How to use any hard drive for a MAC or Windows-based PC

I hate it when I purchase hard drives and I have to remember: Oh wait this one is only for the Mac, or only for the PC.

So here’s my tip on how I make my hard drives work seamlessly with two operating systems.

You have to format it to “FAT32” so you can read, write or delete files off the hard drive.


Open up Disk Utility.

Select the drive you want to format

Click on “Erase” beside “First Aid” in the bar near the top.

Format it to FAT 32


You will notice that when you go to format a hard drive, it will give you two choices:

  1. exFAT — utterly useless, won’t work like FAT32
  2. NTFS — can only be used on PCs

What you’ll have to do is the following:

In “My Computer”, Right-Click on the external hard drive name and “Run as Administrator”.

Then type “CMD” to run Command Windows Prompt.

Now type the following command, replacing the X with the name of where your external hard drive is.

format /FS:FAT32 X:

Then type in the name for the volume.

Please for the love of all things cautionary, PLEASE DO NOT TYPE IN THE WRONG HARD DRIVE LETTER.

You have been warned.

Next, type Y as “Yes I want to format this external hard drive as FAT32”.

Now wait until it’s finished, and you will have a hard drive formatted as FAT32 that can be used on both a PC and a Mac.

Et voilĂ .

Give it a shot. I have all of my USB drives and a major hard drive formatted for the MAC and the PC so I can do anything I want on both.

Isn’t that great? 🙂

No need to pay through the nose for a “special” MAC-formatted hard drive.

You might also run into an error saying that it’s too big to format, or something like that.

Well thanks to Microsoft, anything over 32GB will get this message because FAT32 is inefficient and unable to be fast enough for them (*snort* looking at how they designed Windows itself, I’m quite amused at the irony).

So you have to use one of these two programs to format it as FAT32:

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.