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

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Not every USB drive can be used with a Mac out of the box, you'll need to format the drive to compatible with the MacOS extended file system. If you want to ensure full Mac compatibility on your USB drive or flash disk, just read this article. And you will find two ways which will teach you how to format a USB drive to FAT32 on Mac, including Disk Utility and Terminal command. And if you lost your important data because of formatting, you can use data recovery tool to recover data from a formatted USB drive on Mac.

What You Should Do First Before Formatting USB Drive on Mac

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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

Users perhaps format a USB drive by mistake. Only after formatting it, they would realize that they had lost important data. If you don' t have a backup for data, then you can recover lost data from formatted USB drive on Mac with this trusted data recovery software - iMyFone AnyRecover. You can now recover all kinds of data from formatted USB drive on Mac with only 3 simple steps.


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Features of iMyFone AnyRecover:

- Your Comprehensive Mac Data Recovery Solution

You can get back your lost photos, videos, documents, compressed files, and numerous kinds of data from formatted USB drive easily.

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: formatted drive, 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.

It supports data recovery on all types of USB drives. It also supports file formats like NTFS, HFS, FAT, exFAT, etc.

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Follow the next steps to recover data after formatting USB flash drive on mac:

Step 1: Make sure you have connected your USB drive to your Mac successfully. Launch AnyRecover software on your system and select the formatted USB drive you are trying to recover from. And press the “Start” button to start the scanning.

select a location

Step 2: The software will automatically begin the scanning process. This can help you recover your lost data from your formatted USB drive.

scan external drive on mac

Step 3: 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.

preview and recover


USB storage devices have become very popular these days because they are a very convenient way to store and transfer data. However, there could be times when you formatted disk, accidentally deleted files, your storage device could become damaged, or you could end up with data corruption due to operating system failures, viruses, software malfunctions or other problems that cause damage to your data stored on your USB storage device. If it is the case, do not panic, Just download iMyFone AnyRecover to get your lost data back quickly and easily.

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By  Alva Doris , to Hard Drive Recovery

Posted on May 31, 2019  ( Updated: May 28, 2020 )

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