How to Format USB Stick on Mac

If you have recently switched from a Windows PC to an Apple computer, you are likely experiencing some minor glitches even during the most basic procedures. Windows and macOS are two different operating systems, so if you’ve always used Windows for years, Apple’s operating system may not seem so intuitive.

As we said, during the transition from Windows to macOS, even the most basic operations can seem complicated. If you were perfectly able to format a USB stick on Windows, this procedure might seem a little more difficult on macOS. But we assure you that this is not the case, just get used to it.

For this reason, we have decided to write a series of articles that will help you during the transition from Windows to Mac. This guide will focus on the procedure that allows you to format a USB stick on Mac.

Format USB stick on Mac

Let’s start by saying that by formatting a USB stick, you will delete all the files inside it and recreate a new file system. All this happens both on Windows and on macOS. So, before proceeding with formatting the Pendrive, back up the files inside the key and then take a few minutes to choose the file system that best suits your needs.

macOS file system

When you format a USB stick with your Apple computer, macOS allows you to choose between four different file systems:

  • Mac OS extended (journaled),
  • MS-DOS (FAT) , exFAT
  • Mac OS extended (case sensitive, journaled),

They seem acronyms written at random and difficult to understand, but we assure you that it is not that complicated. Here are the differences between the various macOS file systems :

Mac OS extended (journaled)

It is the file system developed by Apple, suitable for formatting the internal disk of the Mac, external hard drives, and USB sticks used with macOS. This file system on Windows and Linux allows reading but not writing. It supports partitions with a maximum size of 2TB and enables you to manage files with a maximum size of 2TB.

Mac OS extended (case sensitive, journaled)

It has the same functions as the file system seen above, but in this case, it can distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters (e.g., filename.png and filename.png). Many applications do not support this function.


The file system developed by Microsoft is compatible with most of the devices on the market. Highly recommended if you intend to format a USB stick for use on macOS and Windows or other devices, such as TV, car stereo, console, etc. It supports partitions with a maximum size of 32GB (2TB in theory) and does not allow you to manage single files larger than 4GB.


It is none other than the evolution of the FAT. Again, this is a file system compatible with most devices (older products may not support exFAT). The limits of FAT are greatly exceeded. exFAT supports degree partitions up to 128PB (petabyte) and allows you to manage files larger than 4GB.

If you plan to format a USB stick that you will only use on Apple computers, we recommend using the Mac OS extended (journaled) file system. For more compatibility, use MS-DOS (FAT). If you want to use the USB stick on Mac, Windows, and other devices, but you need to manage single files larger than 4GB, use exFAT.

How to format USB stick on macOS

At this point, it is time to move on to the practical part and finally see how to format a USB stick on Mac. Here’s all you need to do:

  • Insert the USB key you want to format in the Mac;
  • Press the keyboard keys CMD + SPACE to open the search with Spotlight, then type on the latter “Disk Utility” and press ENTER (alternatively, click on the Launchpad icon, present in the Dock bar, click on the folder ” Other “ and finally click on the ” Disk Utility “ icon );how to format USB stick on Mac
  • From the sidebar in the Disk Utility window, select the name of the USB key you want to format (if you only see the partitions, click on the “View” item at the top and then click on the “Show all devices” item );
  • Click on the “Initialize” icon ;
  • In the “Name” field, type the name to give to the USB key;
  • From the drop-down menu next to “Format,” select the file system you want to use;erase USB stick on Mac
  • Click on the “Erase” button.

At this point, in a very short time, macOS will format the USB key by deleting any files inside it and recreating the file system selected during the procedure described above.

Security options

Before you start formatting the USB stick, you can set the degree of security you want the USB drive to be formatted. In this way, you can decide how many times the data on the USB key will be overwritten to avoid a possible recovery of the latter. To do it:

  • Click on the “Security Options …” button ;
  • Move the cursor in the “Security Options” window, then click on the “OK” button.

This setting will affect the time it takes to complete the formatting of the USB stick. A very high degree of security will take much longer than a lower degree of security.


This is all you need to know if you want to format a USB key on your Mac. As you can see, this is not a complicated procedure at all. You need to know the right steps to complete the operation successfully in a few minutes.

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