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Tutorial on How to Change APFS to exFAT on Mac/Windows

Updated on Friday, June 14, 2024

iBoysoft author Amanda Wong

Written by

Amanda Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee


Summary: APFS is the default files system for Mac running macOS High Sierra and later, but many users would like to change APFS to exFAT for better compatibility. This post guides you to change APFS to exFAT on Mac and Windows PC.

change apfs to exfat

The file system is a method and data structure used by operating systems to store, organize and retrieve data on the storage media. And there are several standard file systems such as HFS+, APFS, exFAT, FAT32, NTFS, etc., and each has its pros and cons. And the compatibility between operating systems and the file system is one of the most concerns. If you want to change APFS for exFAT, this post is right for you. 

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APFS and exFAT explained

APFS(Apple file system) is a proprietary file system developed and deployed by Apple Inc for Mac computers. It made its debut on macOS 10.13 and replaced the previous Mac OX Extended as the default file system on macOS High Sierra and later. Featured with strong encryption, space sharing, snapshots, and so forth, APFS is the most powerful file system for modern Macs. 

However, the limitations of APFS are obvious. It is optimized for SSDs and flash drives, therefore it could be unfriendly for other types of storage media, including HDDs and Fusion drives. APFS is only compatible with macOS 10.13 and later, Windows and Linux can not have full read-write permissions. And APFS formatted drive for Time Machine backup can't be used on macOS Catalina or previous releases.

exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table), another proprietary file system, is introduced by Microsoft in 2006. This newer version of FAT 32 is designed for flash drives like USB flash drives, SD cards, and so on. Although exFAT doesn't provide powerful features compared with APFS, better compatibility is the most highlighted advantage of it. It works on both Windows and macOS. 

Should I change APFS to exFAT

In case it is an internal hard drive on your Mac, especially a built-in SSD, it is recommended to use APFS on macOS High Sierra to enjoy better performance. If you attempt to run Windows on Intel Mac with Boot Camp Assistant, you can change the files system of a certain partition to exFAT so that you can access it when booting into Windows OS on your computer.

Perhaps you are using an external hard drive for Mac, so you formatted the file system as APFS to best work on Mac. Now, you need to use the APFS external disk on your Windows PC, you may find you can not read and write APFS drive on Windows due to the incompatibility issue. Hence, you want to change APFS to exFAT to use the external drive on both Mac and Windows PC. 

In a nutshell, when you want to get rid of the incompatibility of APFS, you can change APFS to exFAT to access the exFAT partition when you run Windows via Boot Camp Assistant, or use the same external hard drive on both macOS and Windows to share files, backup partitions, store documents, etc. 

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How to change APFS to exFAT on Mac

You will need the macOS built-in disk manager - Disk Utility to convert the file system of the hard drive from APFS to exFAT on Mac. Disk Utility enables you to check the information of the disk, add or delete APFS volume to the container, run First Aid to repair disk, partition a hard drive on Mac, erase a volume/partition, mount/unmount a drive, etc. 

To format APFS to exFAT will delete all data on the drive, you should create a backup for the important files to avoid data loss before you move to the detailed steps to change APFS to exFAT on Mac. You can back up your Mac with Time Machine, move files to another external drive, upload important files to cloud storage, etc.

Here's how to change APFS to exFAT with Disk Utility: 

  1. Navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities, find and launch the Disk Utility tool.
  2. Tap on the View button and select Show All Devices.show all devices
  3. On the left sidebar, select the target internal/external APFS volume/partition you want to change to exFAT. Make sure you have chosen the correct one.
  4. Use the Erase button of Disk Utility.erase apfs to exfat
  5. Enter a new name for the drive and select the format as ExFAT from the drop-down menu.
  6. Click the Scheme menu and choose Master Boot Record.
  7. Click the Erase button to start to change APFS to exFAT.change apfs to exfat
  8. Click Done when the process completes.

 Note: If you want the change the startup disk from APFS to exFAT, you will use Disk Utility in Recovery Mode. As for an APFS drive, the volumes within the container can only be APFS, in such a case, you should format the whole APFS drive instead of a volume to change APFS to exFAT.

How to change APFS to exFAT on Windows

If that is an external hard drive you need to change APFS to exFAT, and there is only a Windows PC available, you can also make it on Windows. Similarly, you need to back up the drive in the first place, and then proceed to change APFS to exFAT to make the drive work with Windows OS. Here's how:

  1. Connect the APFS formatted external drive to your Windows PC.
  2. Press the Windows Key + R to launch the Run prompt and enter the diskmgmt.msc command to load the Disk Management application.
  3. You can find the connected APFS drive with its EFI partition.
  4. Select the EFI partition, right-click it and choose Delete Volume.delete efi partition
  5. Launch Command Prompt on your computer as an administrator to format the drive.
  6. Type and enter the DISKPART command to load the Disk Partition module.
  7. Enter the list disk command to display all the connected drives and partitions.
  8. Then type select disk 2(replace 2 with the identifier of your APFS drive).
  9. Enter the clean command to remove all the existing data from the disk.clean drive on windows
  10. Launch Disk Management again, and find the Mac drive with a Not Initialized message.
  11. Right-click it to initialize the external disk with the onscreen guide.
  12. Then the Mac drive turns to be unallocated disk in Disk Management, right-click it again and choose New Simple Volume.format drive windows
  13. Follow the new wizard to format the drive, and select exFAT as the file system.

Recover data from formatted drive

Unluckily, you mistakenly formatted a drive with crucial files kept and there is no backup available to retrieve your data back. Formatting a drive erases all the content and you can't undo the action. Thereafter comes the data recovery software to recover data from accidental data loss. 

iBoysoft Data Recovery stands out among the data recovery software in the market with fast data recovery and high success rate. It is 100% clean & secure to recover data. This professional data recovery application is applicable to a variety of situations such as Deleted file recoveryMac HFS partition recovery, BitLocker recovery, RAW drive recovery, etc. It is pretty simple to use, just connect the drive, scan the drive, and recover the files.

The bottom line

When you need to use the same drive on both Windows and macOS operating systems, you need to change the files system of the drive from macOS-exclusive APFS to a more inclusive one like exFAT. This post guides you on how to change APFS to exFAT on a Mac and a Windows PC to make it work with both. And you should always back up the drive if you have stored important files on it.

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