Format WD Elements for Mac and PC Title Image

Using your WD Elements drive for both your home Mac and work Windows PC means. A 1TB, 2TB or larger drive could make your life so much easier. Because both of your computers can get to the same document.

After all how else could you so easily move, look at and work on your docs on both computers?

And it’s quick and easy for you to do on your iMac or MacBook Pro or Air.

And you can find out here.

Top Level View of Formatting WD Elements for a Mac and a PC

1. Connect up your WD Elements drive to your Mac

2. You use Disk Utility. First to format your WD Elements external drive to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

3. Then you quickly follow up by formatting to ExFAT.

4. Then your Western Digital external hard drive is ready to use on your Mac and on your Windows PC.

Ahead of Starting Your WD Elements Mac and PC Formatting

You’ll need your Mac on and you logged in.

You may want to think about connecting your MacBook Pro or Air to external power. Why?

Because you don’t want your Mac’s battery to fail half way through formatting your Western Digital Elements drive.  And because the USB cable powers your Elements drive. It’s taking its power from your Mac. You’ll want to make sure there’s enough power to drive the drive.

Your WD Elements drive comes with a USB cable that has a type A connector that plugs into your Mac.

USB A Cable End
USB A Cable End

Do you have a Macbook Pro 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018? Yes?

Your Mac will have a USB C port and you’ll need an adaptor cable.

They are easy enough to get on Amazon.

Want to find out more about connection options for your Mac? Do take a look at this article on the site.

You may also need to use the adaptor cable on your Windows PC if it has USB C ports on it.

All plugged in?

Great you can start.

How to Format WD Elements for Mac and PC?

The steps below will format your WD Elements drive so that the whole drive is shareable. This means that both your Mac and PC can see all the drive.

Side Note: Erase will wipe any files you have on your WD Elements drive.  If you have files on there and you want to keep them, copy them off onto a Windows PC first.

1. Can you see your WD Elements external drive on your desktop?

New Drive Icon On Desktop
Drive Icon On Desktop


Open up a finder window. You need to change your finder window preferences.

Finder Preferences
Finder Preferences

Check the option to show ‘External Disks’ on your desktop. You’ll see it under the General tab.

Finder Preferences Show External Disks
Finder Preferences Show External Disks

2. Start Up Disk Utility.

You’ll find Disk Utility inside your Utilities folder. And your Utilities folder is inside your Application folder.

Open up a finder window.  Type Disk Utility into the search bar.

Click to search your Applications folder.

Then double Disk Utility in the finder window.

Finder Window Search For Disk Utility
Finder Window Search For Disk Utility

The yellow arrows in the above picture shows you where.

3. Pick your Western Digital Elements Drive.

Once Disk Utility has started up you’ll see the Disk Utility pop up window.

On the left hand side of your pop up window you’ll find the drives attached to your Mac.  Your Mac’s internal disk drive is under the heading ‘Internal’. And you’ll find your Elements drive under the ‘External’ Heading.  Click to select your WD Elements drive.

Be sure to pick it at the top level. The yellow arrow shows you where.

WD Elements Internal External drive list
WD Elements Internal External drive list

Can’t see the different drive levels as shown in the picture?

Go to the top left of the Disk Utility Window.

Click on View

Disk Utility View Option
Disk Utility View Option

And choose to ‘Show all Devices’. This allows Disk Utility to show you the drive and the volume.

Now pick your WD Elements drive under the ‘External’ heading at the top level.

It’s important you choose your WD Elements drive at the top level. If you don’t, you’ll have all sorts of problems formatting your Elements drive.

4. Select Erase.

At the top of your Disk Utility pop up window you’ll see a button for Erase.  Click on that.

Select Erase
Select Erase

Worried about clicking Erase? Don’t. As the next windows shows you a bunch of things you need to do first.

WD Elements Format Pop up Window
WD Elements Format Pop up Window

5. Give your WD Elements Hard Drive a Name.

You’ll be going through this stage of the formatting twice.  Giving the name Untitled at this point is fine.

This first time round you format your Elements drive to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Choose that option for the drive format. The red arrow on the picture shows you where to click. By clicking there you open up the up down arrows to expand the list of available file formats.

Pick GUID Partition Map for the scheme.

Then Click on Erase on the bottom right of the pop up window.

Disk Utility now takes a few minutes to format your WD Elements drive.

Your drive will change from NTFS to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. 

Once your formatting is done.

