But how to check?
You got an external drive.
Or bought one a while ago but can’t, no matter how hard you try, remember what format it was in.
You may have even formatted it already but can’t remember what you did.
Maybe you can only read the files on the external drive. But you can’t update them.
And someone said you’d better check the drive’s format.
How do you know if your external hard drive is formatted for Mac.
You’ve 4 quick ways. Read on and find out how.
How To Check The Format Of Your External Hard Drive On Mac, 4 Ways
1. Right Click on drive icon. Choose Get Info.
2. In a Finder Window. Right click on drive. Get Info.
3. Disk Utility, Pick your external drive at the 2nd level and view format under your drive’s name.
4. Disk Utility. After you’ve selected your external drive. Pick File, Then Get Info.
See more about how to do it below …
1. Method 1: Get Info On External Drive Icon
Plug your external hard drive into your Mac and wait for your drive’s icon to come up on your desktop.
Click on your drives Icon. Then right click.
From that menu choose ‘Get Info’.
The next pop-up screen tells you a lot about your external drive.
And the current format of your drive is one of those things. The picture above shows where.
Or watch this quick YouTube video it’s 27 seconds long.
Check Format Of External Hard Drive On Mac: Drive Icon Get Info
Video Credit: Mactakeawaydata
2. Method 2: Use Finder To Check External Drive Format
The next easiest way is to use your Mac’s finder window to check the format of your external hard drive.
When your external hard drive is plugged into your Mac open up a new finder window. Finder > File > New Window
Pick your external drive from the left hand side of the finder window. Right click on it and choose ‘Get Info’ The format of your external hard drive is on the list.
You’ll see it highlighted in the picture above.
Or you can watch this short 39 second YouTube video and see how to do it.
How To Find Out What Format My External Hard Drive Is Mac
Video Credit: MacTakeAwaydata
3. Method 3. Check External Hard Drive Format With Disk Utility
You can always check your external hard drive’s format using Disk Utility on your Mac.
Disk Utility is an Application on your Mac that you normally use to format an external drive. But you can check your drives format on it too.
Plug in your external drive. Then start up Disk Utility.
You can use Spotlight search and type in Disk Utility.
Or you can find it in your Applications folder under Utilities.
Start up the Disk Utility software on your Mac.
You’ll see on the Disk Utility screen down the left hand side a list of all the drives on your Mac. All your Internal and your External drives.
Click on your external drive at the second level. The first red arrow in the picture below shows you where.
And on the screen that comes up you’ll find the current external drive format. You’ll find it listed under the drives name.
The second red arrow in the picture shows where.
Or you can watch this YouTube Video. It’s a quick 42 seconds long
How Do I Know What Format My External Hard Drive Is On Mac: Disk Utility
Video Credit: MacTakeAwayData
Can’t see or click on your external hard drive at its second level?
Then you need to change Disk Utility to show you All Devices. As its likely set up to just show you Volumes right now.
Go to the top of your Disk Utility window. And pick View. Then from the view menu click on Show all Devices.
4. Method 4: Get Info Check in Disk Utility
Here’s another way of checking your external hard drive’s format in Disk Utility.
Have your external hard drive plugged in. Start up Disk Utility as before.
Click on your external hard drive at the second level.
Then from the Disk Utility controls at the top of your window, pick File. And from the menu that shows pick ‘Get Info’.
A pop up screen comes up and from that screen you’ll see your external drive’s format.
Or watch this 28 second YouTube Video.
How Do I Know If My External Hard Drive Is Formatted For Mac: Disk Utility
Video Credit: MacTakeAwayData
Why Is It Useful To Know The Format Of Your External Hard Drive On Mac
When you plan on using an external hard drive or SSD on your Mac it pays to know what format your drive is in.
Because your Mac will only read from certain drive formats. And can read and write your files to other formats.
And when you want to use Time Machine to backup your Mac or your Files. Then it’s worth knowing because Time Machine only backs up to a certain external drive format.
So What Are The External Drive Formats And Which Can You Use On Your Mac?
APFS, Apple File System – Is a format Apple created particularly for the faster SSD drives. Your Mac can read and write from APFS drives. But you can’t do a Time Machine backup to APFS formatted external drives.
HFS+, Hierarchical File System – Also known as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) File system has been around on Mac’s for several years.
Your Mac can read and write to HFS+ formatted external drives. And you can use HFS+ formatted external drives for a Time Machine backup.
ExFAT – Is a PC file system format but your Mac can read and write to ExFAT drives. But you can’t use Time Machine to backup to an ExFAT external drive.
The real beauty of ExFAT is that a Windows PC can also read and write files to an ExFAT drive. It’s the perfect file system to choose if you want to share files between a Mac and a Windows PC.
NTFS – Is a PC file system format. Your Mac can read NTFS formatted external drives but can’t write to NTFS.
And this means you can’t put files onto an NTFS formatted external drive. Or update files that are already on there.
But you can buy 3rd party driver software for your Mac. Or sometimes this software comes with the external drive. And that software translates for your Mac. So that your Mac can read and write to the drive.
But you won’t be able to do a Time Machine backup to an NTFS formatted external drive.
FAT32 – Is a very old PC file system that’s slow and has file size restrictions.
And it’s pretty insecure.
Macs can read and write to a FAT32 formatted external drive. But these days it’s not a recommended file system to use.
You can’t do a Time Machine backup to a FAT32 formatted external drive.
The good news is that any external hard drive can be reformatted on your Mac. So if you find yourself with a drive, and there are no files on there. You can reformat it to what you want.
And there’s an article on the site to tell you how. Click on the document link in Related Articles below.
About Paul Gregory
I’ve been a system administrator for various corporates for 15 years. And as admin I’ve helped many with their Mac’s and there many Apple devices.
I’m excited by watching users, armed with a little knowledge take control of their Mac’s and their files. And why not?
When I’m not at work or working on the site I like to chill with few beers. And watch a bit of car racing. From Formula 1 to stock car racing. The competition is my thing.