Format a thumb drive or disk in OS X 10.11 and later
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Format a thumb drive or disk in OS X 10.11 and later


#Format #thumb #drive #disk

This tip will show you how to format a pendrive or external disk using Disk Utility in the version of OS X 10.11, that is, El Capitan. The principle is the same for formatting a pendrive or an external disk.


  • To remember

  • Disk Utility Startup

  • Selection of physical support

    • The Delete button

To understand the differences between the different formats, Mac OS, FAT32, NTFS, ExFAT, etc., see this page.

To remember

For a hard drive or pendrive to be used in Windows, the partitioning scheme chosen must be in MBR format. For a Mac with an Intel processor to be able to use media as a bootable media, your partition map must be the schematic GUID. In order for a Mac with a PowerPC processor (old Mac type G3, G4 and G5) to use media as a bootable media, its partition map must be Apple partition table. If you installed Paragon NTFS for Mac, to manage the NTFS format, know that in OS X 10.11, it is no longer in Disk Utility that you will format in NTFS, but from the button NTFS present in the System Preferences.

Disk Utility Startup

The application Disk Utility is in the subfolder Utilities from folder Applications. Double-click the icon to start this utility. When opening Disk Utility we see a window that has a column on the left showing the internal disk as well as all the media connected on the tab External.

Example of this tip: my internal Hitachi disk and its working partition, called HD iMac in my case. A flash drive on the tab External from the Lear brand and its unique partition currently formatted in Mac OS Extended and with a capacity of 16 GB.

Note: be aware that we cannot see the rescue partition on the internal disk. The rescue partition is hidden in Disk Utility.

For the example, I will repeat the formatting of this pendrive at a low level, that is, change its partition map in MBR and the format of its partition in MS-DOS, then change this format in NTFS, if applicable (if my pendrive was only intended for use on the Mac, I would choose the GUID scheme and the Mac OS Extended format).

Selection of physical support

Here, I select the USB stick itself, not your existing partition.

The Delete button

The button Delete will allow you to replace the existing partition (or existing partitions) with a new partition, just select the partitioning map as well as the partition format, so this is the button I will use. To start, in my example, I choose the MBR scheme:



Then, I choose, still for this example, the MS DOS format. The NTFS format will be applied later using my Third Party Utility. And confirm with the button Delete and let the job be done. After that, I get my pendrive and its MS DOS partition. If, at this point, I decide to switch this USB stick to NTFS format, I open the System Preferences, since in my example, I use Paragon NTFS for Mac. The procedure can be different if we use a utility other than Paragon NTFS. Paragon NTFS will confirm that my flash drive is in MS DOS format. So, I choose the NT file system, which is the NTFS format and, if I want, I give this volume a name. I confirm with the button Delete and let the job be done. Ready!

This time, the pendrive is seen in NTFS format, in the MBR scheme; but at this stage, Disk Utility will only be able to act on the flash drive by deleting the existing partition. Good formatting!

Photo: © Glenn Carstens-Peters – Unsplash

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