How to Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac?

While digital technology has advanced immensely since the 1970s, we still have the issue of restricted economies that allow certain systems to remain exclusive to specific manufacturers. For example, you can’t play Playstation-exclusive games on an Xbox console. Same goes with file systems. Apple has the default AFS while Windows works on optimizing NTFS.

Still, there are open-source alternatives that allow you to format SD card Macbook so that it remains usable for a Windows PC or an Android smartphone. As such, here is your detailed guide on how to format SD card Mac FAT32.

How to Format an SD Card On Mac - Quick Steps

There might be times when you need to immediately macOS format SD card FAT32 since there may be urgent requirements for the offline data. You can utilize the fastest method for the same, i.e., the Mac’s Disk Utility application.

Step 1. Connect your SD card to your Mac computer using a suitable card reader.

Step 2. Open the Disk Utility app on your PC.

Step 3. Click on the relevant SD card in the following dialog box.

Step 4. Enter the name you want to give to your SD card.

Step 5. Choose a file system format.

If 64GB or larger, it is best to go for exFAT. For 32GB or smaller, choose FAT32.

Step 6. Select the Erase option.

You will receive a message confirming that the process was completed without any faults. You can then safely remove the SD card and use it for any other computer running a Windows OS.

Should You Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac?

Ever since people have become more familiar with graphics-based UI, Apple has observed the opportunity to run efficient code in the background while offering a smooth experience to all its users. With an ecosystem that includes hardware to compliment the programs involved, it makes carrying out challenging tasks easier.

Of course, there is always the issue of the premium price, which is why most individuals and organizations prefer the Windows operating system that offers more compatibility and demands lower spec hardware. So, there might be issues accessing data from the same sources, say a flash drive, for both macOS and Windows PCs. That is where the FAT32 file system proves invaluable.

Benefits of Formatting to FAT32 on Mac
  • Since macOS devices do not restrict the formatting space and optimize the cluster size automatically, you can follow the same procedure to format micro SD card to FAT32 for any size. The process is the same whether the card size is 128 GB or 8 GB.
  • The interface for the Disk Utility or any third-party app, such as SD Card Formatter for macOS, is highly optimized. As such, it is easier to format any portable storage device to FAT32 than Windows or Linux. And you don't even need expertise in IT.
  • Using the Terminal is reliable and uses fewer commands than Command Prompt on Windows or the fdisk commands on Linux.
  • The speed of formatting is much faster on a macOS computer than on Windows due to Apple’s integrated ecosystem of hardware and software.
  • FAT32-formatted SD cards on Mac are compatible with Windows, Linux, and Android operating systems without the need for configuration checks. That includes zipped, hidden, or archived files.
Limitations of Formatting to FAT32 on Mac
  • Unlike on Windows, formatting to FAT32 on macOS doesn’t preserve any existing data on the SD card. You have to recover it using third-party software.
  • Formatting to FAT32 removes the possibility of encryption that comes with AFS and NTFS. So, your data stored on the card shall be less secure and accessible through any system.
  • FAT32 has restrictions for the cluster and file size. So, if you need to store files that scale to 4 GB or more, even with compression, you should probably use exFAT.
  • Due to the static file storage protocols of the FAT32 file system, it is not efficient to format SD card Macbook that are 64 GB or above. For instance, a 2 TB SD card formatted for FAT32 will only leave you 1.81 TB of usable space. The loss shall be negligible for NTFS or AFS formatting.

Preparations Before Formatting Your SD Card to FAT32 On Mac

Before you format SD card to FAT32 on Mac, you should consider a few things to keep the process as smooth and error-free as possible.

Prepare an SD Card Slot

In 2017, Apple only offered the SD card slot for the Macbook Air. Since then, no computer in the lineup has an SD card slot. So, if you wish to use a card slot, you need an external card reader with USB connection support. You can get a compatible one from any Apple Store, but it is best to get good value online with a Sony or Kingston card reader.

Backup All Data

Formatting an SD card to FAT32 removes all data from it. So, it is best to back up all of it in the hard drive or an external flash drive. If you’re not worried about data caps, you can also upload it to the iCloud server or any other third-party cloud service, like the ones offered by Google and Amazon. You can also try third-party data backup or recovery software.

Ensure SD Card Is Readable

Before inserting the card in the appropriate slot, you should check that it is physically capable of reading data through it. Many SD cards have physical locks, usually in the form of notches, that prevent unauthorized users from accessing the data. Think of it as sleight-of-hand encryption. Thus, before inserting the SD card, the aperture should be in an unlocked position.

How to Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac?

There are multiple ways to format micro SD card to FAT32. The most reliable ones include the following.

Method 1: Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac with Disk Utility

Disk Utility is an in-built feature that ships with all macOS configurations. Let’s look at the application that only requires a few simple steps to format an SD card.ṣ

Step 1. Insert the SD card into the appropriate card slot.

Your device shall display a notification when it’s detected.

Step 2. Use cmd+spacebar to open the Spotlight and type in “Disk utility.”
disk utility

Step 3. Click on the appropriate software from the list that appears.

Alternatively, you can navigate to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 4. From the sidebar, choose the SD card you wish to format.
select a variety of file formats

Step 5. Under the File Format tab, select MS-DOS (FAT) if you wish to format a card of size 32 GB or less.

