Disk Utility: The Mac hard disk cannot be formatted in the APFS file system

Format hard drive as APFS volume

It's a bit embarrassing to be called Sir Apfelot I have to ask others why a hard drive (in my case an external SSD) cannot be formatted in the APFS file system - but hey, I'm not omniscient either. :)

My problem was that I wanted to format the USB-C external hard drive in the Disk Utility on my MacBook Pro in the AFPS system because - like most hard drives - it came in the ExFAT file system. This is useful for USB sticks that you want to use on Windows PCs and Macs alike, but not if you want to install macOS Mojave on them.

When I wanted to select the file format when erasing the disk, there was unfortunately no APFS to choose from. I explain how it works in this post.

When I wanted to select the file format when erasing the disk, there was unfortunately no APFS to choose from. I explain how it works in this post.

No APFS to choose from

I didn't get a real error when formatting, but unfortunately only this appeared in the selection menu for the file systems, which can be selected in the hard disk service program:

  • Mac OS Extended (journaled)
  • Mac OS Extended (case sensitive, journaled)
  • MS-DOS file system (FAT)
  • exFAT

I erased and tried the hard drive in various ways, but no APFS was added to the selection.

The tragic thing: My friend, with whom I sat at the Mac regulars table over 20 years ago, unfortunately had no idea and after describing the problem he just said "I'm fine!" At some point after a long googling and trying it out, I gave up and actually ticked the thing off mentally, but by chance I came up with the solution.

macOS Mojave can only be installed if the hard disk uses the GUID partition table scheme.

macOS Mojave can only be installed if the hard disk uses the GUID partition table scheme.

macOS Mojave only accepts hard drives with a GUID partition table scheme

I finally formatted the SSD in the "Mac OS Extended, journaled" format and then wanted to use the macOS Mojave Installer to bring the new system to the disk. When I tried this, I got this error message:

This hard drive does not use the GUID partition table scheme. Use Disk Utility to change the partition scheme. [...]

When I read that, it suddenly "clicked":

In the hard disk service program, under "Scheme", you first have to select "GUID partition table" and then only look at "Format" in the upper selection field. Then there are significantly more options:

  • APFS
  • APFS (encrypted)
  • APFS (upper / lower case)
  • APFS (upper / lower case, encrypted)
  • Mac OS Extended (journaled)
  • Mac OS Extended (journaled, encrypted)
  • Mac OS Extended (case sensitive, journaled)
  • Mac OS Extended (case sensitive, journaled, encrypted)
  • MS-DOS file system (FAT)
  • exFAT
After selecting the GUID scheme, APFS can also be selected as the file system format.

After selecting the GUID scheme, APFS can also be selected as the file system format.

I used "pure" APFS because I did not want to encrypt the data carrier and there is no need to distinguish between upper and lower case. After clicking "Delete", it only took a few seconds until the volume was in APFS format and macOS Mojave could be installed on it without complaint.

By the way, if you have a different display in the hard disk utility than you can see in the screenshots, you should click the "Display" button in the top left of the program and then select "All Volumes". This is how all devices and containers are displayed.

The instructions in super short version

After I had just received a message from a reader that he did not see the "Scheme" selection in his hard disk utility, I noticed that this has to do with the "Show all devices" view, which you can find at the top left under " Representation "can select. Another important point is the selection of the volume at the top level, because only then does the "Delete" button appear (otherwise grayed out) and there is the selection box for "Scheme". I hope the following screenshot makes it easier to understand where to click what.

Format hard drive as APFS: The complete instructions in a screenshot. ;-)

Format hard drive as APFS: The complete instructions in a screenshot. ;-)

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  1. Hans says:

    "You must first set the option to" GUID partition table "under" Scheme "in the hard disk service program ..."

    Where is this option "schema" in the FP utility? It cannot be seen in the screenshot above either.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Hans! Look again in the article at the bottom. I've just built in the paragraph with the new screenshot. In it you can see exactly where to click and where the box with the GUID partition scheme can be found. I hope this helps you!

