How to Use Seagate External Hard Drive on Mac, 16 Ways

By Paul Gregory / October 10, 2019
How To Use Seagate External Hard Drive On Mac Title Image

What if something happened to your Mac and you didn’t have a backup? What if something happened to an important document on your Mac? Say you messed up one of your documents and needed to get it back. That’s when having a copy of your files on an external hard drive comes in.

When you’re considering using a Seagate on your Mac … you want to know. How do you use a Seagate external hard drive on your Mac?

You can read on and find out.

What Are the Ways to Use Your Seagate External Hard Drive on Your Mac

1. You can copy your documents, photos, movies. Anything you want onto one of Seagate’s external hard drives. Freeing up space on your Mac.

2. Use your Seagate and share your documents between your Mac and a Windows PC.

3. Use Time Machine and back up your Mac’s files to your Seagate. Keeping your files safe.




1. How Do I Make My Seagate Work With a Mac?

One thing you should know first. Seagate Technologies sell external hard drives that are formatted in different ways.

How does that matter?

You’ll find different formats. Also known as file systems. And these file systems or formats tell you how the drive is laid out.

How your Seagate external hard drive is formatted opens up. Or restricts what you can do with it on your Mac.

I’ll show you some examples.

Seagate DriveFormat
Seagate ExpansionNTFS
Backup Plus SlimExFAT
Seagate PortableNTFS


The other advantage of an ExFAT Seagate formatted external hard drive? Is a Windows PC understands ExFAT as well.

This makes ExFAT a great file system to have. Especially, when you want to share your Seagate drive between your Mac and a Windows PC.

But the downside of ExFAT is that you can’t use your Seagate drive for a Time Machine backup. Not without reformatting first.


But you won’t be able to change any of the documents or files on there.

You can only copy them off to work on them on your Mac.  This is because NTFS is a Windows file system.

You also won’t be able to use an NTFS Seagate drive for your Time Machine backup. You’ll need to reformat first.

2. How to use your Seagate Hard Drive and Put on a Mac File System

Apple made two file systems for Macs. 


When you’re planning to use your Seagate drive only for your Mac. There are a few reasons to reformat your drive this way.

Reason 1, your Mac can use a Seagate external hard drive formatted as HFS+ for a Time Machine backup.

So if anything happens to your Mac you can restore your entire Mac from a Time Machine backup.

Reason 2, when you accidentally delete a file you want, then you can bring that file back as well.

Only a Mac can read a HFS+ file system.

You can split up a large enough HFS+ Seagate drive. You call this partitioning. And it means you can have one section say for your Time Machine backups. And another section to copy and paste files to. 

You could even have a third section set up as ExFAT to share with a Windows PC.


Only another Mac can read APFS. But you can’t do a Time Machine backup to an APFS formatted drive.

You can find out how to format your Seagate external hard drive in a document here.

3. How do you Know which File System you Have on Your Seagate Drive?

When you plug in your Seagate external hard drive into your Mac you’ll see a drive icon on your Mac’s desktop.

Seagate Backup Plus Drive Icon
Seagate Backup Plus Drive Icon

Right click on your Seagate’s drive icon.

Right Click Get Info
Right Click Get Info

Pick ‘Get Info’ from the menu.

Then look down the list you’re shown till you get to Format.

Get Info Disk Format
Get Info Drive Format

If you see NTFS or ExFAT then you’ll know which kind of drive you have. And then depending what you plan to use your Seagate drive for you can decide.

4. Don’t want to Reformat your Seagate NTFS External Drive?

And you may not want to.

Because you’re using your Seagate NTFS external hard drive mostly for a Windows PC. And only sometimes on your Mac.

But you want to do more than just to copy the files off the drive and use them on your Mac. You want to put files back on the drive. Or updated the files on the Seagate drive.

There is another option.

Seagate themselves sell some of their drives with driver software.

What is driver software?

This is software you can download and run on your Mac. This software allows your Mac to change files on the Seagate NTFS external hard drive.

And as long as you have the software loaded. And you keep the software updated to match your Mac’s operating system you’ll be fine. And it may be a better option for you rather than reformatting.

You can learn more about using a Seagate NTFS drive without reformatting in my article here.

5. Plugging in Your Seagate External Hard Drive into Your MacBook Pro?

Or your MacBook Air or iMac.

Do you have a 2017 MacBook Pro or iMac? MacBook Air 2018? Then you’ll have a Mac with USB C ports on it.

And?

Many of the Seagate external hard drives are USB 3.0 drives.

So what?

