Do you find yourself constantly switching between a Mac and a PC for work, school, or personal projects? You may have a Windows laptop for work but prefer using your Mac at home. Or perhaps you collaborate with others who use different operating systems.

Whatever the situation, wouldn't it be nice if you could simply plug in an external drive for PC and Mac to easily access all your documents, photos, videos, and other important files? No more emailing files to yourself or using clunky cloud storage services. Just one external drive that works seamlessly across both platforms.

In this guide, we'll walk through the entire process to share an external hard drive compatible with PC and Mac. We'll cover partitioning the drive, choosing the right file format, troubleshooting any issues, and protecting against data loss disasters.

Let’s get started.

In this article
    1. Section A: Partition Hard Drive in Windows
    2. Section B: Partition Hard Drive in macOS

How to Share External Hard Drive for Both Mac and PC?

Sharing an external hard drive between Mac and PC requires partitioning and formatting the drive properly.

While it may sound technical, this process is relatively straightforward and can be accomplished in just a few simple steps on each operating system.

Section A: Partition Hard Drive in Windows

While the process of partitioning an external hard drive compatible with PC and Mac compatibility may seem slightly more involved on Windows compared to macOS, Microsoft has made significant improvements in recent years to streamline the experience.

Let's go through the important steps you need to know to quickly partition the drive while working on Windows.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to your Windows PC via the appropriate cable (USB, Thunderbolt, etc.). Once connected, open the "Disk Management" utility on your Windows PC. You can quickly access it by searching for "Create and format hard disk partitions" in the Windows search bar.

open disk management tool

Step 2: In the Disk Management window, you should see your external hard drive listed as an unknown device with unallocated space. Right-click on this drive and select "Initialize Disk" if prompted.

initialize disk windows

Step 3: After initialization, right-click on the unallocated space and choose "New Simple Volume" from the context menu. This will launch the New Simple Volume Wizard.

create a new simple volume

Step 4: Follow the on-screen instructions. You'll need to specify the volume size (leave at maximum by default) and drive letter assignment. When prompted for the file system, choose either exFAT or NTFS.

icon note
Note: exFAT is recommended as it offers excellent cross-platform compatibility with large file size support. However, NTFS also works for sharing between Mac and PC if you enable extra support. You can enable extra support for NTFS write capabilities on your Mac by installing third-party software or command-line tools like NTFS-3G.
mention partition type

Step 5: Complete the wizard by clicking "Finish" to format the partition. Your external hard drive is now ready for use on both Windows and Mac!

Section B: Partition Hard Drive in macOS

Here comes the next crucial part in the process to share external drive for PC and Mac. Partitioning an external drive in macOS isn't quite as troublesome as the process in Windows. Apple has made it relatively simple to create multiple partitions on an external drive, ensuring compatibility with both Mac and PC systems.

Follow these simple steps to create an external hard disk compatible with Mac and Windows.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to your Mac. Once connected, open the "Disk Utility" application. You can find it by going to the /Applications/Utilities folder or by using Spotlight search on macOS.

Step 2: In Disk Utility, select your external hard drive from the left sidebar. Click the "Erase" button at the top of the window (don't worry, this won't erase anything yet).

disk utility mac

Step 3: A formatting window will appear. Here you can set the format and scheme for your external drive. For the format, choose either "exFAT" or "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". If you went with exFAT on Windows, select exFAT again here for full compatibility.

Step 4: In the "Scheme" field, make sure it's set to "GUID Partition Map". Give your external drive a name if desired, then click "Erase" to confirm formatting.

guid partition map macos

Once completed, your external hard drive is ready to use seamlessly between your Mac and Windows PC!

How to Recover Data from External Drive Formatted for Mac and Windows

When you create an external hard drive compatible with Mac and Windows, formatting process can lead to data loss. Without precautions and backup, you can rely on reliable data recovery tools like Wondershare Recoverit to retrieve your deleted or erased data.

