View Full Version : Which is the best format?

Sep 27, 2012, 02:47 PM
I'm trying to decide which is the best format to reformat an external hard drive in order to be able to use it both with a Mac and a Windows machine as well as with some TV sets. Which format do you recommend? what are the general advantages/disadvantages of those formats?

I'm currently trying FAT32 but I'm hating the 4GB limit it imposes to each individual file that I want to copy...

Sep 27, 2012, 02:48 PM
Format A Hard Drive Using Disk Utility (http://macs.about.com/od/applications/ss/diskutilformat_4.htm) (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder)

Choose the appropriate format:

HFS+ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HFS%2B) (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)

Read/Write HFS+ from native Mac OS X
Required for Time Machine (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1427) or Carbon Copy Cloner (http://www.bombich.com/) or SuperDuper! (http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html) backups of Mac OS X system files.
To Read/Write HFS+ from Windows, Install MacDrive (http://www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive/)
To Read HFS+ (but not Write) from Windows, Install HFSExplorer (http://www.catacombae.org/hfsx.html)
Maximum file size: 8EiB
Maximum volume size: 8EiB
Mac OS X: Mac OS Extended format (HFS Plus) volume and file limits (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2422)
You can use this format if you only use the drive with Mac OS X, or use it for backups of your Mac OS X internal drive, or if you only share it with one Windows PC (with MacDrive installed on the PC)

NTFS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ntfs) (Windows NT File System)

Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X
To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X, here are some alternatives:
For Mac OS X 10.4 or later (32 or 64-bit), install Paragon (http://www.paragon-software.com/home/ntfs-mac/) ($19.95) (Best Choice for Lion and Mountain Lion)
For Mac OS X 10.5 and later, including Lion, FUSE for OS X (http://osxfuse.github.com/)
For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (http://macntfs-3g.blogspot.com/2010/10/ntfs-3g-for-mac-os-x-2010102.html) (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
For 64-bit Snow Leopard, read this: MacFUSE for 64-bit Snow Leopard (http://www.offthehill.org/articles/2010/12/31/macfuse-for-64-bit-snow-leopard/)
Some have reported problems using Tuxera (http://www.tuxera.com/products/tuxera-ntfs-for-mac/) (approx $36), which is an enhanced version of NTFS-3G with faster performance.
Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and later versions, but is not advisable, due to instability.
AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support NTFS
Maximum file size: 16 TB
Maximum volume size: 256TB
You can use this format if you routinely share a drive with multiple Windows systems.

exFAT (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfat) (FAT64)

Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfat#Disadvantages).
exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT)
AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support exFAT
Maximum file size: 16 EiB
Maximum volume size: 64 ZiB
You can use this format if it is supported by all computers with which you intend to share the drive. See "disadvantages" for details.

FAT32 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat32#FAT32) (File Allocation Table)

Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
Maximum file size: 4GB.
Maximum volume size: 2TB
You can use this format if you share the drive between Mac OS X and Windows computers and have no files larger than 4GB.