You Can Now Format External Drives With an iPad or iPhone

You Can Now Format External Drives With an iPad or iPhone

Your iPad is not a complete replacement for your Mac, but each year, the tablet gets more and more features that make it act like a full-fledged computer. Artist Kaleb Cadle discovered the latest of these features—the ability to format external drives using an iPad runnomg iPadOS 18. Soon after, MacStories contributor Niléane confirmed that this feature also works on iPhones running iOS 18.

How to format external drives using your iPhone or iPad

Credit: Kaleb Cadle/Substack

First, you need an iPhone or iPad running iOS 18 or iPadOS 18. Follow these instructions to update your device, but be careful if you’re using your main device, as installing a beta could introduce instability to it.

Next, connect your external drive to the device. This may require an adapter in some cases. Once you’ve plugged in the drive, open the Files app, long press the name of the external drive in the sidebar, and tap the red Erase button.

You’ll now see the new options, which will allow you to choose the filesystem for your external drive. You have three choices: APFS, ExFAT, and FAT. Click through here for a breakdown on each format. Pick an option to format the external drive accordingly.

The feature works with hard disks, pen drives, and even SD cards so long as you have the right adapters.

Why format a drive on iPad or iPhone?

Plenty of people use their iPhones and iPads for professional purposes, like creating photos and videos. Often, these files need to be moved to external drives. Having formatting options baked into the OS helps all those who want to use their iOS devices as productivity tools, since it’ll keep them from needing to reach for their Mac or PC.

Having said that, your Mac’s Disk Utility is a much more powerful tool than what you’ll find in the iOS 18 or iPadOS 18 Files app. In addition to formatting, Disk Utility allows you to partition drives, restore them with content from another drive, and can attempt to repair drives that are giving you trouble. Another thing worth noting is that Disk Utility allows you to choose the Mac OS Extended file system, which is exclusive to Macs. You can’t choose that option on your iPhone or iPad, but on the flip side, the APFS format is exclusive to iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 devices.

The option to format drives is a positive development for iOS devices, but there’s a long way to go before your iPad can totally replace your Mac.

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