One of the standout features that make Wondershare Recoverit an excellent choice for recovering data from an external hard drive shared between Mac and PC is its cross-platform compatibility. Whether you primarily use a Mac or a Windows PC, Recoverit can seamlessly scan and recover data from your external drive, regardless of the file system or formatting.

Wondershare Recoverit
  • Manages over 500 data loss situations, such as deletion, formatting, and disk corruption.
  • The user-friendly interface allows you to recover data in just a few clicks.
recoverit boxrecoverit logo

Here's how you can use Wondershare Recoverit to recover data from an external hard drive on either Mac or PC:

Step 1: Download and install Wondershare Recoverit on your computer (compatible with both Mac and Windows). Launch the Recoverit tool on your device and select the folder location for recovery.

launch wondershare recoverit

Step 2: Connect your external hard drive to the computer and let Recoverit detect it automatically. Recoverit will thoroughly scan your external hard drive for any recoverable data, including deleted files, formatted partitions, and even data from RAW drives.

scan results in recoverit

Step 3: During the scanning process, you can preview the recoverable files by category (documents, images, videos, etc.) to identify the ones you need to restore. Once the scan is complete, select the files or folders you want to recover by checking the appropriate boxes. You can also use the search function to locate specific files quickly.

select files for recovery

Step 4: Choose a safe location on your computer or another storage device to save the recovered data. Click the "Recover" button, and Recoverit will begin the data recovery process, restoring your lost or deleted files from the external hard drive.

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Note: Remember, the sooner you attempt data recovery after a loss incident, the higher the chances of successful retrieval.

Wondershare Recoverit's advanced algorithms and user-friendly interface make it an ideal tool for both Mac and PC users. This ensures you can easily recover your valuable data from external hard drives with ease.

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Tips to Seamlessly Share External Hard Drive on Mac and PC

  • Use exFAT or NTFS file system: Both exFAT and NTFS file systems are compatible with Mac and Windows, allowing seamless data transfer and access. However, exFAT is recommended for external hard drives as it works well with both operating systems and has fewer limitations.
  • Enable write support for NTFS on Mac: By default, Mac systems can only read NTFS-formatted drives. To enable write support, you can use third-party software or command-line tools like NTFS-3G.
  • Keep software updated: Ensure that your operating systems (Windows and macOS) are up-to-date with the latest software updates. This can help prevent compatibility issues and ensure smooth data transfer between platforms.
  • Use cloud storage services: In addition to external hard drives, consider using cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud Drive for seamless file access and sharing across multiple devices and platforms.
  • Safely eject the external hard drive: Always safely eject or unmount the external hard drive before disconnecting it from your Mac or PC. This helps prevent data corruption and ensures the integrity of your files.


External HDD for mac and windows has become an essential requirement in today's cross-platform computing environment. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily create a shared external hard disk for Mac and Windows.

Additionally, the tips and recommendations provided will help you seamlessly access and transfer data, ensuring a smooth and efficient experience. Remember to prioritize data backup and recovery strategies. If you want to get data back from formatted external drives, tools like Wondershare Recoverit can be invaluable in recovering lost or deleted files.

With the right approach, sharing an external hard drive between Mac and PC can streamline your workflow, enhance collaboration, and provide a centralized storage solution for all your important data.

Try Wondershare Recoverit to Recover Data from External Drive

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  • What hard drives are compatible with Mac and PC?
    Most external hard drives available on the market are compatible with both Mac and PC, as long as they are formatted correctly. Popular brands like Western Digital, Seagate, and Toshiba offer external hard drives that work seamlessly with both platforms.
  • What format of external hard drive for Mac and Windows?
    The recommended file system for external hard drives to be used with both Mac and PC is exFAT. exFAT is natively supported by both operating systems and offers compatibility, large file size support, and fewer limitations compared to other file systems.
  • Can I use an external SSD (Solid-State Drive) with both Mac and PC?
    Yes, external SSDs can work with both Mac and PC systems, just like traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). The process of partitioning and formatting an external SSD is similar to that of an HDD, ensuring compatibility across platforms.
David Darlington
David Darlington May 22, 24
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