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Formatting a USB stick on OS X for data interchange with Windows and Linux


There's sometimes the need to transfer data from a Mac to a PC, using a USB memory stick or similar "light" media, or to re-format an SD or SDHC card for use with a digital camera.

In all these cases, the disk needs to be erased in the MS-DOS FAT format.

The problem is that Mac OS doesn't make this easy to accomplish.

Thus, here's my little guide to get this right:

Formatting a disk in the common FAT format.

This assumes you're using Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.

  • Launch Disk Utility (inside Applications, Utilities).
  • Insert the disk you want to format.
  • Select (click on) the disk in Disk Utility's left list. It might be named something like USB Flash Disk Media.
  • Now the right side of Disk Utility should show tabs as follows: First Aid - Erase - Partition - RAID - Restore.
  • Choose (click on) Partition.
  • Set the popup menu below Volume Scheme to 1 Partition.
  • Click on the Option button below and make sure the Master Boot Record partition scheme is chosen.
  • When finished, go ahead to format the disk with the Apply button.

Verifying that the disk is readable on PCs and in digital cameras

  • Insert the media, e.g. the USB stick.
  • Launch Disk Utility
  • Select the media in Disk Utility's left side list.
  • At the bottom of Disk Utility's window, under Partition Map Scheme, it should say: Master Boot Record. If not, re-format the disk as outlined above.

Page last modified on 2012-12-04, 16:20 UTC (do)
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