For 64 GB or more, it helps to go with exFAT. You can also name the SD card per your preference.

Step 6. Go to the Erase button and wait for the process to conclude.
click the erase button

Once the software confirms that the card has been formatted, you can use it just like any other flash memory device. Henceforth, all data stored on the card will remain readable with different operating systems as well.


It is the most accessible method, as even those without any IT expertise can use it to format micro SD card to FAT32

The process remains the same for other file formats as well. You only need to change the output format from a single dialog box

It doesn’t need to download any other software to your computer, freeing necessary storage and removing the risk of virus infections

You can still use your PC for other tasks while Disk Utility is busy formatting the SD card


The chance for the process to fail is higher than in other methods described in this piece. Even after substantial waiting, it can fall at the last minute

It is slower as compared to other SD card formatting methods

It puts some stress on the hardware. You can observe your PC getting heated if the process takes longer than a few minutes

Method 2: Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac with SD Card Formatter

In order to solve some of the issues persistent with Disk Utility, you can switch to a third-party software. SD Card Formatter is a viable alternative. It is free to use, supports more formats, and you can modify advanced settings like cluster sizes and bitrates. You can go through the following procedure to use micro SD Card Formatter FAT32.

Step 1. Visit the SD Card Association website and download the SD Card Formatter installer for Mac.
sd card formatte

Step 2. Install and run the application on your PC.

Ensure that it has the necessary permission to access the SD card data.

Step 3. Insert the SD card into the relevant slot.
quick and detailed options for formatting fat32

Step 4. The app automatically detects the card.

Select it from the left tab and set the settings per your preferences.

Step 5. Click on the Format button at the bottom of the dialog box.

And that’s it! It might take a while longer compared to Disk Utility, but it reduces the chance of failure. You should note that it might take some additional space on your hard drive, but its resource drain is minimal. Similar to Disk Utility, you can perform other tasks on your Mac computer while leaving the SD Card Formatter in the background.

Method 3: Format SD Card to FAT32 On Mac with Terminal

The Terminal is a sure-shot way to macOS format SD card FAT32. Although, you should note that you might need to enter exact commands to successfully execute it. to use the Terminal to format your SD card to FAT32, you should follow the procedure mentioned below.

Step 1. Launch the Terminal app by searching for it in the Spotlight or going to the menu bar and browsing through Go > Applications > Terminal.
search for the terminal app

Step 2. Insert the SD card into the appropriate card slot.

Step 3. Type in ‘diskutil list’ in the Terminal window.
list all storage devices connected to your mac

Step 4. From the available list of disks, identify the SD card you wish to format using the matching properties.

Step 5. Type in sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT32 SDCARD MBRFormat /dev/disk2 (Replace SDCARD and /dev/disk2 with the adequate SD card identifier for your system).
typing in the command

Wait for the process to conclude. It should be over pretty soon as your system doesn’t need to run additional UI. You can now use your SD card as a FAT32 storage device with any compatible OS.

Warning: The process requires you to carefully identify the correct slot for the SD card. So, it is best to study the card’s specifications beforehand and not have any other disk partition with the same configuration. One typo and you might corrupt the SD card or any other drive connected to your system.

How to Format a Micro SD Card On Mac for Use On Android

If you format an SD card to FAT32, you can also use it on an Android smartphone.

  • All versions of the Android OS use a Linux kernel.
  • They are compatible with FAT32, exFAT, Ext3, and Ext4 file systems.
fat32 formatted sd cards

You can use a UI-based application or a terminal to do the same and follow any of the procedures mentioned above.

Still Cannot Format Your SD Card On Mac? - Causes and Fixes

When trying to macOS format SD card to FAT32, you might encounter a few issues, depending on the OS version or the hardware you’re running. Those may include, but not limited to, the following.

Bad or Corrupted Sectors on the Card

Due to physical damage or age, the SD card can get its sectors corrupted. A telltale sign is the presence of visible marks or scratches on the read/write surface of the card. If it is too severe, you may not be able to use the card at all, let alone format it to FAT32.

However, if the damage is not too severe, you can repair the corrupted sectors. You can use the First Aid option in the Disk Utility or a third-party software, like Wondershare Recoverit.

Write Protection on the SD Card

If your SD card has write protection, it may create unexpected problems when you try to format it to FAT32. Fortunately, you can remove such security with a few simple steps.

Step 1. Browse to your SD card and right-click on it.

Step 2. Click the Get Info option from the drop-down menu.
click on your preferred SD card

Step 3. In the Sharing Permissions section, go to the Privilege tab. Locate the Read Only option within it.

Step 4. Choose the Lock icon next to it.

Step 5. Enter the required Administrator Password to access the settings.
changing the privilege

Step 6. Switch the Read Only option to Read and Write from the drop-down menu.

Step 7. Close all the tabs.

Now, try formatting your SD card. It should no longer pose any problems, regardless of your chosen formatting method.

SD Card Not Detected on Disk Utility

If your system does not detect the SD card, it’s either encrypted or not readable with Apple’s file browser. You can try to read it on a Windows device or use a third-party app that can detect it. A few prominent examples include Commander One, Transmit, and Dropover.


And that concludes your guide to format SD card Mac FAT32 with all the methods available to you. Which one do you prefer? Did we answer all your queries? If not, feel free to use the comments section below. An expert will try replying to you with a satisfying answer in no time.

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