Best format for external drive readable in OS X and Windows?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Errk!, Nov 3, 2008.

  1. Errk! macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2006
    I have an external drive that will need to be connected at different times to both my Mac (Leopard) and my Windows XP & Vista machines. I had it formatted for Mac OS (Journaled) but it wasn't readable in XP or Windows.

    So what is the best format so that all can read/write to it normally? NTFS? It needs to be able to handle larger files (4GB and bigger).
  2. 11800506 macrumors 65816


    Oct 31, 2007
    Washington D.C. Area
    If it needs to be able to handle large files than your only choice is NTFS. However, just know that OS X only supports reading and not writing to NTFS drives.
  3. Errk! thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2006
    Crap. Thanks for the info though.

    Is there a way around this? Could I partition the drive so that when the drive is plugged into the Mac I can move files onto the Mac partition, then move the file to the NTFS partition? And if so, would I need to plug it into a Windows computer to be able to move from once partition to another?
  4. Neil321 macrumors 68040


    Nov 6, 2007
    Britain, Avatar Created By Bartelby
    No need for all that download MacFuse & NTFS-3G this will let you have both r/w access to NTFS volumes
  5. Errk! thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2006
    The drive is being formatted to work with this so I'm not sure that will work. I will be creating and transferring files on the computers then connecting the drive to this device to view them.
  6. goobimama macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2008
    If the Mac is only machine and PCs are numerous, then make it NTFS and get Paragon NTFS for Mac (read/write).

    If the PC is singular, and Macs are numerous, then make it HFS+ and install MacDrive on the PC (allows read/write of HFS partitions)
  7. i.shaun macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2008
    The best bet for most uses is FAT32 file system. For more security, other file systems are available, but you need to get third party software in order to allow windows or mac to read/write respectively.

    NTFS (Windows NT File System) is the most advanced Windows system, developed for NT, and used in windows NT, 2000, XP & Vista. Macintosh systems can read NTFS, but cannot write to it unless third party software is installed. This software may come at a price (usually around $25-$30)

    HFS+J (Mac OS Extended (Journaled)) is an advanced Macintosh file system that is probably the most secure way to go, however Windows systems cannot read or write to this file system unless third party software is installed.

    FAT32 is an old windows file system that is used universally among many devices. This file system also has a size limit of 4GB. It can store many files as long as each single file is less than 4GB. On Windows VISTA, you cannot copy groups of small files totaling more than 4GB at a time. Macintosh and Windows systems, as well as other systems like Playstation 3 can Read and Write to FAT32 without third party software. There is no third party software available for Ps3 to date.

    Here are some Third party Software choices that have been suggested my other macrumor members. I will recommend Paragons NTFS for mac, as I have tried it, and it worked for me. I was able to access an NTFS drive, remove important files, and then format it.

    MacFuse & NTFS-3G

    Paragons NTFS For Mac

    Mac Drive (For Windows)

    Format Instructions:

    Open Disk Utility (HDD/Applications/Utilities/Disk

    When it opens, select the the External drive from the side bar, then select the "Partition" tab in the main window.

    From here you can select how many partitions you want. If you wish to use the entire drive, select 1 partition. Under "Volume Information", enter a name, and select a file system. For FAT32, select "Ms-Dos File system".

    You can now click the "Partition" button in the bottom right hand corner.

    Small USB sticks may require an extra step in order for OS X to format it as FAT32. Their small size makes the OS format it as FAT16 (also ms dos).

    To format a USB stick properly, follow the above steps, but before clicking "Partition" click on "Options..." and make sure "Master Boot Record" is selected.
  8. krewelement394 macrumors regular


    Feb 14, 2008

    hi im having a similar problem. my problem is that when i try to access my photos from iPhoto some files say "cannot be mounted.." why is this? i was told that i should format it to fat but it was already on that format... so that wasnt the problem....then what is?
  9. numbersyx macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2006
    FAT 32 is probably the most convenient trouble free format...
  10. EmperorDarius macrumors 6502a

    Jan 2, 2009
    That is if you can live with the 4GB limit.
  11. Errk! thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2006
    Right. The link above is to a WDTV device that I was using with it (I have since switched to the PopCorn Hour) and almost all of the files are over 4GB, so that wasn't an option.

    I ended up going NTFS and installing the Mac software to let me r/w to the NTFS drive.

    I've actually had a lot of problems with drive formatting and mounting with the PopCorn Hour, though not by any fault of the PCH device. I preferred to use the internal drive option, which formats the drive as EXT3. There is an EXT3 driver for OS X but it's older (2006 I think) and does not work with Leopard. I ended up installing VMWare Fusion on the Mac and handling file transfers either via Windows XP or through wifi file transfer (which is slllloooowwwww).
  12. felixen macrumors 6502a

    Apr 13, 2009
    So by installing this mac drive on Windows, I can insert my Mac OS formatted harddrive in my windows comp and I can both read and write files on it?

    Does it cause any problems?
  13. tonyburkhart macrumors regular


    Jan 24, 2010
    Thanks i.shaun!

    Thanks i.shaun, that's is all very useful information!

    I have a 1TB iOmega external drive that I want to use on my Macbook as a media file backup destination, then hand it off to my friends XP machine. I am going to point him to "Mac Drive" as a solution.

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