Buying an External Harddrive -> format to windows?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by WillMak, Nov 10, 2006.

  1. WillMak macrumors 6502a

    Jul 29, 2005
    I'm plannign on buying a new external harddrive in the next hour. Someone told me that I should format the external drive on a windows pc instead of my macbook because by doing so I will be able to use it for both Mac OSX and this true?
  2. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    No it's not true.

    The drive MUST be formatted as FAT32 to be used on both. But there are inherant limits to FAT32 (4GB max file size). And Windows won't format a drive as FAT32 above the size of 32GB as an artifical force to move to NTFS. However, you can format it on OS X no problem.

    Beyond that, nothing except Windows can write to NTFS, so you don't want that format for use on a Mac too.

    A Windows box cannot read/write to a HFS+ disk (the Mac format) unless you buy 3rd party software (MacDrive).
  3. WillMak thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 29, 2005
  4. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    Like Yellow said, you can format as FAT32 using your Mac.

    But I recommend partitioning your hard drive before you start transferring any files over. I have a 500GB external drive with three partitions - a large 450GB HFS+ for backups and media files from my Mac, a 30GB FAT32 for data that I might want to have accessible (not much to be honest - it still has 28GB free. I could have used a thumb drive for that), and the remainder a second HFS+ partion on which I have installed OS X. I have found the external OS X install to be incredibly useful, using it to test out OS X updates before applying them to my main boot drive, and booting my wife's MacBook from it for a week when her hard drive failed.

    I also recommend using such a set up with your Mac because reading from and writing to the FAT32 partition is noticeably slower than with the HFS+ partition. For instance, I have a Java project that I put it on the FAT32 partition initially (so I could also work on it with my Linux/Windows machine) and it took 30 seconds to build. It takes 6 seconds from the HFS+ partition or from the Mac's internal drive.
  5. WillMak thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 29, 2005
    Hey plinden, I just bought the internal drive (with an external chasis) and it says it's "PC compatible" but doesn't say anyhting abotu it being Mac compatible. It shoul still be good right?

    Partitioning sounds good but it sounds very technical.

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