External HDD format suggestions.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by stchman, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    Hello all.

    I would also like to get an external HDD for the MBA. The WD Passport at Amazon looks really good. One cable, USB 3.0, all good specs.

    My biggest problem is it appears that Mac OS X only supports the following file systems for an HDD of that size:


    The first is OK, except for the fact FAT32 can't support files over 4GB in size. Second, OS X does not support EXT2/3/4 or NTFS from a read/write standpoint.

    I would like this HDD to be able to work with Mac OS, Linux, and Windows for file storage.

  2. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Format A Hard Drive Using Disk Utility (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder)

    Choose the appropriate format:

    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 ($19.95) (Best Choice for Lion and Mountain Lion)
      • For Mac OS X 10.5 and later, including Lion, FUSE for OS X
      • 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 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 (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.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2012
    If the drive is formatted hfs and is connected to the MacBook and shared over your network then windows will read it fine. If its going to be plugged into both computers equally (or if youre dual booting from the mac) formatting for ntfs and using one of the utilities outlined above with the Mac is probably your best bet.
  4. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    Looks like FAT32 is the file system of choice. I will just have to not have file sizes > 4GB.
  5. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    What's wrong with NTFS or exFAT?
  6. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    I need to be able to reliably read and write in NTFS (looks like OS X does not relaibly do this). Linux has had NTFS support built in for years, you would figure that OS X would have it as well.

    It appears that exFAT support in Linux is still in the development stages. The community will get it figured out soon enough.

    So by default FAT32 will be the one.
  7. macrumors 68000


    May 3, 2012
    OS X cannot write to NTFS natively, but it can read it just fine. If you get a third-party driver such as this -> http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/33122/tuxera-ntfs ... OS X will be able to read and write NTFS. Been using it for years without issues.
  8. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Yes, it does reliably read/write NTFS with Paragon. Only enabling the native NTFS support is unstable.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    If you want to USB-plug this drive to Mac, unix and windows, FAT32 is it.
  10. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    NTFS will work just fine on a USB drive.
  11. macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2011
    Athens, OH
    Paragon NTFS

    I have used it on 10.6,10.7 and now 10.8 and have never had one issue with it.
  12. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    I defer to your greater knowledge(I mean that without sarcasm... I've read a lot of your posts here and you know your stuff).

    But he said that he wants to use this USB drive on Mac, Windows, and Linux. If he wants a totally plug and play solution on all platforms, I think that FAT32 is the only way to go. If he's willing to install the Paragon software on his Mac and something else on Linux, then NTFS will work. However, NTFS is a very complicated file system, and I personally wouldn't feel confident swapping it around on a read/write basis amongst three operating systems with various third party file system drivers. If it were me, I would use FAT32, because I think it will be less hassle and potentially more trouble-free across all three OS'.

    But if you have better experience with this, I'm open to your opinion.
  13. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    The problem with FAT32 is the 4GB per file limitation, as the OP mentioned.
    As the OP mentioned, Linux has native NTFS support.
  14. macrumors 6502

    Jun 10, 2012
    exfat has worked very well for me on my external.

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