Format WD Elements For Mac Title Image 3

You’ve just bought yourself a new WD Elements hard drive for your MacBook Pro. You’ve hooked it up to your MacBook ok.

But darn.

Try as hard as you can you can’t drag any files onto it.  It’s why you bought the thing. But your Western Digital Elements drive seems blocked.

Your Mac won’t put anything on it. So what use is it to you now?

Why is this happening?

Your WD Elements drive can work fine on your Mac computer.

And here you’ll find out how.

Can I Use A WD Elements External Hard Drive On My Mac?

The answer is Yes! You can use WD Elements on your Mac.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve an iMac. MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or M1 Mac you can use this drive for your mac.

You only need to get it ready by formatting it for your Mac to use.

How Do I Format WD Elements For Mac Overview

  1. Plug In the WD Elements hard drive into your Mac.
  2. Start Disk Utility.
  3. Click on your WD Elements. Click Erase.
  4. Pick the format. GUID for Scheme.
  5. Click the Erase button.

Read on for more detail …

YouTube Video On How To Format WD Elements On Mac

If you’re a visual learner and prefer to watch a video showing you how to do your WD Elements formatting.

Then check out this under 3 minute video showing you how.

Video Credit: MacTakeAwayData

Preparing To Format WD Elements Drive For Mac?

Turn on your Mac and log in.

Put the USB Micro B cable end into your WD Elements drive.

WD Elements USB Micro B Cable End
WD Elements USB Micro B Cable End
WD Elements USB Port
WD Elements USB Port

Put your WD Elements portable hard drive on a firm steady surface.

Then plug your WD drive into your Mac.

Having trouble at this point because you don’t have a port on your Mac that fits the USB cable end?

Then you’ll need to get yourself a USB type A to C adaptor cable.

Go take a look at this document all about it here.

All connected up? Good.

Once you’ve plugged in. Your Mac will see the Western Digital Elements hard drive connected. The drive will show up on your desktop as an icon.

WD Elements Drive Icon
New Drive Icon On Desktop

WD Elements Drive Not Showing Up?

You may need to set a couple of things in your Finder Settings window (Mac OS Ventura). In earlier Mac releases it’s called Preferences.

Open up a Finder window and select Settings or Preferences.

Finder Settings
Finder Preferences

Under the General tab, you’ll need to make sure you pick ‘External Disks’ in the Settings window.

Finder Settings Show External Disks

If your Elements external drive is still not showing then:

  • Try another port on your Mac or.
  • Reboot your Mac to reset the software on all your Mac’s ports.

Now you’re ready to format.

How To Format Your WD Elements Drive For Mac?

You’ll find below the quick and easy steps to formatting your Western Digital Elements drive.

You have in your Mac’s operating system a piece of disk management software called Disk Utility.  And it’s freely available for you to use.

It’s the Mac OS software you use to format your WD Elements drive. And should you want to reformat your drive again later, you use the same disk management software.

Warning: Formatting your WD hard drive will wipe anything on there. WD Elements comes with WD Discovery installation files.

If you plan to use that software. (Check FAQ below.) Copy those files off first. Or if you’ve any other files on the drive copy them off. Save them somewhere else before you format your Elements WD external drive.

WD Elements Files On NTFS Drive

1. Open Up Disk Utility.

Your Disk Utility program lives within a folder called Utilities.

And the Utilities folder lives in your Application’s folder on your Mac.

If your Application’s folder is in your dock, double click on it. Double Click on Utilities. And then double click to start up Disk Utility.


Click on your Spotlight search. It’s the magnifying glass icon at the top of your desktop.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Type in Disk Utility.

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search
Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

Then Double click to start up your Disk Utility software.

2. In Your Disk Utility Window.

Once your Disk Utility pop up window appears, look to the left of the window.

There you’ll find a list.

First in the list is your Mac’s internal drive.

Underneath. Under the heading ‘External’ is where you’ll find your WD Element hard disk.

WD Elements Disk Utility External Drive

If the list isn’t expanded in your pop up window, you can click on the small arrow to the left of the WD drive icon.

Is there no small arrow?

Are you thinking help! I have no expanding list. 

Apple added a setting from Mac OS 10.13.

Look to the top of your desktop. And pick the Disk Utility View menu option.