They will work. But you’ll need to get yourself an USB micro B to USB C adaptor cable when you buy your Seagate drive. Or a USB A to USB C adaptor.

The Seagate Ultra Touch for example comes with a type A to USB C adaptor in the box.

The Thunderbolt LaCie Seagate external drives come with the right cable for your Mac.

But what if my Mac is older then that?

If your Mac has USB 3.1 ports you’ll also need an adaptor cable.

If your Mac is earlier than 2011. Then it’s likely to have a type A USB port and you can plug your USB 3.0 Seagate drive right into it.

The drive is able to work faster than your older Mac. But there’s backwards compatibility of the USB standards. And this mean your Mac will talk to your Seagate drive just fine. At USB 3.0 or 2.0 speed.

You can find out more information in an article here.

6. How to Use your Seagate External Hard Drive on MacBook Pro, Air or iMac

Power up, log into your Mac. Plug in your Seagate’s USB cable.

Your Seagate external hard drive connects to your Mac by its USB cable.

The Seagate portable drives receive their power from your Mac by the USB cable.

And that means you’ll have to have enough battery power in your MacBook. Enough to power your Seagate external hard drive.

If your battery is low you’ll need to plug your MacBook into power.

And if your Seagate is a desktop drive it’ll have its own power cable. Plug your desktop Seagate drive into power before connecting it up to your powered up Mac.

When your Seagate external drive is plugged into your Mac and has power its light will blink. And in a few moments your Mac will show the drive icon on your desktop.

Seagate Backup Plus Drive Icon
Seagate Backup Plus Drive Icon

No drive icon?

Open a finder window and check your Finder preferences.

Finder Preferences
Finder Preferences

Take a look at your finder preferences. And make sure the ‘Hard Disks’ and ‘External Disks’ menu options are checked.

Finder Preferences Show External Drive
Finder Preferences pick to Show External Drive

7. You can Give your Seagate External Hard Drive a New Name

Just click the text under your Seagate’s drive icon and type in a new name.

8. How to Open Your Seagate External Hard Drive on Your Mac?

Double click on your Seagate external drive icon. And you’ll open up a new finder window.

Seagate External Hard Drive Empty Finder Window
Seagate External Hard Drive Empty Finder Window

And there you have it. You’ve opened up your Seagate drive on your Mac.

9. Seagate’s Pre-loaded External Hard Drive Files for Mac

You may have opened a finder window on your Seagate External hard drive. And saw there is already something on there.  Particularly if you haven’t formatted your Seagate drive.

Seagate Technology puts some files already on your Seagate drive.

Start Here Mac
Start Here Mac

You can use those files to register your Seagate External hard drive for warranty. And to download Seagate’s programs.

Double click on ‘start_here_mac’. This is the file to use on a Mac.  The Seagate Dashboard will open up.

There you can register your Seagate Backup drive.

You can watch this 1 minute 52 second video. The video walks you through using start_here_mac to register your Seagate hard drive for warranty.

Toolkit for MacOS – First Time Setup

Video Credit: AskSeagate

10. How to Create a Folder on your Seagate Hard drive on your Mac

You can easily create new folders. And store your documents, photos whatever you want on your Seagate external drive.

Double click on your Seagate’s drive icon on your desktop. That will open up a finder window.

Click inside that finder window to select it.

At the top of your desktop pick File.  Then pick New Folder from the menu.

Finder Create New Folder
Finder Create New Folder

Click on your untitled folder and type in a name.

And there you have created a new folder on your Seagate hard drive. And you’ve learnt how to give your new folder a name.

11. How to Use Seagate External Hard for Drag and Drop On Mac

And how to copy and paste your files to your Seagate drive.

Now you’ve opened up a finder window on your Seagate External hard drive. You’re ready to put some files on there.

Drag and Drop from your Mac to your Seagate Drive

When you’re dragging and dropping your files. You’re moving the files from where they are on your Mac to your Seagate external drive.

It is the way to free up space on your Mac’s internal drives.

But, if these are the only copy of your files, you should have a copy of them somewhere else as well.  Maybe in a backup you’ve already taken of your Mac.

Or take a copy of your Seagate drive by cloning it to another Seagate external drive.

You can find out how here.

Open a second finder window on your Mac and move through your folders to the files you want to drag and drop. You can also drag and drop folders this way.

You can click on each one.

Want to choose more than one?

Hold down the shift key and click on the other files you want to choose.

Click and hold on the highlighted file(s). Move your cursor over to the window on your Seagate external drive. And when you see a highlight around the window lift your finger and drop them there.

If you’re dropping a lot of files. Or dropping a folder with a lot of files in it. it may take a while. Your Mac will show you a progress bar if there are a lot of files.

