Preparing USB Flash Drives for APU Classroom & Lab Environments

USB Flash drives are great tools for file storage, data back-up, and for transferring of files between  systems, without the requirement of a direct network connection between them.

USB flash drives can be configured into several different file system formats. Both MacOS and Windows have different default file system formats, and it's important to know the difference between them, and which one to use for your USB Flash drive, to best work with APU Classroom & Lab environments.

Universal File Formats (Best Choice for USB Flash Drives being used in APU Classroom and Lab Environments):


  • Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT): This file format is an an evolution of FAT32, that is readable and writable across all current and past versions of MacOS (as well as OSX), and Windows operating systems. The exFAT file system is the best choice of file formats for USB flash drives, because it can be used across multiple operating systems, and is be readable and writable in all APU Classroom and LAB computer environments, as well as all personal computers, whether they are using MacOS or Windows. Another benefit to this file format is that it can store files larger than 4GB's in size, which is a limitation of the FAT32 format.


  • File Allocation Table (FAT32/MS-DOS FAT): This file format is an older file format that is readable and writable, on all current and past versions of MacOS (as well as OSX), and Windows operating systems. If a USB flash drive is formatted to this file format, it will usable across multiple operating systems, and is a recommended file format for USB flash drives, especially if you are a Mac user, and ever plan on plugging in your flash drive to an APU Classroom computer, or an APU Lab computer (Since those computers are running Windows not MacOS). The only draw back to this file format, is that it cannot hold any single file that is over 4GB's in size.

Mac Only File Formats:

  • Default MacOS File System - APFS (Apple File System): This file system was introduced with the MacOS High Sierra release. When a flash drive is formatted to this file system, it is only readable and writable when connected to a Mac that is running MacOS High Sierra or newer, thus it is not ideal for using with older MacOS versions, and not compatible with Windows.


  • Prior MacOS Default File System - MacOS Extended Journaled (HFS+): This file system was the default MacOS (Mac OSX prior to Sierra) file system format that every Mac's internal hard drive was formatted to, before the release of MacOS High Sierra. Formatting a USB flash drive to this format will result in the flash drive data being readable and writable on all Mac's, whether their internal drives are formatted to AFPS, or HFS+. This file system format however, will not be readable or writable to a Windows system, so it is also not ideal for using across multiple operating systems.

Windows Only File Format:

  • Default Windows File System - New Technology File System (NTFS): This file system is the current default file system format for all Windows computers internal hard drives. If a USB flash drive is formatted to this file system, it will be readable and writable to any Windows computer, however on Mac computers, it will only be readable, and not writable, so it is also not ideal for use across multiple operating systems.

Instructions for formatting USB Flash Drives:

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