Erasing a hard drive

Odd experience. Bought a new 1 TB external drive for backing up my machine (Western Digital, $189 from MSY — laugh uproariously at their website, but love their prices).

Plug into my machine, and it appears as an antiquated FAT disk. That’s normal, as it’s the baseline type of file system that all platforms will be able to read from and write to. But not optimal; much better on a Mac to use HFS+.

Reformating the disk is a job for Disk Utility. Selected ‘Mac OS Extended (Journaled)’; chose the disk name (‘Mervyn’); hit ‘Erase’…and no good.

‘File system formatter failed’

WHADDYA MEAN?! That’s not supposed to happen.

A few minutes of panicking before I thought to, duh, Google the problem. Easy fix:

  • Go to the Partition tab;
  • Select 1 Partition (or more, if you like);
  • Click Options: select ‘GUID Partition Table’;
  • Click Apply.

This has the same result as erasing the volume with the side-effect of , you know, actually working.

In the course of doing all this, I saw a dialog box in Mac OS X that took me back: ‘Disk not recognised; would you like to initialise it?’ Cue memories of being a kid using System 6, not knowing what that word meant; luckily, no data was harmed before I learned it just meant Erase.

You sure don’t see ‘initialise’ used much these days…probably for good reason!