I have a WDC Passport external drive which I used as a time machine backup. However, I do not want to use it as Time Machine backup anymore, I just want to use it as a regular external hard drive.

How can I do this? Whenever I run the Disk Utility App, I can't seem to find a way to reformat the external drive back to FAT32.

  • I would only use FAT32 if you plan to connect this drive to non-Mac systems. If you're still connecting it to a Mac, use HFS+ or APFS.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 18:53

4 Answers 4


This process involves a few steps within the built-in Disk Utility program, particularly when your partition is encrypted.

Before we begin, note that you should see hierarchy of disks/volumes in Disk Utility. At the highest level, you should see a logical volume group representing your external drive, with at least one Time Machine partition nested underneath it. These two items could both have identical names, e.g., "Time Machine," but they represent different things.

Also, beware that following these steps will delete everything on your external drive.

Disk Utility showing Time Machine drive

  1. In Disk Utility, "unmount" (don't "eject") the Time Machine partition.


    Drive after being unmounted

  2. Erase the Time Machine partition.

    Select Erase

  3. Erase the logical volume group, i.e., the higher-level item that contains the partition.


  • 2
    I welcome someone to improve my answer by adding screenshots.
    – EJ Mak
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 21:23

Click on the "Time Machine" drive that is indented (the one underneath the one you selected on your screen). Then the "Erase" tab should appear. Also, if your Time Machine is encrypted, my experience was that I needed to erase it and choose an unencrypted format in order to really regain full control of the disk.


Go to Disk Utility, select the disk on the left, go to the Erase tab, specify the format as ‘MS-DOS (FAT)’ which is FAT32, enter a name and click Erase.


There is no erase tab when using a disk that was a Time Machine.enter image description here

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