WD Elements Disk Utility View
Disk Utility View Option

Pick there to see the drive and the volume – show all devices.

3. Click On Your WD Elements Drive.

Choose your WD Elements external hard drive on your Mac’s external drives list.

Be sure to choose your WD Elements portable hard drive at the top level. You can have problems with your Mac refusing to format your Elements drive if it’s not picked at the right level.

The yellow arrow in the Internal/External picture above shows you where to click.

4. Look At The Top Of Your Disk Utility Pop Up Window.

Click on the Erase button.

Select Erase
Select Erase

Don’t worry. You’re not erasing yet. There are a couple more settings you need to fill in first.

5. Filling In Your WD Elements Formatting Options.

On this next popup window is where you set up how you want your formatting.

WD Elements Disk Utility Formatting

Under name you’ll give your WD external hard drive a name.

Pick a name that makes it easy to find on your desktop.

How about a name that reminds you what you’re using your Elements external drive for?

The next thing to choose is the Format.

The up down arrows at the end expand to allow you to choose different options.

The red arrow in the picture above shows you where.


APFS (Apple File System). If you want to use your WD Elements drive to drag and drop files too. It’s also the option you choose if you want to use your WD Elements drive for a Time Machine backup.

Only since the Mac OS x update to Big Sur can you use the APFS (Apple File System) for a Time Machine backup.

Mac OS Extended (Journaled) For compatibility with older Mac operating systems. Use to drag and drop your files to.  Or to copy your files to. And for a Time Machine backup.

Either way make sure you pick GUID Partition Map for the Scheme.

WD Elements File System Formats

Check your settings.

6. Click The Erase Button.

When you click the Erase button at the bottom right of the popup window you start the formatting.

Your formatting only takes only a few minutes.

You can dismiss the Disk Utility popup window when it’s done.

Your WD external drive will show up on your desktop as a drive Icon. You’ll find it has the name you gave it on your Mac format screen.

And now you can use the WD Elements external hard drive as you use your internal hard drive.

7. Double Click On Your WD Elements Drive Icon On Your Desktop.

That will open up a Finder window for you.

You’ll see your WD Elements drive is lovely and empty. Ready for you to use.

You’re free to create new folders. Drag and drop files to it as you would on your internal hard drive.

You can go on to hook it up to Time Machine for a Time Machine backup.

Find out how in this document here WD Elements For Time Machine. Just click on the link text.

And should you want to go on and partition your Elements drive you can find out how.

You can read the WD Elements Partitioning On Mac article on this site by clicking the link text.

When You’re Finished Using Your WD Elements Drive

Once you’ve finished with the drive don’t forget to right click on the drive icon. Then pick Eject from the menu. This ejects the drive. Do this before pulling out your USB cable.

If you don’t do that you risk corrupting the files on your disk.

Right Click to Eject
Right Click to Eject

Do I Need To Format WD Elements For Mac?

Yes and No.

If you want to use your WD Elements drive without any special software on your Mac. Then yes. You’ll need to put your Elements external drive in a format your Mac can read and write to.

You won’t need to format your Elements drive to use with Time Machine from Mac OS Ventura onwards. Because your Mac will format your Elements drive as part of the Time Machine set up.

But yes you’ll need to format your WD Elements external drive on Mac OS Monterey or earlier. If you want to use for your Time Machine backup.

But If you want to skip the formatting.

Cause you just can’t face it.

Then you’ll need get a software driver so that you can use your WD drive on your Mac. Though using a software driver will not work for a drive you want to use for a Time Machine backup.

You’ll find using driver software useful if you’ve used your Elements drive on a Windows PC. And you’ve those files already on your Elements drive. So, you don’t want to lose them by reformatting.

You’ll find a document on the site that tells you all about this option here.  External Hard Drive Compatible With Mac And PC Without Reformatting.

Format WD Elements For The Mac OS You Have

It doesn’t matter if you’ve Mac OS High Sierra, Mojave , Catalina, Big Sur or Monterey. The way you format your WD hard drive for your Mac OS x is the same.

For earlier versions of the Mac OS your screens may be slightly different.

But you can be confident that the way you format an external drive on a Mac is the same.

The type of file system formatting you can choose has updated. The APFS (Apple File System) has been around since MacOS Catalina. Originally designed for a solid state drive. You couldn’t use APFS for a Time Machine backup.

