find out where your files and folders are on the drive. How to update those files and how and where to write new files.

What To Do When Your New SSD Is ExFAT Formatted

Many new SSDs are shipped with an ExFAT format. It means for the drive manufacturers that those drive can be used on a Mac or a Windows PC.

And when you plan on sharing your drive between a Mac and a Windows PC that’s fine.

But if you only plan on using your external SSD on your Mac then ExFAT isn’t as optimized for a Mac.

And it’s best for you to take the few minutes it takes to reformat your drive. You use your Mac’s disk management software Disk Utility to format.

And even if you plan to use the ExFAT format often the shipped drive isn’t properly formatted for Mac. A Mac wants an ExFAT drive with a GUID Partition Map for the drive’s scheme.

When you’re having trouble reading your SSD USB flash drive. Then check the format of your external drive on your Mac.

Take a look at this article on the site to check the format of your external SSD on your Mac.

And if it’s not what you need then use Mac Disk Utility to format your SSD on your Mac. And use a GUID partition Map for the scheme.

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An APFS Format SSD And Why It’s The Best For Mac

There are many reasons why APFS is the best file format for a Mac.

APFS Mac format that has fast directory sizing. And stronger more secure file encryption compared to Mac OS Extended. The format lets you take fast file system snapshots.

You can use APFS formatting to make an external drive bootable. So, you can boot your Mac from an APFS external drive if you want.

As well as use an APFS format external drive to hold your files. Photos, spreadsheets, music, movies anything you like.

Large files and files that need tip top performance are ideal for your APFS formatted external drive.

You can also create extra partitions as you want. And when you want on an APFS format drive. You allocate free space on your drive to each partition as needed.

And for those Mac OS versions that support it (Big Sur and above) you can use an APFS drive for your Time Machine backup.

The Different Types Of APFS On A Mac SSD

Wondering which type of APFS to format your SSD drive shouldn’t take you too much time.  And for most going with the standard version is fine for what they need.

If your drive is in any other format than APFS when you buy it. – As most SSD drives are. Then format to Mac OS Extended first. Then you’ll see all the APFS options.

You’ll find in Disk Utility you can format to:


The standard default, fast file system format for SSD drives.

You can format an ordinary external hard drive APFS.

But your Mac Pro or Air or Mac Mini must be running at least MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra).

APFS (Encrypted)

This APFS option lets you encrypt your files and add a password.

Encryption jumbles your files so only the right key opens them. And the key is the password you put on your drive.

This protects your files from viewers seeing what you have on your external drive. And you need to enter your password before you can get to your files on your external drive.

APFS (Case Sensitive)

Is as its name implies case sensitive.

There are rare cases where you’d would want to use this option.

Case Sensitive APFS sees a folder called photos and Photos as different folders. And so, PHOTOS would be another separate folder.

There may be special situations where this would be useful to you. But most users won’t need it.

APFS (Case Sensitive, Encrypted)

This version of the file system combines the case sensitive version of APFS with the Encrypted version of APFS.

Your file names are treated as case sensitive. And your whole drive is encrypted and password protected.

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Other Formats You Can Use On Your SSD On Mac

You have two other formats you can use for your Mac’s SSD drive.

ExFAT – It’s the ideal format to use when you need to share your files between a Mac and a Windows computer. Because a Windows computer can read and write to an ExFAT SSD as well as a Mac can.

Mac OS Extended  – has been around since the Mac OS X version 8.1 in 1998. And was the file system format on Macs and their external drives till APFS came along.

It runs on all Macs. Optimized for an external hard drive – drives with moving parts inside.

But there is nothing stopping you from creating partitions on your APFS drive. You can have an APFS partition and have another partition formatted as ExFAT. And/or Mac OS Extended.

In Closing

And now you know the best disk format for Mac SSD. You’ve got the answer to your question.

If you need to go ahead and format your SSD for Mac. Then take a look at the article on how to format the SanDisk Samsung SSD. You can use those steps for any SSD external drive you have.

And while you’re here why not take a look at our other related articles on the site.

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