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Make sure you have a current backup if you intend to keep any data already present on the drive. The process of formatting a drive is often confused with erasing a volume.

Format a Mac's Drive Using Disk Utility (OS X El Capitan or Later)

The difference is that formatting affects an entire drive, including any volumes and partitions that have been created on it, while erasing a volume affects just that volume, and doesn't destroy partition information. That being said, the version of Disk Utility included with OS X El Capitan and later actually doesn't use the word format; instead, it refers to both the formatting of a drive and the erasing of a volume with the same name: So, while we're going to be formatting a drive, we'll use Disk Utility's Erase command.

Which format to use in MacOS Disk Utility

That's all there is to the basics of formatting a drive using Disk Utility. Remember, the process outlined here creates a single volume using all available space on the selected drive.

Disk Utility for macOS Sierra: Erase a volume using Disk Utility

Also be aware that the Format and Scheme types listed in the Erase option of Disk Utility will have changes as time goes on. Share Pin Email.

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Tom Nelson has written hundreds of articles, tutorials, and reviews for Other World Computing and About. He is the president of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Updated November 15, Warning The process of formatting the drive will erase all data currently stored on the device. From the left-hand pane, which contains a list of drives and volumes connected to your Mac, select the drive you wish to format.

Drives are the top-level devices, with volumes appearing indented and below the drives. Drives also have a disclosure triangle next to them that can be used to reveal or hide the volume information.

Disk Utility for macOS Sierra: Erase a volume using Disk Utility

A panel will drop down, warning you that erasing the selected drive will destroy all data on the drive. Yes, there is. Erasing a disk deletes all its volumes and files.

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  6. Erasing a volume deletes all the files on that volume, but does not affect other volumes. Be sure to write down the password and keep it safe: Secure erase options are unavailable for flash drives because Apple recommends turning on the more secure FileVault disk encryption when you start using an external SSD drive. The Fastest option does not securely erase the files on the disk, meaning a disk-recovery app may be able to recover them.

    The next option writes a pass of random data and then a single pass of zeros over the entire disk while erasing all information used to access your files. As mentioned, erasing the disk reformats it completely.

    How to erase and format external disks on Mac