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How to format your drive ExFAT on macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) to macOS 10.15 (Catalina)


IMPORTANT: This article applies to the following macOS versions:

  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina)
  • macOS 10.14 (Mojave)
  • macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • macOS 10.12 (Sierra)
  • macOS 10.11 (El Capitan)

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

  • ExFAT is not compatible with Time Machine. Time Machine requires the drive to be formatted Mac OS Extended (Journaled) also known as HFS+
  • ExFAT drives must be safely ejected to prevent corruption because ExFAT is not a journaled file system
  • When using between macOS and Windows, drives should always be formatted on macOS because not all Windows allocation unit sizes (cluster sizes) are supported by macOS which will prevent the drive from mounting

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
    This option is not available or required on macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) or 10.12 (Sierra), proceed to step 3
  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 ExFAT

  7. Set Scheme to 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 the Erase button, Disk Utility will start formatting the drive

  9. Once complete, click Done

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