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Old Apr 10, 2012, 05:01 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Paris (France)
External Hard Drive Win/Mac Compatibility

I'm currently using a Windows PC and I'm thinking about buying a Mac in a few months--my first Mac ever, actually so I have this kinda dumb question that I'm hoping somebody here can answer me.

I have a WD My Passport external HDD (1 TB) that it's compatible with Mac software (it says so in the box) but I hear that in order to use it with Mac I'll have to 'reformat' it (not sure what's the English word for this, sorry) but my question is: do I have to 'reformat' it even to read the files that are inside or that's just necessary if I want to store new files in it? In conclusion: if I have this external HDD almost full of different files (music, movies, Word documents, etc.) will I be able to use them/copy them from my Mac even tho the HDD is formated for Windows?

Thanks a lot in advance.
Rockoar is offline   0 Reply With Quote
Old Apr 10, 2012, 05:02 PM   #2
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Yes, you can read from it without reformatting.
And with an additional software, you can even write to it if it uses NTFS as file system.
Have you checked Finder > select external HDD >> GET INFO >>> Format yet?


Overview of the four major file systems (called "Formats" in Mac OS X) used on Windows and Mac OS X, compiled by GGJstudios. You can use Disk Utility to format any HDD to your liking.

Any external hard drive will work with PCs or Macs, as long as the connectors are there (Firewire, USB, etc.) It doesn't matter how the drive is formatted out of the box, since you can re-format any way you like. Formatting can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility, found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Here are your formatting options:

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.
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 (approx $20) (Best Choice for Lion)
    • For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
    • For 64-bit Snow Leopard, read this: MacFUSE for 64-bit Snow Leopard
    • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx $36).
    • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and Lion, 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.
HFS+ (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 or Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! backups of Mac internal hard drive.
  • To Read/Write HFS+ from Windows, Install MacDrive
  • To Read HFS+ (but not Write) from Windows, Install HFSExplorer
  • Maximum file size: 8EiB
  • Maximum volume size: 8EiB
  • 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)
exFAT (FAT64)
  • Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
  • Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages.
  • exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
  • 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.
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Old Apr 10, 2012, 05:04 PM   #3
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Reformat is the correct English word and may I say your English is very good.

Windows hard drives are usually formatted with NTFS. Macs can only read data on drives formatted like this. They cannot write to them. There are third party drivers that exist to allow writing to NTFS drives, an example it NTFS-3G. I use this on my Macs and haven't had any trouble with it.
Last edited by Intell; Yesterday at 11:53 AM.
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Old Apr 10, 2012, 05:41 PM   #4
Thread Starter
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Paris (France)
Thanks a lot to you both for the quick and complete answer. I was very worry about this because, as I said, I have almost a 1 TB of information which I don't want to lose. Now all I have to do is wait for Apple to launch the 2012 MBP
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