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How to erase a disk from Terminal in Mac OS X

Posted by Lou TarDisk on 2017-04-23

Most users use Disk Utility to erase a disk or hard drive. But some Mac users might need to erase them from the command line on Mac OS. To do that, the only thing you need is a bit of precise syntax to make sure that you are erasing the proper disk.

Here I'll show you how you can erase and format a disk using the command line.

Working with Terminal

Start off by running the following command in the command line: Diskutil list

This is going to list all the mounted drives on your Mac.

Once you have found the proper drive to erase, just copy its identifier so you can use it for the next command. Then pick a name and a system format type. This is the syntax we need: Diskutil eraseDisk FILESYSTEM DISKNAME DISKIDENTIFIER


Let’s say the disk I want to erase has “/dev/disk5s2” as its identifier and I’m going to use Mac OS Extended Journaled (JHFS+) as the system format type and name it “Empty”. The syntax is going to look like this: Diskutil eraseDisk JHFS+ Empty /dev/disk5s2

It’s important to keep in mind that if you run the eraseDisk command, the target disk is going to lose all its data, so make sure you are erasing the proper disk.

If you need different system format types, here are a few references you could use instead of JHFS+:

  • Mac OS Extended: HFS+
  • MS-DOS fat32: FAT32
  • ExFAT: ExFAT

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