Format WD My Passport for Mac, 10 Quick Steps

By Simon Irons / July 22, 2019
Format WD My Passport For Mac

Have you got a new WD My Passport drive?

Not sure how to set it up on your Mac. Or are you thinking about buying one.

Or do you have an existing drive and you need to find out how to reformat WD My Passport for Mac.

You want to know will it work on your Mac. Can you make WD My Passport compatible with Mac?

The answer is yes!

Don’t worry in 10 quick steps I’ll tell you how to format WD My Passport for Mac.


Do I need to Format My WD Passport for Mac?

It depends.

One of the first things for you to know is that there are two main versions of this external hard drive.

WD My Passport NTFS Version

The first is NTFS preformatted and is simply called simply WD My Passport.

And it is the cheapest version of the WD My Passport external drives to buy.

NTFS is a hard drive format (also referred to as a file system). It is designed to plug into a Windows PC. 

From a Windows PC, you can write your documents on to it and store whatever you want.

WD My Passport Blue
WD My Passport Blue

You can view the WD My Passport NTFS version here on Amazon.

The WD My Passport drive in NTFS format is readable by a Mac. But you can’t update the documents on there or store documents using your Mac.

Don’t worry it is easy to change the NTFS file system. With a little bit of know how and a few clicks of your mouse and of course this article.

WD My Passport For Mac Version

The second version the WD My Passport hard drive comes in a ‘for Mac’ version.

This means it comes from the factory preformatted to HFS+ (Hierarchical File System)

WD My Passport Black
WD My Passport for Mac Black

I have a review article here on the site that goes into more detail on the WD My Passport for Mac. Why not take a look.

HFS+ and Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system are one and the same thing. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system is how it’s referred to on your Mac. And you’ll see the name within your Mac’s menus.

WD My Passport for Mac is made to be ‘plug and play’.

Plug the external hard drive into your Mac and use the drive.

You pay extra for this preformatting convenience. And in my experience I have sometimes found that you end up reformatting anyway because.

Well a Mac is a Mac and is sometimes precious about its external hard drive. Your Mac may prefer the drive formatted by a Mac …

You’ll need to format the NTFS version of WD My Passport to use it on a Mac. And the WD My Passport for Mac you ‘may’ need to format depending on how your Mac feels about it. So why not save yourself some dollars and go for the cheaper NTFS formatted version.

Formatting WD My Passport for Your Mac

If you’re impatient to get on with the formatting, you’ll find the instructions below. Below the step by step walk through you’ll find some advice. Advice that is useful to know before you format your My Passport drive.

If you have time they are worth a read.  

These instructions are for the Mac OS Sierra operating system version on your Mac. Or later releases.

For earlier releases of Mac OS, the instructions are the same. Your screen’s menus may look a bit different so bear that in mind.

One thing before I take you through the steps of how to format your WD My Passport for Mac.

Formatting the WD My Passport will erase any existing documents on the hard drive. If you have files on the My Passport drive and you want to keep them. Copy them off first.

For example, when you buy the My Passport drive it comes loaded with Windows PC software. The software is for and works on a Windows PC.

If you plan on using that software, copy onto a Windows PC before you format the drive.

If you have some of your personal files you’ve stored from a Windows PC, Copy them off. Copy them onto a Windows PC before you format, or you will be in a world of trouble trying to get them back again …. and you may not.

How to Format WD My Passport for Mac

Let me show you how to Format WD My Passport For your Mac. And if you need to reformat your WD My passport for your Mac.

You follow the same steps.

You’lI find below the ten quick steps, using words and pictures. There is a video at the end you can watch as an extra resource.

1. First power up your Mac, log in and connect up your WD My Passport drive.

Not sure how to this? Then go to my document here and find out how

2. The WD My Passport drive will appear as an icon on your desktop.

External Drive Icon On Desktop
External Drive Icon on Desktop

If for some reason the My Passport drive doesn’t appear it may well show up in the next step.

3. Start up the Disk Utility application.

You do that by clicking on spotlight search

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Typing in Disk Utility and double clicking.

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search
Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

4. You will see on the left hand side of the window your Internal and External hard drives listed.

Internal and External Drives List
Internal and External Drives List

Clicking the arrow under the headings will expand or contract the list.

List Arrow

You’ll find your WD My Passport drive under the “External” heading on this list.

If it hasn’t appeared, it may well be that your Mac’s USB port has gotten confused. A shutdown and restart of your Mac plus a reconnect of the drive should sort that out.

If it hasn’t, it may well be that your Mac’s USB port has gotten confused. A shutdown, restart and reconnect of the drive should sort that out.

5. Select the WD My Passport in the external hard drive list.

Be sure you are selecting the external drive – important.

Also select the drive at the top level of the hierarchy. You can experience problems formatting the drive if it is not selected at the right level. Double check.

Select Drive At The Right Level
Select Drive At The Right Level

6. Head to the top of the Disk Utility screen and select Erase.

Remember formatting the hard drive erases the existing data on the drive. Copy off any files or documents you want to keep first!

Select Erase
Select Erase

7. A pop up window will appear.

There you can select the file format you’d like your Mac to write onto the My Passport external hard drive.

WD My Passport Set Format Popup
WD My Passport Set the Format Popup

First give your drive a name. I suggest you give a name to reflect the use you are going to put the hard drive to.

The up and down arrows to the right hand side of the format option allows you to choose a format for the whole disk.

Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled). This is the file system you’ll want for your Mac. It’s perfect for copying and pasting your documents to. And for using the external hard drive for backup with Time Machine.

File System Formats
File System Formats

8. Once you have entered a name and selected a format.

Click on Erase. The formatting of the My Passport external hard drive will start.

