NYTIMES Tech Tip: Does This USB Drive Look FAT?
Posted on March 21st, 2017
A. Many portable USB drives these days are formatted as FAT32, a file system that Windows PCs and Mac computers can both read. (The system name comes from an abbreviated mash-up of File Allocation Table and the 32-bit numbers representing data storage clusters.)
As long as the USB drive is formatted as a FAT32 drive, you should be able to pass it back and forth between the different computers to copy photos for the digital photo frame. Some portable USB drives are formatted in FAT16, which Macs can also handle. The exFAT file system is another one both platforms can use.
You can see how a USB drive is formatted when it is connected to the computer. On a Windows PC, go to the Start Menu, open the My Computer or This PC icon and look at the drive’s entry in the list. You can also right-click on the connected USB drive’s icon, select Properties from the menu and look in the File System area to see the type of formatting used.
On a Mac, right-click (or hold down the Control key and click) on the drive’s desktop icon, or in the sidebar window. Choose Get Info from the menu to see details about the drive, including format.
Larger external drives designed for Windows users can sometimes be formatted as NTFS (New Technology File System), which Macs can only read, but not write unless you do some extra fiddling. If you want to use an external NTFS drive with both computer platforms, you can reformat with a FAT32 system, but reformatting effectively erases all the data on the drive.