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Old Nov 17, 2012, 03:32 PM   #1
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How do you format an external HDD for Mac, Time Machine & PC?

Hello everybody I hope this is the right place to post my question! I'm new to Macs.

I have a 2 TB external HDD. A PC and a MacBook Air with 128GB SSD.

I want to create a NTFS partition for PC, a HFS+ partition for Mac and a partition to use Time Machine with my MacBook Air (HFS+ again I guess?)

I know how to format the HDD on my PC but not on Mac. How do I format the external hdd with the 3 partitions and with the different file systems? Also, I've read I should use more space with Time Machine partition then there is on the Macbook Air. My Air has 128GB how much space should I use with Time Machine, 256GB?
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 03:38 PM   #2
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You use Disk Utility (it's in Applications/Utilities folder). Plug in your external, it will show up on the side bar, select the drive and hit the Partition tab at the top. The options for choosing partitions will come up. It's fairly straight forward.

As for your Time Machine partition, I'd say go with a solid 3 or 4 times the MBA hard drive. Maybe around 500gb unless you're going to desperately need the space for your other two partitions.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 04:18 PM   #3
Stooby Mcdoobie
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If I were you, I'd just set up an exFAT partition to be shared between your Mac and your Windows PC, then an HFS+ partition (Mac OS Journaled, Extended) for Time Machine. This is how my main external drive is set up, and it works well.

If, for some reason, you don't want to share the partition, your way would work as well. You will have to do the NTFS partition in Windows, as OS X can't natively create NTFS.

Here is a bit more info on hard drive formats:

Originally Posted by GGJstudios

HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)
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.

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.

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.
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Old Dec 11, 2012, 02:54 PM   #4
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GimmeSlack12 and Stooby I just wanted to say thanks for the advice. I used disk utilities and it worked great, and then I attached the external hdd to the PC to slow format the NTFS partition. I also added a program to enable me to choose when Time Machine makes backups. Everything is working great!
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