All this changed in MacOS Big Sur. Now you can pick an APFS file system for your Elements drive. And use it for a Time Machine backup. Just don’t choose APFS if you plan on using your WD Elements on a Mac running an earlier version of MacOS.

WD Elements For Mac Frequently Asked Questions

Why Doesn’t My WD External Elements Drive Work On My Mac Out Of The Box?

Your WD Elements drive comes in something called NTFS file system. The NTFS file system is plug and play on a Windows PC. But not quite on a Mac computer.

You can connect up an NTFS Elements drive onto your Mac. And your Mac will see it fine. But you can’t put files on there.

Your Mac will read any file on the Elements drive but not write to it.

What Are Those Files That Come Already Installed On WD Elements?

Western Digital has their own drive device manager software. And ships those installation files on the drive. If you install them on your Mac you’ll get WD Discovery. A user interface that lets you manage your drive and register your drive with WD.

WD Smartware is part of the interface. WD Smartware lets you download your data from social media platforms. WD Drive Utility which is like Disk Utility. It’s unlikely you’ll use this software on a Mac. But if you’d like to learn more take a look at this post on the site. What is Discovery (Do I Need it, Should I Install On Mac?).

WD Elements Mac Not Recognized

If you’ve plugged in your WD Element hard disk and your Mac seems to do nothing. It doesn’t seem to recognize it.

1. Try another port on your Mac.

2. Shutdown and restart your Mac to see if that clears the problem.

3. Check your USB cable. A bad USB cable can cause your WD Elements drive not to show up.

4. Make sure you’ve picked show ‘External Disks’ in your Finder Settings or Preferences window.  (See how in the WD Elements not Showing Up section above).

WD Elements Format For Mac Error

Getting an Error when formatting with Disk Utility?

Be sure you’ve selected your WD Elements drive at the right level in the Disk Utility screen. See Step 3 and picture above.

If you’re still having a problem with the erase on your Mac then watch this video. The text is a little small but the video is incredibly useful. The instructions you type into your Mac’s Terminal window are:

diskutil list

Followed by:

diskutil unmountdisk force (paste in the copied item here).

Here’s the video.

Erase Process has failed. Click Done to Continue

Video Credit: Tech & Design

In Closing

Have you found this formatting WD Elements for Mac article useful?

While you’re here do feel free to take a look at the other WD Elements documents I have on the site.

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WD Elements Time Machine, Turn ON Your Backup


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the tutoriel. Unfortunately I’m stuck at the 6th stage. I can’t erase. there is a failure message that comes saying : erasing can’t be done because disc can’t be remove.
    Can you please help me ?
    I dont’know what to do 🙁


    Kind regards,

    1. Hi, This sort of issue typically comes up when you haven’t set Disk Utility to show you the 2 levels. The disk and volume. You set that back in step 2. And / Or you’re not clicking on your Elements drive where it appears right under the External heading. This is step 3. You need to see the 2 levels and then click on your drive at the first level. Then these sorts of odd errors with formatting goes away.

  2. THANK YOU!! Keeping up with technology is difficult for me and this tutorial is exactly what I needed.

  3. Seriously, I only wish all guides online are as concise and helpful and clear as what you’ve published here. It really helped massively, I can’t thank you enough for the hard work you’ve published here, I owe you big time!

  4. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the author for all of this hard work and clear instructions you put into this article. I am so glad I stumbled onto this page and it solved my problem. God bless you tremendously!!! Your information just saved me time, money and frustration. You did well!

    1. Michelle thank you so much for your kind words. I’m just glad this article helped you out.

  5. Massively helped me out today! Had no idea why I couldn’t use my Elements SE hard drive until you helped explain it in great depth – thank you for ending my tech-related suffering today!

  6. Thank you. It takes a while to put together these posts and it’s heart warming to hear they are appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment. Appreciated.

  7. Hello,
    I have to write to give major HIGH praises for Simon Irons for how great of a job they did on explaining the steps of formatting the external drive for a MAC.

    Seriously-I wish all “how-to” instructions with tech things were this good. I felt as if Simon was sitting right next to me guiding me on each step with great detail and visuals. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sincerely,

Comments are closed.