USB Flash drives and MacOS
Thread poster: Can Altinbay

Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:27
Japanese to English
+ ...
Jul 4, 2005

It's been a while since I've been on a Mac. I'm looking at a manual for a USB Flash Drive, and there is a word that could mean "initialize" or "format", which should mean the same thing. I gather they are saying that for some USB flash drives, you may need to initialize/format the drive before using it the first time. On browsing the Web, I see that they also use "reformat" in conjuction with these drives.

My question is - when you attach a flash drive to a USB port, and it mounts on the Mac desktop, do you always initialize/reformat the drive, or are we talking about initial use only? Of course, my understanding of "format" OR "initialize" would wipe any existing data.

hanks in advance.


tlmurray (X)
Local time: 23:27
Initialize more low level than format Jul 4, 2005

With regard to hard disks, initialize is a more low-level process than format. An initialize can actually change the structure of the disk to allow for various types of ... well, formats. Then, when you format, you prepare the disk to accept files.

The Mac Disk Utility uses erase for what I would call the process of initialize followed up by a format.

For public consumption, initialize would probably be lost on most readers. Also, the Microsoft dictionary would lean toward format.


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:27
German to English
+ ...
they probably mean format Jul 5, 2005

As tlmurray said, initialisation is a low-level process and formatting is a higher-level process. With a disk drive, initialisation amounts to writing all the information to the disk that defines the physical storage structure (basically the sector boundaries), while formatting consists of writing the data to the disk that defines the logical storage structure (root directory structure, file access table structure or the like, etc.).

In principle, a Flash drive cannot be initialised in the above sense, because the physical storage structure is cast in hardware and cannot be modified. However, the logical storage structure can be modified (it's defined by firmware in the device so it can emulate a formatted hard disk). Disk formats are operating-system specific, so a Flash disk will probably have to be reformatted before it can be used on a Mac (since it is most likely formatted for use on a Windows system by default).

[Edited at 2005-07-05 13:10]


tramont (X)
English to Spanish
+ ...

[quote]Can Altinbay wrote:

My question is - when you attach a flash drive to a USB port, and it mounts on the Mac desktop, do you always initialize/reformat the drive, or are we talking about initial use only? ]

Not sure if this is a technical or a translation question. If the former, it may not be a problem. Current Mac OS's are able to handle discs formatted for PC and vice versa. I have a zip drive on both Mac (OS X) and PC (Win Xp), and the disc plugs interchangeably into either; apart from the Mac's habit of putting 'Trash' and 'DS Store' folders on the disc, neither computer has a problem reading files saved from the other. Same applies for data CDs. It seems likely the same would apply to a flash drive, though I haven't tried it; the test as always is to plug it in and see if it works.

The only issue is that the Mac doesn't like long filenames with spaces in, but that's not a formatting problem.


Local time: 23:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
No need to format. It will work as any other removable drive. Jul 5, 2005

Mac has always been able to read Windows formatted data. There is no need to “re-format” a Windows formatted flash drive; Mac will mount and show it on your desktop. No additional software is required. It is not necessarily true from a Windows perspective.

Mac will only request a formatting procedure when he is not able to read the flash drive. This happens when:
- the disk has not been “initialized” or formatted (first time use)
- there is an error and the disk cannot be read.

If on the other hand, it has a Mac format you will most likely have to “initialize” (format) the drive for Windows.

And yes “formatting” will erase any information stored in the flash drive.


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USB Flash drives and MacOS

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