6. Now Format Your WD Elements Drive as ExFAT

Go though steps 3 and 4 again.

This time when naming your drive choose a name that is easy for you to remember. One that’ll help you know exactly what you’re using your WD Elements drive for.  Sharing between a Mac and a PC.

This time you select the file system format of ExFAT.

WD Elements Selecting Exfat in Disk Uitility
WD Elements Selecting Exfat in Disk Uitility

Choose the Scheme as GUID Partition Map as you did before.

7. Click to Erase.

You Click on Erase on the bottom right hand corner of the pop up window.

And in a few minutes your WD Elements drive is ExFAT formatted ready for you to use on your Mac and Windows PC.

Your WD Elements drive will be on your Mac’s Desktop under the name you gave it.

Now your entire WD Elements external hard drive is in a format both computers can use. 

You can create folders. Copy files from your Mac onto your Elements drive.

Plug your Western Digital Elements drive into your PC.  Work on documents on the drive and put docs from your PC onto the drive.

And when you plug back into your Mac your Mac can see and use those files.

What if you want a separate area on Your WD Elements drive for Mac and PC?

You would do this by creating partitions on the hard drive.

Think of partitions as slicing your WD Elements drive into different size pieces. And you use each piece for different things.

Say you may want two partitions.

One partition for your Time Machine back up of your Mac.

And another for both Mac and your PC to share files.

The partition that you want your Mac to use for backup you format as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Your Windows PC will not see that partition when you plug your Elements drive into your PC.

The partition you want to share with both Mac and Windows you partition as ExFAT.

To Format Your WD Elements With a Partition for Mac and PC

1. Follow steps 1 through to 5 above.

Your whole drive is now formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Once you have formatted your Western Digital Elements drive …

2. In Disk Utility, Click on Partition.

At the top of your Disk Utility screen you’ll see the button to partition.

Select Partition
Select Partition

Click on it.

This time Disk Utility shows you the partition pop up Window.

3. Create your first Partition.

WD Elements Partition Pop Up Window
WD Elements Partition Pop Up Window

Give your partition a name. In this example our first partition is for a Time Machine backup. You could call it Time Machine. Makes it easy to remember.

Just like when you formatted choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. And the Scheme as GUID Partition Map.

4. Click the + button under the large circle.

WD Elements Create 2nd Partition
WD Elements Create 2nd Partition

The large circle is a picture showing your whole disk. When you click + you’re telling Disk Utility to create a second partition.  Disk Utility splits your WD Elements drive into two equal parts.

5. Click on the New Partition.

Click on the picture of your WD Elements drive. Click on the side of the picture with your unnamed partition.

Give the partition you plan to share a name.

Choose ExFAT for the format. And GUID Partition Map for the scheme.

6. Don’t want Equal sizes?

If you don’t want a 50/50 split. Then you can type in the size you want either partition to be. Right there on the screen where it says size.

The picture will move and adjust to show you the percentage each partition has.

7. Click Apply.

When you’re happy press Apply.

Your Mac will create the partitions, and format them as you want. And after a short while your partitioning is done.

And your partitions will appear on your Mac’s desktop as drive icons.

PC and Time Machine Partition Icons
PC and Time Machine Partition Icons

You can double click on them to open up finder windows. Finder windows that you can copy and paste to and drag and drop to.

Why Doesn’t Your WD Elements Drive Work Out of the Box on your Mac and PC?

Western Digital ships the Elements external hard drive formatted as NTFS.

This means your PC will be able to use the drive right away.

Your Mac can read the files on an NTFS formatted WD Elements drive but can’t update those files. Or put more files on the Elements Drive.

ExFAT luckily is a file format that both your Windows PC and your Mac can use.

Plug your WD Elements drive into either and they can see all the files on the drive. Not only that, they can write files onto the drive.

This makes the drive completely shareable.

Saving you money because you won’t have to use a more complicated way to share files.

And all the files you want to use are right there on the one drive.

Last Words

And now you can relax because you have your WD Elements drive formatted for your Mac and PC. Success. You’ve formatted your WD Elements for a Mac and PC. And now you can get on with sharing your files between them both.

You’ll find other documents here all about your WD Elements drive.  Please take a look.

WD Elements Review – What the Smart Mac Would Choose

WD Elements VS My Passport Which is Best for Your Mac?

Format WD Elements for Mac. How? In 7 Quick Steps

WD Elements Partition Mac, 6 Steps to Partition Fast

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