How to Format a Western Digital My Passport to Mac & PC

by Jeff Grundy

Users that own only one type of computer probably never think much about the file format used on their external hard drives. Windows users generally use the NTFS file system on all their drives, while most Mac owners use HFS. Because the two file formats are generally incompatible, you cannot use either one if you need to use an external drive with both types of platforms. Western Digital produces its My Passport line of hard drives for both Mac and PC systems, and the drives ship preformatted for the intended operating system. Nevertheless, if you own a My Passport drive and want to use it with both Mac and Windows, formatting the drive with the FAT32 file format enables you to do so.

Format in Windows

Connect the data cable to the Western Digital My Passport hard drive and to an empty USB port on the computer. Wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the My Passport drive and configure it as an expansion drive automatically.

Click the Start button, then "Computer" to open Windows Explorer. Click "Computer" in the Navigation Pane of the Windows Explorer window to open a list of installed drives and their drive letters on the right side of the window.

Locate the drive letter assigned to the Western Digital My Passport drive under the Hard Disk Drives header of the Windows Explorer window. Right-click the drive letter icon for the drive, then click "Format" in the pop-up menu.

Click the "File System" drop-down list in the Format Expansion Drive window, then select "exFAT" or "FAT32."

Type a descriptive name in the "Volume Label" field. You see the name you select here in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder above the drive letter for the My Passport drive. Enter "My Backup Drive" or some other descriptive name.

Choose the "Quick Format" option, then click "Start." Wait a few minutes for Windows to reformat the drive with the FAT32 use and prepare it for use. After formatting the drive, save or move files to it as you normally would.

Format in OS X

Connect the Western Digital My Passport drive to a USB port on the Mac computer, and wait for a few seconds for OS X to detect and mount the drive for use. After OS X mounts the drive, a new hard drive icon appears on the desktop.

Click Finder on the OS X Dock. After the Finder window opens, click "Go" on the menu bar and then "Utilities" to open the /Applications/Utilities folder in Finder.

Click the "Disk Utility" link in the Utilities folder window. After the Disk Utility application opens, click the icon for the My Passport drive in the sidebar.

Click "Erase" on the Disk Utility file menu. After the Erase dialogue window appears, click the "Volume Format" drop-down list and select "MS-DOS File System."

Click the "Security Options" button, then select the "Zero Out Data" option in the Secure Erase Options window and click "OK."

Click the "Erase" button and wait a few minutes for OS X to erase data on the drive and reformat it using the FAT32 format.

Use the drive in OS X as you normally would.


  • Formatting your My Passport drive for use with both operating systems erases and destroys any existing data on the drive. Therefore, ensure that you back up any important data you want to keep before formatting.
  • FAT32 supports large drive sizes up to 2 terabytes. However, the maximum file size supported by FAT32 is only 4 gigabytes. Consequently, the format is not suitable for saving high-resolution copies of movie or video files more than 4GB in size.

Items you will need

  • USB data cable

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Western Digital Passport