How to format a USB stick or device on a Mac computer?

If you have a USB device, such as a USB stick or an external hard drive connected via USB, you can format it.

Formatting means deleting all data on this USB device and rebuilding the structure.

There are different format structures in which you can format the USB device, each with advantages and disadvantages. I will explain all of these so you can make the right choice to format the USB device.

How to format a USB stick or device on a Mac computer?

To get started, open the Disk Utility. First, open Finder. Click on Applications, then Utilities, and open the Disk Utility.

Open disk utility in Applications folder on Mac

In the left menu in “External” search for the USB device you want to format and click on it.

Click on “Erase” to open the format settings in the top menu.

Erase USB in Disk utility

If you are going to erase the USB stick or any other device connected via USB, then enter the device’s name.

This is the name you can recognize on all devices you will connect the USB device to. Therefore, give it a clearly recognizable name.

Next, you see the Format. This is important as the structure determines where you can use the USB stick or device.

Format structures on Mac

There are several formats, each with its advantages and disadvantages. I will explain each structure.

Format options in disk utility

Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

This is also called HFS+. This is the default file system for Mac computers running macOS. If you used the USB device to do Time Machine backups, I would choose this file system.

Mac OS Extended (case-sensitive, journaled)

Same as “journaled” only with case sensitivity. That means a folder with “USB” is different from “Usb”.


This is one of the most widely used file systems. FAT is used on a Windows PC, a Mac, and Linux. It has one drawback: files placed on a USB device formatted as “MS-DOS (FAT)” cannot be more than 4GB in size each. So if you are going to use large files, this file system may not be suitable.


This should be the file system that most people use on a Mac. ExFAT as a file system works on all types of devices, Windows computer(s) and Mac. ExFAT also does not have a file size limit of 4GB (4000MB) like MS-DOS (FAT) does.

So I would recommend using ExFAT as the file system “format” and formatting the USB device as ExFAT.

Should you wish to erase the USB drive so that file retrieval or recovery is virtually impossible, click on “Security Options”.

Security options in Disk utility on Mac

Then change the slider from “Fastest” to “Most Secure”.

This way, you can prevent the erased data from being recoverable with system recovery apps. Click OK to confirm.

How to erase USB on Mac without a possibility to restore data

Select the desired structure and click “Erase” to erase (“format”) the USB device.

How to erase a usb device on a mac

I hope to have helped you with this. Thank you for reading!

Also read: Everything you need to know about CleanMyMac X in 2022!

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