  2. Arndt Eibel says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot, I accidentally produced 2 containers on the SSD hard drive during a failed Windows installation. The boot camp partition should be 100 GB and is no longer available for the total volume of 500 GB. Do you have an idea how I can remove these containers so that I can use the entire volume again, Greetings Arndt.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Arndt! I believe that the delete command only helps at the top level. Then you have a hard drive without a partition again. I guess. ;-)

  3. Jochen Döen says:

    Thank you very much for describing the problem and the solution. That put me on the track for my problem that Apple Support couldn't solve either (because everyone was looking in the wrong direction). I upgraded my Mac mini 2012 with an SSD and formatted this and set it as the startup volume. So far everything is OK. Only the update to Mojave 10.14.2 did not work or was not offered at all. My mistake, I still had the SSD journaled formatted in Mac OS Extended, due to the lack of other alternatives.
    With your hint, the SSD is now cloned, reformatted with APFS and now everything is up to date and AirPlay (the original problem) works again.
    Thank you and greetings Jochen D.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Jochen! Great that the contribution helped. I also learned something today: You can install Mojave on an APFS volume that is case-sensitive, but some programs (Adobe) have problems with it. So you should always only use the "normal" APFS if you want to use the disk as a start volume. The encryption can be activated if necessary. No program has problems with that.

    • Hannes says:

      I've read a lot here and don't understand too much about it.
      I did everything as Sir Apfelot described it. But if I go to the "scheme", the guid partition table has already been preset and still no APFS appears for me. What can I do?

      • Sir Apfelot says:

        Hello Hannes! Phew ... no real idea why this could be. Which macOS do you have? And is the hard drive you want to format your startup disk or an external hard drive?

        • Hannes says:

          OS X El Capitan 10.11
          The internal hard drive is called something with Hitachi and it contains the macintosh HD and it wants to format

          • Sir Apfelot says:

            Ok, that's the explanation: Apple didn't implement APFS until High Sierra (10.13). It is clear that you will not find this option with El Capitan (10.11). ;-)

  4. Michael says:

    As always - very helpful!
    Thank you very much

  5. Silverfish says:

    Mega. thanks.

  6. Lo says:

    Thanks, it helped me a lot!

  7. … "Ask Sir Apfelot, he helps efficiently and quickly!"

    Daaanke! For help with APFS formatting! I can only say: "Congratulations!" Your article contributed meticulously to solving the problem !!! From now on I am also a "Sir-Apfelot" fan and will now visit your website regularly!

    Best regards,
    Walter Ludwig (Apple fanboy since 1988)
    XtraBeat Music Pool

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Walter! Thanks for the nice poem! : D I am happy if you drop by me every now and then! Somebody's got to read all the nonsense I'm tapping into here. ;-) LG! Jens

  8. Peter says:

    Great tip.
    Saved me from a desperate bite into the edge of the table ;-)

  9. Hendrik says:

    You saved me a lot of research, trial and error and frustration. Many Thanks.

  10. Dietmar Guess says:

    MEGA! Thanks !!!

  11. P says:

    My hero, thank you!

  12. c.kordecki says:

    Now I come with my little problem. my MacBook Pro late 2012 now has a 1TB SSD.
    APFS formatted with GUID. Install with macOS Mojave - prepared.
    Drive is shown on the desk.
    Mojave is ready to install; "Close programs and prepare to restart"
    An error message appears after approx. 7 minutes:

    An error occurred while preparing to install.
    Repeated attempts bring the same result - now stand on the hose.
    What can I do?

  13. c.kordecki says:

    With CCC 5.1.8 I was able to load a version 10.14.4 onto the ssd
    It all looks fine - thank you

  14. Mikey says:

    Tried like a crazy yesterday…. but thanks to these instructions everything works now :)

  15. Price says:

    Could really cry :(
    My Macbook was so slow with HDD .. I thought:
    Come on try a 1TB SSD.
    I installed the SSD and want to format it.
    I sat on it for a week because my Macbook did not want to format the SSD in the FPDP. And then I managed to format the SSD to Extended Journaled, don't ask me how, suddenly my Macbook was up for it. And then after 2 hours while installing Mojave I get the error message that I should try again later ... I don't know what to do next.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Prei! How do you mean with the error message? When Mojave loads, does the Mac mean you should try "later?" Otherwise, you can load the system with another Mac and then install it from an external hard drive. There has to be a way. Only we Mojave want to reformat the disk to APFS for you. Mojave does not run on any other file system. If you have any details or questions, please let us know. I try to help when I can.

  16. Wolli says:

    My problem is that I have an extended (journaled) formatted SSD and Windos 10 on the boot camp.
    I have already deleted my Mac OS partition twice using the hard disk utility (Command + R) and formatted it as APFS (?) And then imported my backup.
    And again and again I notice that the record is still reported as Extended (journaled).
    The upgrade to Mojave will of course not work because there is no APFS.
    Isn't it possible without shattering the entire PC?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Wolli! I'm afraid that with Boot Camp and APFS is not yet supported by Apple. I would recommend that you use two separate hard drives here. And maybe the feature will be submitted with Catalina. If someone has other information, I would be happy to hear from you. LG!