It may only take a few seconds or a minute or two depending on the hard drive size.

9. Once done dismiss the Disk Utility screen.

Your newly formatted WD My Passport drive icon should now appear on your desktop. And your drive is ready for your Mac to use.

Formatted WD My Passport Drive on Desktop
Formatted WD My Passport Drive on Desktop

10. When you’re finished using your My Passport drive, always remember to eject.

You need to do this before you pull out the USB cable.

To Eject the WD My Passport drive from your Mac.

You do this by right clicking on the external hard drive icon on your desktop. Then you select Eject from the menu.

Right Click to Eject External Drive
Right Click to Eject External Drive

And there you have it, the format or your WD My Passport for Mac in 10 quick steps.

YouTube Video Covering the Format of WD My Passport for Mac

This video from Acquevara will show you the formatting of an external hard drive on a Mac using Mac OS Sierra. You can watch the video along side using my notes above for extra help.

WD My Passport External Hard-drive Set Up Guide for Mac

Images and Video Credit: Acquevara

Some Advice you may Find Useful before you Format WD My Passport For Mac

What do you plan to use the WD My Passport Drive For?

Pause a few minutes. Before you go ahead and format your shiny new drive, think about your planned use.

For example are you thinking of:

  • A place to save your documents?
  • Using the My Passport drive as your Time Machine backup disk?
  • Do you plan to share files with Mac and a PC?

If you’d like to share your documents between your Mac and your Windows PC, I have a document for you. “Easily Use Your WD My Passport For Mac And Windows in 7 Steps” head over and take a read.

Saving documents and Using WD My Passport on a Mac

You can drag and drop, copy and paste files from your Mac’s internal drive to your WD My Passport Drive.

Remember though, if your intension is to free up space on your Mac. And the only copy of your documents now lives on the My Passport drive. What will you do if something happens to that drive?

You would loose your documents.

So think about getting a second external hard drive. Just in case. You may want to check this document out “How to Use WD My Passport For Mac 5 Ways No Anger” for further knowledge.

One other thing to note. Formatting uses up space on a hard drive. When you work out how much space you’ll need and your total figures are close to the hard drive capacity. You should think of buying the next size drive up.

That way you’ll make sure you have the room you need.

Partitioning WD My Passport for Mac

Would you like to create some partitions on your My Passport drive?

You can take a look at my article telling you how to partition WD My Passport here on the site via this link.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I format my Hard Drive for Resale?

You should be aware that:

The formatting procedure above will not stop someone using specialized data recovery software. And use that software to recover your documents from your old My Passport hard drive.

If you’re planning on reselling your hard drive you’ll need the formatting to go deeper.

When you format you should:

Go to Disk Utility and selected the erase option. Next click on the security button.

Format Security Options buttons
Format Security Options Button

Select one of the security options and format your drive using one of those options. It could take several hours to fully write over the drive.

It’ll be worth it.

As you’ll erase as much of your data as possible.

And at least you can rest easier. And know it will take way more effort to recover anything from your sold external hard drive.

2. How to set up encryption and a password to secure your My Passport hard drive.

WD My Passport has 256-bit AES hardware encryption. Along with password protection for the drive. The WD Security software controls and manages the hardware encryption.

You won’t find a copy of the WD Security software on the WD My Passport – non Mac.

But you can download the Mac version direct from the Western Digital website.

I personally prefer to use the options provided by Mac OS for encrypting my hard drive. And to use Mac OS to add a password.


Because, without the WD Security software installed. And accessible by your Mac, you will not be able to access your documents on the My Passport drive.

And when sharing the My Passport drive between several Macs, the software has to be loaded on those Macs as well.

Let me paint a situation for you.

Imagine your Mac has failed. And you’re desperate for your backup. But wait the backup you need is on the My Passport drive. And to get to that backup you need the WD Security software installed.

But your Mac is wiped. You need your Mac’s backup to get to the WD security software.

You see the problem?

You’re then in an almighty bind. And this exact situation has happened.

Mac OS will always recognize its own encryption and password methods.

You can encrypt your data. And set a password by selecting Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted) file system.

File System Formats
File System Formats

3. WD My Passport Erase Process Failed Error. What now?

Mac OS Sierra has a habit of sometimes producing this error.

Erase Process Failed
Erase Process Failed

It could be a Mac process is accessing the hard drive causing this error.

Check Time Machine auto backup is selected off.

Time Machine Auto Backup
Time Machine Auto Backup

Uncheck the check box and try again.

Often simply retrying the formatting clears the problem.

4. You’re having problems formatting an external hard drive since upgrading to High Sierra.

There have been quite a lot of discussions on various forums with many people having problems formatting hard drives. And this follows an upgrade to Mac OS High Sierra.

I am sure Apple will produce a fix soon. But in the mean time to format WD My Passport for Mac try these suggestions.

a. If the My Passport hard drive icon doesn’t appear on the desktop when you plug in. Go to Disk Utility and expand the external hard drive list there (step 4 above). If it shows up in the list go ahead and format.

b. Use a Windows PC to format the WD My Passport drive first to ExFAT then try again on the Mac.

c. Use a Mac with an older release of Mac OS to format the drive.

d. Download the WD Discovery software for Mac from the Western Digital site. This software allows you to check the disk health and you can format to HFS using that software.

There are other options which are more complex if the above have not worked for you. Check out my resources section below to see the discussion threads.

WD My Passport Erase Failed Additional Resources

Apple thread on High Sierra Problems

Mac Rumors thread on High Sierra Problems

You’ll find other documents on the site about the WD My Passport external hard drive.

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

WD My Passport Time Machine Insider Need to Knows

Do feel free to check it out.

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