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How to format a startup drive in El Capitan

Roman Loyola | Oct. 12, 2015
Disk Utility has a new look in El Capitan, but formatting a storage device is still as easy as it was before.

Mac hard drive icon

With the release of El Capitan, Apple took the opportunity to give Disk Utility a facelift. You can still use the software to format a startup drive—it’s similar to the steps in the previous version.

This how-to goes through the steps of formatting a startup drive using Disk Utility 15 in El Capitan. If you’re using an older version of Disk Utility, the steps are here.

1. Connect your drive

To format an external storage device, connect it to one of the ports on your Mac. Turn the drive on, and make sure it appears in the Finder.

If you’ve already installed El Capitan and you want to format you Mac’s internal drive, you can boot into Recovery Mode to format the drive. To boot into Recovery mode, start up your Mac and hold down Command-R. You should see a window labeled OS X Utilities. (Note: if you format your Mac’s internal drive, this will erase all of the data on the drive, including your apps, file, and the operating system.)

2. Open Disk Utility

You’ll use OS X’s Disk Utility app to format the drive. Locate Disk Utility in Applications > Utilities and open it.

If you booted into Recovery mode, select Disk Utility at the bottom of the window (see below).

os x utilities window

3. Select the storage device in Disk Utility

select device disk utility el capitan

Disk Utility’s left pane shows the storage devices connected to your Mac. Underneath each device are the drive’s partitions. Select the device you want to format. Then click the Erase button at the top.

If the Erase button is dimmed, it means the drive you want to format is in use and you need to boot off another drive or into Recovery mode, which was described in step 1.

4. Name and Format

A dialog box will appear. You need to enter a name for your storage device.

name format disk utility el capitan

Click the pop-up menu for Format, and you can select one of the formats. The default selection is OS X Extended (Journaled); if you want a layer of security, you can go with OS X Extended (Journaled, Encrypted), which will encrypt your storage device. (If you don’t see the Encrypted options, that’s probably because the drive you are formatting is currently not using a GUID Partition Map. Select OS X Extended (Journaled), proceed to step 5, and then come back to step 4, repeating the step but with an Encrypted option selected.)


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