How to Format a Western Digital External Hard Drive to Work With Both a PC & a Mac

By Ken White

Portable external hard drives like those made by Western Digital make it simple to transfer files between computers and are available in sizes that rival internal hard drives. However, if you want to transfer files between a computer running the Windows operating system and one running Mac OS X, incompatible drive formats can make it difficult. The exFAT file format, also known as FAT64, is compatible with both operating systems, so you can format your external drive with it from Windows or Mac.

Format exFAT in Windows

Step 1

Connect your external hard drive to your Windows computer. Open Windows Explorer or click “Computer” in the Start Menu.

Step 2

Right-click your Western Digital external hard drive and click “Format.”

Step 3

Click “exFAT” from the “File System” drop-down menu. Type a name for the drive in the “Volume Label” text box. Click the “Quick Format” check box. Click “Start.” Click “OK.”

Format exFAT in Mac OS X

Step 1

Connect your external hard drive to your Mac. Click the “Applications” stack on the Dock, click the “Utilities” folder and click “Disk Utility.”

Step 2

Click the Western Digital external hard drive in the list of drives to highlight it. Click the “Erase” tab.

Step 3

Click “exFAT” from the “Volume Format” drop-down menu. Type a name for the drive in the “Name” text field. Click “Erase.” Click “OK.”

Tips & Warnings

  • To use the exFAT file system, you must have OS X 10.6.5 or a newer version on your Mac. Computers running Windows Vista or Windows 7 can use the exFAT file system.
  • For earlier versions of Windows or Mac OS X, you can format your external drive with the FAT32 file system. When using FAT32, you can't put a file larger than 4GB on the drive because the file system doesn't support it.