      • Wolli says:

        Tried again!

        The starting point was to transfer backup (1) from the MacBook Pro (2011) with High Sierra, Extended (journaled), and Windows 7 at the BootCamp to a MacBook Pro (2018) with SSD and with Windows 10 at the BootCamp.
        Everything is wonderful.
        Also the backup (2) afterwards from the MacBook Pro (2018).

        Then the upgrade from macOS High Sierra to macOS Mojave. The APFS format is required for this.

        But I didn't.

        I have now deleted the Apple partition via restart (command + R) and reformatted it with APFS.
        Then I read the macOS High Sierra from the MacBook Pro backup partition. Everything nice. The operating system then ran on an APFS format partition.

        Then I installed my update (2).

        And behold:
        Everything as usual again:
        High Sierra on Extended (journaled) !!

        General question.
        If I have a backup with High Sierra on an extended (journaled) partition, how do I get the files on a new computer with macOS Mojave and an APFS partition?

      • Wolli says:

        I think I found the problem to transfer my data to an APFS system:
        I will now delete the Apple partition and format it with APFS. Then import High Sierra from the backup partition. Upgrade to Mojave and then only use the migration assistant to transfer the data from my BackUp version with High Sierra to Mojave.
        Will take time. Contact me afterwards.

        • Sir Apfelot says:

          Hello Wolli! Yes exactly. The migration assistant does the job quite well. But he's really lame. I always have to let this run overnight because it takes so long. : D I'm looking forward to your result!

          • Wolli says:

            Bingo! Has worked so far.

            Blinded by 'Import BackUp', I always clicked away the migration assistant that is offered after an operating system update.

            I have now restored my 'old' state 'High Sierra' but now on APFS and am better prepared for an upgrade to 'Mojave' with my Apple partition formatted on APFS.

            It is not yet clear whether Mojave may still accept 32-bit programs after an update that may be coming soon.

            Since I'm still working with Adobe CSS5, I'll wait until the last moment. With the upcoming Catalina operating system, the 32-bit era will be history.

            By the way:
            My system transferred about 100 GBit per hour. There was no difference in time between the migration assistant (files only) and a backup update (complete hard drive).

            Thanks for the support.

  17. VASA says:

    Super thank you. I had to format an external drive for a CCC backup in APFS to get a proper Mojave backup.
    Only your tip helped me. Apple has also cleverly hidden the function

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Yes, nobody looks first in the second selection box and then in the first. This is not a good user interface. ;-)

  18. BonCosmo says:

    Thank you ... After two hours I finally came up with the solution from you ...
    The change in the display brought the solution to the problem ... Well ... Sometimes the solution is in front of your nose and you just don't see it ...;))

  19. Nicolas says:

    I came across this How To by chance and probably saved myself gray hair and worry lines ...
    Just to be on the safe side, my problem again:

    1. I would like to buy a larger SSD for my MBP mid2012 (Samsung EVO860; 1TB)
    2. Mojave is currently running on the MBP (now a 512GB SSD is installed)
    3. I would now have packed the new SSD in a case and formatted it on the Mac with the FDP.
    Is it now correct that this MUST be done in the APFS format for Mojave?
    And not journaled with MacOS?
    4. Then I would have created a clone on the new SSD with CCC (including recovery partition)
    5. install the new SSD

    Finished. Correctly?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Nicolas! Yes, exactly right. As of Mojave, the system expects APFS on the disk. So format on APFS and then with CCC or SuperDuper! copy and then I would try again as a test to boot from the external SSD. If everything goes smoothly, I would start the conversion.

      • Nicolas says:

        Thank you Sir Apfelot :-)

        All tutorials found are based on a system (2012) that was just running on MacOS Journaled. Of course, this essential detail is not mentioned!

        Good advice to test the SSD externally beforehand and thank you for the super-quick answer!
        Greetings from Hamburg

        • Sir Apfelot says:

          With pleasure! And today I wasn't fast. There are just so many questions and comments about Catalina that I can barely write. : D But I try hard ... ;-)

  20. Joe Cool says:

    Thank you for the solution!

  21. Pako says:

    Similar problem: my Transcend (USB internal physical volume 125GB) is listed in the hard disk service program under the APFS volume (i.e. my main volume 114Gb). Now it happens that large amounts (80GB) are listed in "downloads" via peer-to-peer and therefore my mac reports: "not enough space" ... why? the SSD (Transcend) is not recognized as an APFS volume? First I had to delete all larger documents and files so that my Mac didn't even crash all the time ... Can anyone please explain how I can set up the external (but fixed in the slot) SSD Transcend from the Mac as main volume? THANKS

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      As far as I could read in the Apple Support Forum, that happens sometimes. The solution seems to be to reinstall macOS Catalina and then import the Time Machine backup. I hope it helps!

