What Is Disk Utility in macOS? (And How to Use It)

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Disk Utility is the go-to tool if you need to resolve any drive errors or organize your drive storage on your Mac. Disk Utility is built into macOS and can prove to be very useful if you know how to use it.


Here, we’ll cover some different uses of Disk Utility for Mac users, but before we do that, let’s quickly go over this tool, shall we?


What Is Disk Utility?

Disk Utility Interface on macOS

Disk Utility is the central hub for all drive management tools in macOS, allowing you to view, diagnose, partition, and format any internal and external drive connected to your Mac.

The tool also displays various details and a graph of your hard drive configuration, which allows you to quickly analyze the overall capacity as well as the free and used space on any drive. Similarly, if you’ve connected an external drive to your Mac, and it isn’t showing up on macOS, Disk Utility can allow you to view and diagnose the drive to see why it isn’t running correctly.

Disk Utility has had a few redesigns over the years in different versions of macOS, so the exact options you see on-screen may be slightly different depending on the macOS version your system is running.

5 Ways to Use Disk Utility in macOS

Disk Utility offers many different features for disk management, including diagnosing a faulty drive and repairing it, formatting your drive, partitioning it, and so much more. We’ve covered four different ways you’re most likely to use Disk Utility, so feel free to go through them below:

1. Find Out if Your External Drive Is Faulty

If you have a problem with an external drive connected to your Mac, you can use Disk Utility’s First Aid feature to check and diagnose your drive.

The First Aid feature, as the name suggests, runs various checks on the drive and repairs any detected issues. However, you can’t use this method to repair issues with your Mac’s internal drive. You’ll need to launch your Mac in Recovery Mode to do that (more on that later).

To run First Aid on your Mac to check an external drive, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Disk Utility on your Mac. You can do this by opening Finder and accessing it from Applications > Utilities or searching for it in Spotlight.
  2. Select the drive you’re having issues with from the sidebar. If you can’t see the device, click on Show All Devices (in the dropdown above View.)
  3. Click on First Aid.
    First Aid in Disk Utility

  4. Disk Utility will check the drive volume for errors and repair it if necessary. Click on Run.

You won’t be able to use your Mac while Disk Utility checks the volume. Depending on the size of your drive, this may take a long time, so be prepared.

If Disk Utility finds a problem with the drive, it will attempt to fix it after you allow it. If Disk Utility cannot repair the drive or believes it’s about to fail, it will warn you. In this case, it’s a good idea to back up your data to avoid any data loss. Similarly, if Disk Utility reports that the drive is OK, it means that there are no issues with your drive.

2. Repair Your Mac’s Startup Disk

You can also run First Aid on your startup drive to repair any issues or errors you may be facing. But if Disk Utility finds any issues, it won’t repair your Mac’s startup drive unless you launch macOS in Recovery Mode.

Launching your Mac in Recovery Mode is slightly different depending on whether you have an Intel or Apple silicon Mac.

If you have an Apple silicon Mac, shut down your Mac and press and hold down the Power button as it boots. However, if you have an Intel Mac, restart your Mac and hold down Command + R on your keyboard.

Once you’ve booted into macOS Recovery, follow the steps below to repair your startup drive:

  1. Once you’re in macOS Recovery, you should see the macOS Utilities screen. Choose Disk Utility.
  2. Select the internal drive you want to repair from the menu, and click First Aid.
  3. Disk Utility will run its checks and attempt to repair the drive, similar to the process above. The repair process may take a while.

That’s it! Disk Utility should fix any issues it finds on your drive using First Aid.

3. Format a Storage Drive on Your Mac

Format Drive using Disk Utility

You can use Disk Utility to format any drive connected to your Mac. Similarly, it can also be used to change the file format of any drive, which is useful if you’ve just bought an external drive and want to make it compatible with Macs.

We have a separate guide on formatting an external drive using Disk Utility, which uses the Erase feature in Disk Utility. Ensure you back up your Mac before erasing it, as a drive format is irreversible and will result in complete data loss.

In case you want to format your Mac’s internal drive for a fresh install of macOS, you’ll have to boot into macOS Recovery and choose Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities screen.

4. Add a Volume to a Drive

Disk Utility also allows you to add volumes to different drives in macOS. Storage drives using the APFS file format can add volumes, which act as separate containers to sort your data on your Mac.

You can also install different macOS versions onto unique volumes, sharing the same available drive space between different releases. Creating a volume differs from creating a partition on your drive; however, both function similarly.

5. Partition a Disk on Your Mac

If you wish to create separate volumes within a drive for better file management, you can partition a drive in macOS using Disk Utility.

This involves creating partitions of different sizes, which you can use for various purposes. You can also set a specific file format for a partition. For example, you can make a partition exclusive for macOS and use that to set up Time Machine on your Mac for regular backups.

Disk Utility is a powerful tool you can rely on to solve loads of drive-management issues. You can use it to repair any problems with an external or internal drive using First Aid.

Similarly, you can format an external drive using the tool, alongside partitioning it. This helps if you’re looking to set up a macOS-exclusive drive or want to set up a specific file format on your drive.

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