Mac/Win Thumb Drive

Kingston-512gb-or-1tb-thumbdriveMac/Win Thumb Drive: a reader asks…

I use a Macbook Air (running Sierra) and want to get a thumb drive to use with it to store some files. Do I have to get one formatted for the Mac or will any thumb drive work? And will I be able to use that same thumb drive on my Windows PC at work?

Generally, thumb drives come formatted either as FAT32 or NTFS. Such thumb drives can be read by your Mac, but in order for you to have the easiest time using your thumb drive between both Mac and Windows computers, it should be formatted as ExFAT. While FAT32 would also work, ExFAT allows for larger file sizes. So the first thing you need to do is buy your thumb drive. At this point, you can get cheap thumb drives with quite a bit of space. Here are a few online vendors where you can shop:

  1. MicroCenter has a nice PNY thumb drive that stores up to 256gb for only $60
  2. has tons of thumb drives, including monster 1tb drives for over $600. I should note that 1tb thumb drives are listed that are much less expensive, but check the reviews before you purchase.
  3. is another online vendor with tons of thumb drives in all sizes.

mac-disk-utility-exfat-screenshotOnce you’ve got your thumb drive, insert it into your Macbook Air’s USB port and then open disk utility. You’ll want to select your thumb drive on the left-side list, and then click on the Erase tab on the right. Now in the Format box, choose ExFat and then name your thumb drive in the box below. Click the Erase button below and wait for the process to finish.

At this point, your thumb drive will be formatted for maximum compatibility, and you should be able to read and write files using either a Mac or a Windows computer. Just a few caveats:

  1. Files that are specific to a Mac or a Windows program won’t be usable on the opposite type of computer.
  2. If you use this thumb drive and switch often between Mac and Windows, you might experience file corruption. So make sure you have a backup of the files on one of your computers just in case. You can minimize this by properly ejecting the drive before you unplug it from the computer.

With your thumb drive properly formatted, you can now use it on both your Mac and your Windows computer, and for the most part, without problems.


This website runs on a patronage model. If you find my answers of value, please consider supporting me by sending any dollar amount via Click or tap to open a new browser tab or your Venmo app and send money via Venmo to @positek (send to @PosiTek), Click or tap to open a new browser tab or your Paypal app to send money via your Paypal account to (send to, Click or tap to open a new browser tab or your Paypal app to send money using your credit card to (no Paypal account required) using any credit card (no Paypal account required), using Zelle, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or by mailing a check or cash to LLC 1934 Old Gallows Road, Suite 350, Tysons Corner VA 22182. I am not a non-profit, but your support helps me to continue delivering advice and consumer technology support to the public. Thank you!

Go to Top of Page

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.