How can you make maximum use of your external hard drive?

People take pictures or videos and deal with large files a lot more than before. As a result, it is no surprise that the manufacturers of external hard drives are making drives with larger capacity and better reliability. However, the fact is most people don’t know how to make maximum use of their external hard drives.

This post is going to teach you how to best utilize your external hard drives.

First, partition the disk

Many people who have an external HDD of 2 TB, 4 TB or even 8 TB storage capacity don’t partition the hard drive at all. They use it in the state that the disk left the factory all the time with a single partition on the disk. That is definitely not the best way to use the hard drive. We recommend that people divide the disk into at least two partitions on a hard drive with easy-to-recognize names. For example, divide a hard drive of 4 TB into two partitions with around 2TB storage capacity each and name them “Workspace” and “Offwork” (or any names or capacities that make sense to you). Having more than one partition with understandable names will better allocate the space on your disk and make your files more organized.

 Then, format partitions with different file systems

Different file system has its unique advantages. Therefore, if your hard disk is formatted with only one file system, you won’t be able to enjoy the rich features of other file systems.

To make the best use of the external hard disk for different platforms, we recommend you format the partitions with different file systems. According to your specific needs and the number of partitions, you can personalize your disk with different file systems as following:

 1. An NTFS-formatted partition for Windows

Microsoft NTFS file system has a lot of advantages over its previous primary FAT file system. For example, it has a better ability and stability in handling large capacity and large files. Moreover, it allows you to assign different permissions to your files to avoid unauthorized access. If you are using the disk on the Windows platform, NTFS is a better format than FAT32 and exFAT.

 2. An exFAT-formatted partition for Windows and Mac OS

If you are a cross-platform worker, you definitely need a partition formatted with exFAT. Why not FAT32? Of course, you can, but exFAT is the optimization of FAT32. It eliminates the 4GB file limit which is not allowed by FAT32.

 3. An encrypted APFS-formatted partition for macOS

If you are using a Mac running macOS High Sierra and above, then your Mac will support APFS-formatted disks. Instead of having an APFS-formatted partition, we recommend you have an encrypted APFS partition to better protect your sensitive files from unwanted access.

 4. An HFS+ formatted partition for Mac 

If your Mac is running macOS 10.12 or below and you want to use the disk on the Mac, Mac OS Extended (HFS+) is the best option to format your disk with, because macOS 10.12 or below don’t support APFS yet. Moreover, HFS+ also has the compatibility with Time Machine so that it is the best file system to format a partition that will be used as a backup partition on Mac.

Next, use third-party software

One problem you may encounter when you have multiple partitions with different file systems is the incompatibility between the file system and the operating system. For example, your Mac won’t be able to write to NTFS-formatted partitions. On the other hand, your Windows PC won’t be able to read nor write to HFS+/APFS-formatted partitions. However, it is always suggested that you should make this trade-off in case you will need the advantages of the file systems such as encryption, journaling, low corruption risk or backup.

Another reason is that many free or cost-effective third-party utilities can solve the incompatibility issue easily. For instance, you can install a third-party NTFS for Mac utility like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac on your Mac to read and write to NTFS-formatted partitions hassle-free. You can open, eject, mount, unmount, repair, and format NTFS disks on Mac with the software. In addition, you can also reformat other file systems to NTFS with it. All those NTFS-related operations cannot be achieved on Mac without iBoysoft NTFS for Mac. This utility is fully compatible with macOS 10.15/10.14/10.13/10.12 and OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8.

At last, handle your external hard drive with care

Generally speaking, if you purchase an external hard drive from a reliable source, you can count on its hardware quality and durability. However, without careful handling, your hard drive could be logically or physically corrupted within a short period of time. The careless handling can be violent pull-out, installation of malware, sudden power-off, unsafe ejection, hard drop of the disk, etc. If you want to make the maximum use of your external hard drive, you need to make sure it lasts a long time for use.


After reading this post, we hope you have a better idea of how to utilize your external hard disk to the utmost. If you are going to partition the disk or reformat the partitions as suggested, do remember to back up your important files first to avoid data loss. In case you forget to back up data before partitioning or formatting, data recovery software can help you restore data easily.


Astro K Joseph
I am Astro and here at IPEE World I write about various Technology content including News, Guides, and Reviews