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How to format your drive APFS on macOS


IMPORTANT: This article applies to the following macOS versions:

  • macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • macOS 10.14 (Mojave)
  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina)

The Apple File System (APFS) formatting option in Disk Utility is only available in macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) and higher. The following is based on the latest version of macOS.

It is important to keep the following in mind when formatting to APFS:

  • APFS is not supported for macOS versions prior to 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • APFS drives will not mount on macOS versions older than macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • APFS is only available when Scheme is set to ‘GUID Partition Map’, APFS will not be shown when Scheme is set to Master Boot Record – See Step 7
  • APFS is not currently compatible with Time Machine. Time Machine requires the drive to be formatted Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
  • Traditional hard drives can be formatted APFS, but Apple states that APFS is optimized for SSDs
  • APFS does not natively work with Windows. If you need to go between macOS and Windows then format your drive ExFAT

IMPORTANT: Reformatting the drive will erase all data on the drive, so you should copy any data you want off the drive prior to formatting.

  1. Open Disk Utility
    To open Disk Utility - Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility

  2.  Click View in the upper left and select Show All Devices

  3. Select the non-indented entry, you will see Media in the name

  4. Click the button labeled Erase in the menu which will bring up this window. 
    NOTE: If you don’t see scheme, then make sure that all devices are showing and the non-indented entry is selected. Check step 2 to confirm Disk Utility is Showing All Devices

  5. Provide a Name for the volume

  6. Set Format to APFS

  7. Set Scheme to GUID Partition Map
    Make sure that Scheme is set to GUID Partition Map and not Master Boot Record (MBR). If APFS is not available then the drive is in MBR and not GUID Partition Map.

    WARNING: Formatting the drive will erase all data on the drive, so you should copy any data you want off the drive prior to formatting.

  8. Click Erase, Disk Utility will start formatting the drive

  9. Once complete, click Done

  10. The drive should now be formatted APFS, this can be confirmed by selecting the indented entry which will now show APFS Volume under the name you provided