  22. pako says:

    Thank you very much!

  23. Svenja says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot,

    An SSD is built into my computer, no other external hard drives. When installing macOS Catalina, the installation program still tells me that the volume is not formatted as APFS. How can I solve the problem?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Svenja! Have you checked the hard disk service program to see whether it shows APFS as the file system? If not, I would connect an external hard drive and format it to APFS. Then copy all data from the internal to the external (via CCC or SuperDuper). Now you start from the external drive and delete the internal one with the hard drive utility and format it as APFS. Then you can start the Catalina installer and it should do a clean install on the internal disk. During the installation you can then tell him to use the migration assistant to import the personal data from your external hard drive.

  24. Dave says:

    Hello and thank you for the instructions. Unfortunately I only found it (like many others) after installing the cloned SSD and encountering the problem.

    I am currently upgrading 2 Macbook pro in parallel:
    1. Mid 2012 with Mojave - here I probably have to install the old HDD again, format the SSD correctly, clone and then install it again. … What the hell …

    2. Early 2011 with El Capitan: Do I have to repeat the procedure here or can El Capitan also cope with MacOS Journaled. It would probably be better to do an APFS formatting at the same time, if you want to upgrade later. Correct?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hi dave! As far as I know, El Capitan is too old for APFS. It's only been around since the High Sierra. In that case, the good old "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" is the better option.

  25. Achim says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot,
    your description just saved me from madness! I have subscribed to your newsletter so that in the future I won't have to use such tips after a long search.
    Top site with lots of valuable tips !!!!
    Thank you!

  26. Dlorenzo says:

    Rarely read such a great post, no wobbly videos, mumbling voices ect. For me that would be the benchmark on the web!
    Easy, great, especially for beginners ....!

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Dlorenzo! Thank you for the praise. But maybe I'll start my Youtube career someday and make shaky videos and mumble a bit into the microphone. : D

  27. Thank you very much. I too just got bushy and deleted a wolf and nothing was done with APFS. Thanks to Google and you ... is now running ... :-)

  28. Veronika says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  29. Guido says:

    Highly Recommended !!!
    I struggled with the built-in HDD for a long time.
    Then found this post, got an SSD (Samsung T5 500GB) and followed your instructions. My 2017 iMac boots within 74 seconds and all applications run like an oiled lightning bolt.
    Can hardly express my thanks !!!

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Guido! Yes, the external SSD is really still an insider tip because most people don't believe that an externally connected SSD can get so much speed out of it. But I've really only had positive experiences with it. It's nice that you have it too! : D

  30. IH says:

    Thanks, this article has just helped me a lot ... I was already thinking, I will no longer be able to use SuperDuper in the future, because I am desperate that the conversion to APFS would not work due to the missing GUID partitioning.

  31. Tom says:

    Hello and thank you for this solution. I also had the problem and it worked according to your instructions. Thanks!

  32. Aline says:

    I have the problem that the APFS format is not displayed in the hard disk utility despite the GUID partition table (I've installed a Crucial SSD and currently Mojave 10.14.3 on my Mac).
    I what ideas could be the reason? :(

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Aline! Unfortunately I have no idea. Mojave should support APFS and it would be news to me that certain hard drives exclude certain hard drive formats. But maybe someone else has an idea?

      • Aline says:

        Thanks for your answer!

        If someone should have the same problem, I'll write here how I was able to solve the problem after a phone call with Apple Support:
        * Format the SSD in OS X Extended (upper / lower case and journaled)! -> since the format is newer than OS X Extended (Journaled) it is possible to update again
        * Start the Mac by holding down Alt + Cmd + R keys -> this will display the latest operating system as an installation option in Internet Recovery Mode
        * Install macOS Catalina

        • Sir Apfelot says:

          Hello Aline! Thanks for the hint. That's great! I think I'll do a separate article on that. LG, Jens

  33. Peter says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot,

    I'm currently not sure whether my current clone is helpful and would be happy about a tip.

