How to Format a Drive or Partition with the HFS+ File System

This brief guide will show you how to use Disk Utility to format a drive or partition with the HFS+ file system. It’s worth noting that starting with Mac OS High Sierra (10.13), Apple will switch to the new APFS or Apple File System. Considering HFS+ has been around since 1998, it’s about time for a refresh.

If you’re formatting a USB drive (external hard drive or memory stick), memory card, etc., make sure it’s plugged in. This tutorial will use a USB thumb drive as the example. Launch Disk Utility by selecting Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility. Or you can press the CMD + Spacebar key combo to open Spotlight search and type in Disk Utility.

Select the drive you want to format from the list on the left. Important: Make sure to select the correct drive. You do not want to format the incorrect one, as formatting will erase all the data on that drive. Any external drive will always be listed under the heading External in the left pane.

Note that you can either click on the name of the drive (Media in the example) or you can click on one of the partitions (Data in the example). If you want to reformat the entire drive and remove all partitions, make sure to click on the drive listed at the top of the tree. If you only want to format a specific partition, then select that one.

Click the Erase button to bring up the erase media dialog. Here you’ll have the options to give your drive a name, choose the format and choose the partition scheme. For our purposes, make sure to select OS X Extended (Journaled) for the volume format. If you would also like to enable encryption, you can also choose the (Journaled, Encrypted) option.

For Scheme, you can choose between GUID Partition Map, Master Boot Record or Apple Partition Map. The default should be GUID and you should leave it at that value if you don’t plan on using the drive as a bootable drive. The only time the scheme matters is when you want to boot from the device. Choose GUID to boot OS X (Intel), MBR to boot Windows/Linux and Apple to boot OS X (PPC).

Click Erase and the process will automatically start. The disk will be unmounted first, erased, formatted and then remounted.

You can view details of the process by expanding the arrow next to Show Details. In the Disk Utility window, you should see more detailed information about the formatted drive.

In addition, you drive will appear on the desktop with the name that you assigned to it. If you get the info on that drive (select the drive and press CMD + I) you’ll see that it’s formatted as HFS+ (OS X Extended – Journaled).

That’s about all there is to it. Note that when you try to connect this drive to a Windows machine, you’ll get an error message stating that “The volume does not contain a recognized file system” and you’ll be asked to format it. OS X allows you to view data stored on a Windows formatted drive, but unfortunately, Windows has no support for HFS+. Enjoy!

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