About external hard drive settings

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by dam2o, Jul 20, 2013.

  1. dam2o macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2013

    I've 2 TB external WD hard drive that I'd like to use with PC and MacBook. I've already set my hard drive for FAT configuration. I'd like to know what is the best solution for using the drive for both Mac and PC? Shoud I use Time Machine or is it good enough when I drag my important stuff from Mac to my FAT Drive?

  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    FAT32 may suffice with files smaller than 4 GB, but if you have files bigger than 4 GB, exFAT will be the better option to transfer files between Mac OS X and Windows (if PC is short for that, as a Mac is a PC too).


    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:

    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.
  3. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    ^^ Nice File System overview simsaladimbamba!

    Hand draggin vs. TimeMachine.

    Ya, TimeMachine rocks because it's automatic, on a schedule, and backs up only what's needed (changed or new files). The later has a profound impact on system resources and activity. I have mine set to backup every 4 hours from about 6TB of data I'm constantly adding to, subtracting from, and modifying and in about 4 months of that I haven't noticed it initiating a backup. It's all very quiet and doesn't hog resources thus almost completely transparent.

    With a hand done drag and drop backup operation you will likely have to stop what you're doing, select the files or the volume to copy, and then if you're like me - sit there and watch it till it finishes.

    I haven't tried to use TM with a FAT volume yet but if it's possible you should definitely go for that. :)
  4. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Thanks, it took me very long to copy & paste from GGJstudios.

    Time Machine requires HFS+.
  5. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    I would stick to Time Machine (TM) for your backups since it is included with OS X and is automated. To use TM you will need a disk formatted as Mac OS Extended (HFS+) in Disk Utility.

    To share files on that disk with a Windows machine the easiest and free solution is to format the disk in the ExFAT format. Then both the Mac and PC can read/write to the disk.

    You can accomplish both these goals on the same external disk by creating two partitions on the disk. Make one partition in the Mac OS Extended format for your TM backup and the second in ExFAT to share your files with the Windows machine.

    Here is an overview of how to create partitions.
  6. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Target, destination, or both?
  7. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Great response and now a question - could a drive be set up as two volumes? One that is NTFS for Windows and one that is set up for OSX so one could use TM? I gather this can be done but is there an advantage to this method?
  8. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Ya, it can be done. The advantage I think is space and dollar savings. The disadvantage is speed maybe - also integrity... Normally you don't want your backup and the data you're backing up on the same drive, etc.

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