How to Use an External Hard Drive on Mac & Windows

As opposed to several years ago, modern-day hard drives are advanced a lot and deliver impressive performance.

Over the past couple of decades, hard drives have undergone significant changes to exist as what they are today. The advancements will continue, and we will witness more miniature, faster but high-capacity hard drives in the near future.

With that said, you can use an external hard drive to add more space to your existing computer. With that said, do you know how to use an external hard drive on your PC or Mac?

How to Use an External Hard Drive

In general, external hard drives are among the most portable devices. Besides, it shows exceptional compatibility as well. They can be easily used as a secondary hard disk space as a result of this portability and compatibility.

As of today, external hard drives come with massive storage capacities too. With the assistance of such a hard disk, you can free a massive amount of space from your system. Well, if you are using a Windows computer, you can follow the steps mentioned below.

Connect the External Hard Drive

If you use an external hard drive for the first time, you may start reading the manual first. However, all the external hard drives work in a similar manner. So, getting familiar with the settings is not difficult at all.

In fact, external hard drives work in the form of plug-and-play devices. All you need to do is to connect the hard drive with a USB port and switch it on. Nevertheless, in certain cases, you may need to install a software package as well. You don’t need to worry about it though because the software is available on their official website.

Using Hard Drive As Your Primary Partition

Once the hard drive is connected to the PC, it will be recognized automatically, and that won’t take long. In fact, BIOS will detect this newly installed device very soon. But, how to use an external hard drive as a primary partition? To do that, you must install Windows on the external drive.

Installation of Windows

In order to install Windows on your hard drive, you should follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Click on the ‘Start‘ button on your computer.
  • Then, click on ‘Computer,’ and you will be able to find the hard drive there.
  • If you cannot find the hard drive, you should follow the steps below to find it.
    Click on the ‘Start‘ button and click on ‘Control Panel.’
  • Then, go to ‘System and Security.’
  • Click on ‘Administrative Tools‘ and double click on ‘Computer Management.’ If prompted, make sure that you enter the system password properly.
  • Click on the option called ‘Disk Management‘ under the option called ‘Storage.’ You will see the new hard drive there.
how to use an external hard drive on Windows

Prior to using your hard drive, you may have to format it and make it compatible with the system. So, if the system doesn’t detect the new device, you will have to check it again with the user manual.

How to Use an External Hard Drive (on a Mac)

Under general circumstances, your hard drive should work immediately after plugging it into your Mac. It must be ready to work. But you should remember that there are precautionary steps to take before mounting the device. Such a precautionary approach might ensure that you get what you expect from an external hard drive.

In general, the external hard drive comes preformatted using the FAT32 format. That is because the FAT32 format is compatible with both Windows and Mac computer systems. With this, you can expect better performance through all the platforms, and you don’t need to worry about it.

Nevertheless, there is a disadvantage associated with the FAT32 format. That is; with a Master Boot Record partition scheme, the hard drive won’t be compatible with Apple’s Core Storage routines. So, the FAT32 format will not be compatible with OS’s default encryption method.

Let’s See How to Use the External Hard Drive

  • 01. First, connect the hard drive to your Mac using the default USB cable or Firewire. You should plugin using the correct slots, and it is not that difficult at all.
  • 02. Now, go to the disk utility option. To do that, you can simply perform a search on the screen (towards the top right corner). Just go there and type in the text disk utility.
how to use an external hard drive on Mac
  • 03. You can then locate the hard drive which is installed now. It can be seen towards the left part of the interface. Now, you can find the name of the hard drive which is just installed and click on it.
  • 04. Now that the newly installed hard drive is selected, it is time to format the same. To do that, you should click on the Erase option. You should wait for some time so the drop-down list called Volume format will appear.
  • 05. Now, choose the format of the hard drive. If you want to use the same hard disk for Mac only, you should choose ‘Mac OS Extended (Journaled).’
  • 06. Now, click on the option labeled Erase and complete the formatting process. Then, you will be able to use the hard disk on your Mac.

The Maintenance of Your External Hard Drive

When you use an external hard drive, you must take necessary actions to maintain it as well. In fact, maintenance is a compulsory aspect to get the most out of your hard drive. In general, external hard drives are exceptionally convenient to use. However, maintaining a hard drive properly can be a somewhat tedious task.

In general, hard drives that come with a magnet should be placed in a horizontal way. In addition to that, maintaining the cable is another important aspect you should remember.

With That Said, Mentioned Below Are Some of the Most Important Aspects You Should Consider in Terms of Maintenance.

  • 01. First of all, know what exactly you will need to purchase. Make sure that you purchase your hard drive to match the requirements. You don’t need to waste money on a device that you don’t want. Instead, you should go through your requirement thoroughly and invest money in them. As a smart approach, you should list down the requirements of having a hard disk drive.
  • 02. Create a backup of your existing data. That means you should ensure that your data is available in more than one location. Such an approach becomes exceptionally handy if something happened to the original hard drive. So, all the data stored in your external hard drive must be saved in another location as well. It can be another hard drive, DVD, USB Flash drive, etc. To create a backup of the existing data, you can simply copy and paste folders into the backup drive. If not, you can simply drag and drop the files. However, creating a manual backup can be pretty tiresome. Instead, you can use data backup software to get the same job done. In addition to that, you can even consider using the automatic backup feature as well.
  • 03. Security of the hard drive is exceptionally important. To ensure security, it is a general practice to use encryption. However, some professional hackers can access your files even if they are encrypted. So, be very careful when you share your data, install new software, etc. on your computer. Make sure you have an up-to-date virus guard installed on the computer.

Recovering Lost Files on Your External Hard Drive

What would you do if you have lost data stored in the external hard drive? Well, you don’t need to worry about it thanks to a software called Recoverit. In fact, Recoverit is considered to be the best recovery software for external hard drives.

Features of Recoverit

  • It can recover a wide array of deleted and lost files on your computer.
  • It is compatible with photos, videos, documents, music, and any other file on your external hard drive.
  • Completely safe and secure method to recover data.
  • It can also recover data from memory cards, recycle bins, USB flash, digital cameras, etc.
  • You can use it to recover data lost due to intentional or accidental deletion.
  • Can recover data lost due to formatting, virus attack, system crash, lost partition, etc.

Get Recoverit


In Mac OS X 10.13, you will not be able to access the built-in system drive through any app. To address that, you will have to disable the option called ‘System Integrity Protection‘ as the first step. To disable this option, you should follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Reboot Mac and hold ‘Command‘ and ‘R‘ keys at once after hearing the startup chime.
  • Now, the system will boot into recovery mode.
  • On ‘OS X Utilities,’ pull the ‘Utilities‘ menu down and go to ‘Terminal.’
  • Type ‘csrutil disable‘ and hit ‘Enter.’
  • Reboot the Mac

Now you know how to use an external hard drive properly on a Mac or a Windows system. If you have further queries related to ‘how to use external hard drive,’ please let us know.


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