How to Format APFS Drive to Mac OS Extended: A Step-by-Step Guide


Macs use APFS (Apple File System) which is the newest architecture implemented by Apple that offers the best suite of features, reliability, and security. While this is the newest version of Apple’s file system, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any reasons to not use an older file system such as Mac OS Extended. In this article, we’re going to look at how to format a hard drive to Mac OS Extended.

APFS vs. Mac OS Extended

APFS is Apple’s newest file system, released in 2017, and is the default option that their new Macs ship with. However, there are some reasons that you might want to use Mac OS Extended. Let’s compare the two of them and see what pros and cons each one has to offer.

APFS File System
Pros: Cons:
Reliable which means that it will lead to less data corruption and also offers greater security. External devices formatted with APFS can’t be read by versions of macOS before Sierra.
Designed for solid-state drives and flash memory which most Macs use today. Can’t be used if you have a Fusion hard drive in your Mac.
Fast in pretty much every way.
Improved metadata and file structure.
Mac OS Extended
Pros: Cons:
Old (was released in 1998 and works with macOS 10.12 or earlier). Isn’t fast.
Optimized for mechanical hard drives. Not as secure as APFS.
Offers reverse compatibility which is useful if you work with older versions of macOS. It doesn’t offer the same amount of stability and new features.

The main reason that you would want to use Mac OS Extended over APFS would be if you’re using a newer Mac and want to also swap data from an external device on an older machine that can’t use APFS.

If you’re in this scenario or one similar, let’s look at what ways we can reformat a hard drive to Mac OS Extended.

How to Convert APFS to Mac OS Extended

Below I will walk you through two ways that we can format to Mac OS Extended. One of them will be a textual way using the Terminal and the other will be a graphical solution using Disk Utility.

Both methods are free, it just depends on which way you would like to go about doing it.

Please keep in mind that formatting your storage device will delete any data that is currently on it.

Method 1: How to Format a Hard Drive to Mac OS Extended by Using the Terminal

The Terminal comes installed as part of macOS and it’s a free tool that we can use to execute system commands such as converting from AFPS to HFS+.

  1. Launch the Terminal. We can do this by going to Finder > Applications Folder > Utilities > terminal window
  2. Once in the Terminal, type in the command diskutil list and then click on the return button. This will show us a list of the hard drives that are internally in our Mac and externally connected as well.displaying disks in the terminal
  3. Type in:
    diskutil eraseDisk HFS+ ExternalDrive /dev/disk1

    diskutil eraseDisk is the command that will format the hard drive. ExternalDrive is the name that I gave the hard drive. You can make it whatever you would like. /dev/disk1 is the number that the Terminal assigned to the hard drive. Find the number associated with yours and put it into the Terminal command. In the screenshot below I outlined in blue where you can look for this information.

  4. Once you’re sure that you have everything entered correctly, click return on your keyboard.terminal formatting command
  5. Wait for your hard drive to format.

If you prefer a more graphical solution, let’s look at how we can use Disk Utility to change APFS to Mac OS Extended.

Method 2: How to Format APFS Hard Drive to Mac OS Extended by Using Disk Utility

Disk Utility comes installed on your Mac as part of macOS and it offers a graphical interface for formatting our hard drive to Mac OS Extended.

  1. Launch Disk Utility. We can launch the app by pressing the keys COMMAND + SPACE BAR. The Spotlight search window will then appear, and you will want to type in “Disk Utility”. Select it from the list of results and then the app will launch.
  2. Now, within Disk Utility select the hard drive that you would like to format to Mac OS Extended.disk utility
  3. After selecting it then choose Erase. Ensure that you choose the entire device when formatting. You can enable this by clicking on your View options and choosing Show All Devices.viewing all disks in disk utility
  4. You will then be given a choice of format options.
  5. Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled). You can also choose to use Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled) but I wouldn’t recommend that you do that unless you plan to work with many files that need to be case-sensitive.mac os extended format option
  6. Wait for the storage device to format.

How to Recover Data Lost After Formatting

If you lost data on your hard drive after formatting, we can attempt to recover it and get it back.

Disk Drill is a third-party data recovery software solution that will enable us to do just that. There are a ton of data recovery software solutions out there but I’m going to use Disk Drill for a couple of reasons:

  • It offers support for Apple silicon Macs, and it runs on the newest version of macOS.
  • You can use the powerful Preview feature that lets you view the file first to ensure it’s the correct one before recovering it.
  • The app runs better and finds more recoverable data when compared to other data recovery tools that I’ve used.

We can download, scan our hard drive, and view our data all for free. This includes being able to use the powerful data recovery feature. A purchase is only required if you then choose to recover your data.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill onto your Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Drill and then under Data Recovery select Storage devices. You can scan any storage device that is connected to your Mac for lost files. In this example, I’m going to select my external hard drive. Click on Search for lost data.disk drill storage device selection
  3. Wait for the scan process to complete.scan in progress
  4. Review what Disk Drill was able to recover. Don’t forget to use the Preview feature to view files before recovering them.preview feature in disk drill

That’s all that there is to it! Disk Drill is fast and easy to use and offers powerful data recovery features to help you get your files back if you lost them when you were formatting your hard drive.


APFS and Mac OS Journaled are both robust and useful file systems that are great for different types of workflows. If you decide to format your storage device to Mac OS Extended, using either the Terminal or Disk Utility are both great options that will help you get the job done.

If you need to recover some data after the hard drive has been formatted, Disk Drill is a powerful tool with some stand-out features such as the ability to preview your files before recovering them.