    Briefly about my plan:
    I would like to install an SSD in my Macbook Pro (mid 2012) and I am currently cloning the HDD to the SSD using CCC. My system is currently still running on Yosemite. After the clone is done, my plan would be to start the system via the still external SSD and to test whether everything works.
    In the next step, I would have liked to upgrade to Mojave before installing the SSD. In my research I came across by chance that the SSD must be formatted on APFS for this to work. That's how I came across your article here. Now it is the case that I did not find the possibility to select the APFS format in the hard disk utility under Yosemite, because this is only planned for 10.13.
    Do you have a tip for me on how best to proceed here? Maybe a solution to the problem is already described in your article but I don't understand it; I wouldn't rule it out at this point ;-(

    Thank you in advance!


    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hi Peter! The procedure with the clone is correct. But you don't have to prepare anything, because the Catalina installer checks the file format and changes it to APFS if necessary. Good luck with it!

  34. Nina says:

    Hello Sor Apfelot,

    Thank you very much for your contribution. Unfortunately, the "Scheme" window is not displayed at all, only "Format". Do you have any ideas how I can format the external hard drive to apfs? Thank you very much for your support.


    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Nina! Have you switched to "Show all devices" at the top left under "Display"? Then you have to open the arrow of the volume in the list and select the entry above. Now you go to "Delete" and you will also find "Scheme". If you click on the subordinate volume (shown indented), you only get the option "Format". That is normal. LG, Jens

  35. Christian says:

    Hi Jens,
    I was already desperate! Thank goodness I found your article and scrolled it all the way down :-)
    MANY THANKS!!!!!!!

  36. Anton says:

    Hello, Jens.

    The instructions were very helpful for me as an occasional Eppler.

    A friend's hard drive in the Imac 27 died in 2013. No big deal, you should think ... an internal 500 GB SSD obtained and formatted and partitioned on the PC beforehand. The installation was an adventure in technology, because you have to remove and reinstall the entire interior including the mainboard. But now the installer complained with "Installation not possible, GUID partition table missing ... blablabla ... please correct with disk utility ..." This error message was neither helpful nor effective, because there was no point "scheme" in the FDP.

    The only solution was to completely delete and recreate, which then also generated this GUID and also allowed partitioning.

    The plan is to install Linux as well as MAC-OS, either Arch Linux or Deepin, let's see. Because the topic of telemetry and user control is unfortunately also becoming more and more worrying at Appler. (2 factor authentication, etc.).

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Anton! It's good that you managed to do it, because I'm always out of these types of handicrafts. I have no idea about that. : D

  37. Wolfgang says:

    Hello Jens Kleinholz,

    I came across this blog by chance.
    Here I read that Mojave can only be installed on hard drives with an APFS file system!
    I own a MacBook Pro 17 ″ in mid-2009. Officially, this Mac is supported by the El Capitan system.
    This week I gave my MacBook Pro the new Mojave system using the Mojave patcher. Even after the installation, the hard drive is still in the Mac OS Jounaled file system.
    I haven't noticed any restriction so far!
    Is the condition questionable?


    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Wolfgang! Actually, Mojave will automatically convert your file system to APFS. But in your case it could have been left out because of the patcher. I think the programmer who wrote the patcher must have made that aware. So I wouldn't worry too much.

  38. "Joe" says:

    Thanks for the helpful info with "Change display"!

    I thought I was crazy. After all, I've already reinstalled a lot of HD + SSd. But you have to come to the thing with the representation first.

    Also the step after that, only after switching to "GUID" "APFS" can be seen….

    Apple could also automate this step (brief inquiry with selection menu) and then process this step in the background.

    Since MacOS is Unix-based, Apple could take a look at installations of Linux systems - it goes far more smoothly ...

    But it is the way it is ... ... my Air (2017) now has a 480GB SSD in it and is buzzing again ...

  39. Peter says:

    Thanks for the contribution - I was also faced with this problem today as a Mac user for decades and was initially completely at a loss ...

  40. Stephan says:

    Great, your article helped me a lot. It was the same for me, I was quite at a loss as to why my external HDD could not be formatted to APFS. Thanks very much!

  41. Stephan Kowalsky says:

    Hello dear sir,
    I've been messing with my old iMac with a defective hard drive for 1 week now. Today finally all courage put together, got a suction thing from the glazier and put in an SSD. Went great. https://youtu.be/eR9iH2CQZlc
    Then instalation from the Internet ("alt-cmd-R") and the same error message as with you above. I followed your screenshot and lo and behold, it instaled.
    LG Stephan

  42. Macuser says:

    I had the same problem today
    a look at your side has redeemed me, yes for long-time Apple users who still have the
    alten OSX großgeworden sind, ist das "Apple file System" noch manchmal gewöhnungsbedürftig….*-)

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