Format WD Elements For Mac Title Image

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 WD 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.

And here you’ll find out how.

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

The answer is Yes!

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

You first need to get it ready for your Mac to use.

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 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 an adaptor cable.

Go take a look at my 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.

New Drive Icon On Desktop
New Drive Icon On Desktop

WD Elements Drive Not Showing Up?

You may need to set a couple of things in your finder window preferences.

Open up a finder window and select preferences.

Finder Preferences
Finder Preferences

Under the General tab, you’ll need to make sure you choose ‘External Disk’ in the preferences window.

Finder Preferences Show External Disks
Finder Preferences 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’ve in your Mac’s operating system a piece of 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 the drive again later, you use Disk Utility.

Warning: Formatting your WD drive will wipe anything on there. If you’ve files you want to use then copy them off first. Save them somewhere else before you format your WD Elements 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 Elements drive.

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

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 left of your Disk Utility popup window. Do you see the ‘View’ drop down menu?

Disk Utility View Option
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 drive at the top level. You can have problems with your Mac refusing to format your Elements drive if its 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 Format Pop up Window
WD Elements Format Pop up Window

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 WD Elements 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.

File System Formats
File System Formats


Mac OS Extended (Journaled) if you want to use your WD Elements drive to drag and drop files too.

This is also the option you choose if you want to use your WD Elements drive for a Time Machine backup.

Next make sure you pick GUID Partition Map for the Scheme.

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 Elements 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.

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 WD Elements drive in a format your Mac can read and write to.

And yes. You’ll need to format your WD Elements external drive 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.

You’ll find this option 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 have Mac OS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave or Big Sur. The way you format your WD drive for your Mac OS (operating system) is the same.

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

But you can be confident that Apple hasn’t changed the way you format an external drive on a Mac.

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. NTFS is plug and play on a Windows PC but not quite on a Mac.

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.

WD Elements Mac Not Recognized

If you’ve plugging in your WD Elements drive 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 ‘Hard Drive’ and ‘External Drive’ in your finder 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)

Erase Process has failed. Click Done to Continue

Video Credit: Tech & Design

How To Format WD Elements For Your 2017 Mac?

On a 2017 Mac you’ll have USB C (Thunderbolt) ports.  You’ll need a USB C to USB An adaptor as your first step to plugging in your WD Elements drive. 

Plugged in?

Then all the steps I have described above will work for you. Pay particular attention to step 2. Be sure your Disk Utility view is set to show drives and volumes. As this is a specific issue you might have.

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.

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 and PC Have your Drive for Both

WD Elements Time Machine, Turn ON Your Backup


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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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,

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