We think sometime in the near future, Disk Utility will have a name change; after all, the term disc, which refers to rotating magnetic media, will likely not be the primary storage method for Macs pretty soon.
How to erase a disk for Mac
But until then, we're going to use the term disc in a much broader definition, one that includes any storage media a Mac can use. Disk Utility supports many different functions, all involving one or more disks, volumes, or partitions. We're going to use Disk Utility to format a drive, regardless of the type.
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The formatting process will format the selected drive by creating a partition map, and apply an appropriate file system that your Mac can work with to the drive. While you can format a drive to contain multiple file systems, volumes, and partitions, our example will be for a run-of-the-mill drive, with a single partition formatted with the standard OS X Extended Journaled file system. The process of formatting the drive will erase all data currently stored on the device. Make sure you have a current backup if you intend to keep any data already present on the drive.
The process of formatting a drive is often confused with erasing a volume.
The difference is that formatting affects an entire drive, including any volumes and partitions that have been created on it, while erasing a volume affects just that volume, and doesn't destroy partition information. That being said, the version of Disk Utility included with OS X El Capitan and later actually doesn't use the word format; instead, it refers to both the formatting of a drive and the erasing of a volume with the same name: Erase.
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So, while we're going to be formatting a drive, we'll use Disk Utility's Erase command. That's all there is to the basics of formatting a drive using Disk Utility.
Remember, the process outlined here creates a single volume using all available space on the selected drive. Also be aware that the Format and Scheme types listed in the Erase option of Disk Utility will have changes as time goes on. Share Pin Email. Tom Nelson has written hundreds of articles, tutorials, and reviews for Other World Computing and About. Wait a few seconds for your Mac to detect the external drive and mount it automatically.
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Click the "Finder" icon on the dock. Double-click the device name of the external hard drive in the Devices list. Press "Command-A" to select all of the files and folders on the external hard drive, and then press "Command-C" to copy them to the clipboard. Click the system drive in the "Devices" list, and then select a folder in which to store the files from the external hard drive temporarily.
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Press "Command-V" to copy all of the files and folders from the external hard drive to the selected folder. Click "Applications" in the Places list of the Finder window. Scroll down to and double-click "Utilities.
How to erase a disk for Mac
Select the external hard drive in the left navigation pane. Click the "Erase" button, and then wait for OS X to reformat the drive with the new file system. Return to the Finder window, open the folder where you saved the files from the external hard drive and press "Command-A. Open the external hard drive in the Finder window, and then press "Command-C" to move the files and folders from the system drive to the external drive.
After you reformat the external hard drive using the Mac OS Extended Journaled file format, you will no longer see errors when copying files larger than 4GB. This article was written by the It Still Works team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information.