12. Copy and Paste from your Mac to your Seagate Drive

This is like dragging and dropping your files. But this time you’re take a copy of your files and putting them onto your Seagate drive.

Open up a finder window on your Mac. And move to the files you want to copy.

Click on the file. Or shift and Click to choose more.

Or you can use a selection window.

Click your cursor in an empty space near your files. Click and hold. Move your cursor across all the files you want to choose.

Create Selection Window
Create Selection Window

When all the files you want are highlighted. Look at the top of your finder window and click edit. Pick copy from the menu.

Finder Window Copy Files
Finder Window Copy Files

Your Mac will copy the files.

Move your cursor to the open finder window on your Seagate external hard drive. Click on that finder window.

Then at the top of your finder window click on Edit. And pick Paste from the menu.

Seagate Hard Drive Right Click Paste Files
Seagate Hard Drive Right Click Paste Files

Your Mac will take a few moments to copy the files across.

Example of Pasted files
Example of Pasted files

13. How to Delete Files on your Seagate External Hard Drive on Mac

When you want to delete some files from your Seagate external hard drive it’s easy.

You double click on your Seagate’s drive icon on your desktop. And open up a new finder window.

Click on each file or folder you want to delete.  You can use Shift and click to choose more files or folders.

Then you can just press the Delete key on your keyboard.

Or you can right click once you have picked the files and pick move to trash from the menu.

Right Click Move to Trash
Right Click Move to Trash

Once you have deleted your files. And to make sure you’re not left with ghost images of those files on your Seagate drive. Go to your Mac’s trash and empty it.

Empty Your Trash
Empty Your Trash

14. When You’re finished using your Seagate External Hard Drive on Your Mac

Before you pull out your USB cable or power down your desktop Seagate drive. Eject your drive first.

Your Mac holds information in its memory while you’re using your Seagate drive on your Mac.

To stop yourself corrupting your files on the drive. Always eject your Seagate external drive first.

You do this by right clicking on your Seagate’s drive icon.

Right Click to Eject
Right Click to Eject

And from the menu you choose Eject.

Wait a few moments for your Mac to write everything down to the drive from its memory.  And once the drive icon has disappeared from your desktop you can plug out your USB cable.

Wait for your drive to power down and then you’re free to move and put away your Seagate drive.

15. Using Your Seagate External Hard Drive for your Backups

You can use your Seagate external hard drive for your Time Machine backups. And keep a copy of your entire Mac should anything bad happen to your Mac.

You’ll first need to format your Seagate external hard drive to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.  As that is the file system your Mac uses for a Time Machine backup.

You can format your external drive using the instructions in an article here.

After formatting you connect up your Seagate hard drive to Time Machine.  Something that’s really quick to do. You’ll find an article on how to do it here.

16. How to Use your Seagate External Hard Drive on Mac and Windows

When you’ve bought a Seagate drive formatted as ExFAT. The drive is already set up for you to use on a Mac and a Windows PC.

You can use the instructions above to open the drive up on your Mac. You can drag and drop files to your Seagate external hard drive.  Copy and paste your files on the drive.

And use the same actions to take files off your Seagate drive onto your Mac.

Or you can start up a compatible program on your Mac.

Then open files put on your Seagate external drive by a Windows PC. And use them on your Mac.

Here are a couple of examples.

  • You can start up iTunes. And open MP3 files put on your Seagate external drive by a Windows PC. And iTunes will start to play them.
  • You can start up the photos app on your Mac. Open up a JPEG photo on the Seagate drive put on there by a Windows PC. And view them on your Mac. Or edit them on your Mac.
  • You can start up Excel on your Mac. Open up an Excel spreadsheet put on your Seagate external drive by a PC. And make your changes.

When you’re ready to plug out your Seagate be sure to Eject your drive before pulling out its USB cable.

You can take your Seagate drive over to your Windows PC and open up the drive there.

Just remember that you’ll need a program on the Mac or the Windows PC that can read those files.

And remember that Application programs are different.

You can’t swap them from a Mac to a Windows PC.  A program made for a Mac has to run on a Mac.

Just the same as a program made for a Windows PC has to run on a Windows PC.

Last Words

And now you know 16 ways to use your Seagate external hard drive on your Mac. Please have a look at my other Seagate documents on the site.

Seagate Expansion VS Backup Plus Who is on Top For Mac

Partition Seagate Backup Plus Shape so You’ll Love it on Mac

Seagate Backup Plus Time Machine, the Smart Way to Backup




Certain images are produced with permission from Seagate Technology.