2020 Full Guide on How to Format a USB Drive to FAT32 on Mac

Not every USB drive can be used with a Mac out of the box, you’ll need to format the drive to the MacOS extended file system. You pretty much know that it is a difficult process. Here’s all you need to know about formatting a USB drive on Mac. If you want to ensure full Mac compatibility on your USB drive or flash disk, follow the easy steps below.

What You Should Do First Before Formatting USB Drive on Mac

Yоu hаvе tо be sure that уоu know whаt уоu are doing whеn you execute thе соmmаndѕ thаt because you саn еrаѕе your еntirе hаrd drivе if уоu do this wrоng.

The only way to be sure of the content you are formatting is to first remove the USB drive from Mac, know the title of other storage disks, insert the USB disk again and note the name of the disk. Now you are sure not to be formatting a wrong disk this way. Next, drag the USB data to a safe location for backup/recovery measures before formatting it. Then you are set to get it done!

Which File Format to Choose When Formatting USB Drive on Mac

For PCs operating on macOS High Sierra or newer version, you can select from two options of file formats: Mac OS Extended and APFS. Here is the difference, APFS format is not compatible with macOS versions older than High Sierra. Therefore, if you are sure to still insert your USB driver on older versions of macOS, then you should consider formatting as Mac OS Extended.

Also, if you are to use the USB drive as a destination for Time Machine, you should consider reformatting to Mac OS Extended as Time Machine cannot back up an APFS disk.

How to Format a USB Drive to FAT32 on Mac

As earlier stated, you need to first back up your USB drive before formatting the drive as you may not be able to recover the contents again. Now, you can follow the steps to be highlighted below to get it successfully formatted.

1Format a USB Drive to FAT32 in Mac OS with Disk Utility

Step 1. Insert the USB to be formatted to a Mac PC.

Step 2. Navigate to Applications > Utilities, and click it twice to open it.

open disk utility

Step 3. Select the drive you want to format and click on Erase.

Step 4. Rename the USB drive (optional), and choose the MS-DOS(FAT) for format.

Step 5. Then select Master Boot Record for scheme, hit Erase.

erase usb drive

Step 6. Once the process is done, you are ready to reuse the drive with FAT32 file system to save data again.

2Convert/Format USB Drive to FAT32

Step 1. Connect the USB drive to your Mac PC.

Step 2. Click on cmd + space to run spotlight, input terminal then tap Enter key.

enter terminal

Step 3. Type diskutil list to find the location of your UB drive (eg: dev/disk2 is the USB drive in the below picture).

Step 4. Type sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT32 MBRFormat /dev/disk2.

  • sudo gives you user right.

  • Diskutil calls disk utility program.

  • eraseDisk commands to format.

  • FAT32 sets the file system.

  • MBRFormat tells disk utility to format with a Master Boot Record.

  • /dev/disk2 is the location of the USB drive.

format usb drive

After the process completes, type diskutil list in command once more to check if the USB drive has been formatted successfully.

If succeeded, you can use the USB drive with FAT32 file system to store data again.

How to Recover Lost Data after Formatting a USB Drive to FAT32 on Mac

If уоu have forgotten to extract files before formatting your USB drive to FAT32 on Mac, how can you restore your lost files? Here comes in handy the iMyFone AnyRecover.


1,000,000 + Downloads

Features of iMyFone AnyRecover:

- Your Comprehensive Mac Data Recovery Solution

Recover all sorts of files including photos, videos, audios, documents, etc.

Retrieve data from MacBook, any internal or external storage media: memory card, USB drive, virtual disk, HDD, SSD, and so on.

Resolve all data loss situations: drive formatted, trash emptied, partition lost, accidental deletion, virus attack, hardware failure and other cases.

It allows you to preview scanned files before recovery and select what you want to restore.

High success rate and 100% safe to use.

Try It FreeTry It Free

Here are the Steps to be Taken

Step 1: Launch AnyRecover software on your system and select the “Formatted Disk Recovery” mode. This can help you recover your lost data from your formatted USB drive.

anyrecover home mac

Step 2: Select the hard drive or external drive you are trying to recover from. Then click “Next”.

formatted disk location mac

Step 3: Click on the file type you want to recover and then press the “Scan” button to start the scanning.

formatted disk recovery select file type mac

Step 4: The software will automatically begin the scanning process. If you are unable to find your lost files, repeat the same steps selecting “All-Around Recovery” method.

all round recovery scan complete mac

Step 5: Immediately after the scanning process is complete, the software will list all the files in their respective file formats and folders. Tick on and confirm what you are going to recover, then click on “Recover” button.

formatted disk recovery scan complete mac


USB storage devices hаvе bесоmе vеrу рорulаr thеѕе days because thеу аrе a vеrу convenient wау tо ѕtоrе аnd transfer data.  Hоwеvеr, thеrе could bе timеѕ whеn you formatted disk, ассidеntаllу dеlеtеd filеѕ, your storage device соuld bесоmе dаmаgеd, оr уоu could end uр with dаtа соrruрtiоn duе tо operating ѕуѕtеm failures, viruѕеѕ, ѕоftwаrе malfunctions оr оthеr рrоblеmѕ thаt саuѕе dаmаgе tо your dаtа ѕtоrеd оn уоur USB storage dеviсе. If it is the case, do not panic. Just download iMyFone AnyRecover to get your lost data back quickly and easily.

Try It FreeTry It Free

+ View all all the comments and join the discussion


By  Alva Doris , to Hard Drive Recovery

Posted on May 31, 2019  ( Updated: Dec 16, 2019 )

Related Articles: