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How to set up a flash drive for a Mac or a PC

Make sure both Macs and Windows PCs can read the flash drive if you need to use it with both. This is the proper way to format the drive.
Apple’s Mac ecosystem and Microsoft’s Windows share a lot of common ground, but the two platforms are only partially compatible. Data sharing is one such domain.

You could save information between the two parties via a network and devices like a NAS or fileserver, but this is only a practical solution for some.

Sometimes you’ll need to use external storage like hard drives or flash drives and physically transfer and rely on it to each device. This is especially the case in data-intensive tasks like video editing, where working locally can be significantly faster than doing so over a network.

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Despite appearances, you should know a few things before pursuing this route.

The file Files

While questions of hardware—such as which ports are available and how much money can be allocated for easy drives—should be easily resolved, there is another factor that may work confusion.

Windows and macOS have vastly different native file systems, and security and other factors prevent them from being used on the same machine.

For instance, if you use the NTFS file system—the one most recommended by Windows—to format a drive, your Mac will be able to read the industry but not write to it directly. In the same way, a Mac can read an APFS drive without any additional software, while Windows users will need some other tools to work the data.

Using exFAT, a file system meant to replace the obsolete FAT32 file system is the solution to this issue. Unlike FAT32, which has a limit of 4TB for individual files and 8TB for partitions, exFAT is designed specifically for use with flash media like USB flash drives and external hard drives.

The exFAT file system is supported natively by both Windows and macOS, allowing for bidirectional data transfer between the two operating systems.

Flash drives with 32GB or less capacities should  formatted in MS-DOS(FAT), while drives with larger capacities should use exFAT. However, it’s a good idea to remain using exFAT in such circumstances, especially because the prevalence of thumb drives with abilities below 32GB is declining.


Drives formatted in exFAT can be used on either macOS or Windows, regardless of whatever operating system was originally used to format the drive. Here are the steps for formatting the drive in both operating systems.

What steps must  taken to prepare a flash drive for use in Windows from within macOS

  1. Connect the drive to the Mac or a docking station’s available port. You may generally find it on your computer as a drive.
  2. Launch Disk Utility from the Launchpad or via Spotlight by pressing Command-Space and typing “Disk Utility.”
  3. Select the disk you just plugged into the Mac in the sidebar on the left.
  4. Click Erase from the menu bar and delete the content.
  5. Type a descriptive name for the drive in the Erase dialogue box, then choose ExFAT from the Format menu.
  6. In the event that a Scheme pull-down menu appears, select Master Boot Record.
  7. It’s time to delete those words with a click of the eraser. To finish, click the Done button.

Apple suggests choosing Master Boot Record for the Scheme option if you want your drive to be compatible with all Windows computers. You might alternatively utilize GUID Partition Map, albeit Apple cautions that it is only compatible with “certain modern” PCs and may not work properly on older PC configurations.

Generally speaking, Master Boot Record is the most Windows-compatible option for desktops. Even though there is a slim possibility of conflict, using a GUID Partition Map is an option.

Assuming you have successfully formatted a disk on macOS, you will see the following:
It’s time to unmount the drive normally, then connect it to a Windows computer to make that everything is working as it should.

Information on how to use Windows to format a flash drive for use with a Mac

  1. Connect the drive to the computer.
  2. Select This PC from the left pane of File Explorer.
  3. Right-click on the drive you want to format, and then select Format.
  4. Select exFAT as the file system in the Format window.
  5. Sizes of Allocation units, in which a file’s capacity divided, should be modest if there will many very small
  6. files. It’s fine to stick with the defaults if you need clarification.
  7. To enter the drive a label, click the “Volume Label” field and type in the desired name.
  8. Quick Format should be disabled if the drive contains confidential data and left enabled otherwise.
  9. Select the “Start” menu item, and then “OK” on the “Warning” dialogue box.
  10. After the format done, click OK to continue.

I am putting a drive through Windows’ formatting process.
If you want to ensure everything is working properly, you can unmount the drive and try it on a Mac.

Using a NAS or cloud storage is highly recommended.

The usage of flash drives or other external drives for file transfers or a shared data pool  possible but is not recommended.

If multiple users on your network need access to the same data simultaneously, consider investing in a NAS. With a NAS, everyone who needs access to the data can get it without sharing the virtual drive.

Furthermore, depending on the setup, you may have access to numerous big drives, which might increase storage capacity and act as a backup.

A flash drive comes in handy when you need to transmit data quickly, and there’s no other option. A network-based strategy is a superior option.

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