Do I need to format my external hard drive...?

Turnpike

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Oct 2, 2011
411
218
New York City!
I was a Windows guy, who moved over the Mac but only recently started saving things to the Mac file system (on my Macbook Pro). On a Windows computer, I can plug in any external hard drive I have here and slide over folders of info on to it, easy peazy. If they are large, it's just a matter of waiting.

Now with the same external hard drive (never reformatted from new, I just delete the folders of WD Passport stuff that was on it, assuming it was all tracking or ads or trying to get me to sign up for something. (done this a long time ago).

Anyway, can I just use that external hard drive like it is, and plug it into a Mac and slide all my stuff that I put in one folder on my desktop over to the external hard drive? Is there any file name/size/style/type/format that is different, or that I need to prepare the external hard drive for...?

Probably a silly question, but I don't want to mess up the files (some .stl files, mostly photos) so I thought I'd ask first.


Thanks!
 

dwfaust

macrumors 603
Jul 3, 2011
5,482
6,180
I was a Windows guy, who moved over the Mac but only recently started saving things to the Mac file system (on my Macbook Pro). On a Windows computer, I can plug in any external hard drive I have here and slide over folders of info on to it, easy peazy. If they are large, it's just a matter of waiting.

Now with the same external hard drive (never reformatted from new, I just delete the folders of WD Passport stuff that was on it, assuming it was all tracking or ads or trying to get me to sign up for something. (done this a long time ago).

Anyway, can I just use that external hard drive like it is, and plug it into a Mac and slide all my stuff that I put in one folder on my desktop over to the external hard drive? Is there any file name/size/style/type/format that is different, or that I need to prepare the external hard drive for...?

Probably a silly question, but I don't want to mess up the files (some .stl files, mostly photos) so I thought I'd ask first.


Thanks!
macOS can read NTFS partitions natively, but cannot write to them without the use of a third party app... You can reformat the drive using the Disk Utility app (located in the Applications > Utilities folder), but if you do, Windows will not be able to read or write the HFS partition, which Apple uses as its native format. (Apple is moving to a new Apple File System with macOS High Sierra, to be released this fall.)

Options for being able to read/write for both macOS and Windows computers include the use of third party apps (Paragon and Tuxera) or formatting the drive to an ExFAT partition.

https://www.howtogeek.com/235596/whats-the-difference-between-fat32-exfat-and-ntfs/
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,200
5,544
My opinion only, but...
IF you intend to use the external drive to keep "Mac stuff" on, then format it "for the Mac" (HFS+ with journaling enabled).

Things just work better that way.
I've seen posts from folks who kept stuff on a "cross-formatted" drive (shared between a Mac and Windows), who use the drive with Windows, and then connected back to the Mac and.... POOF! The files were gone.

IF you need "cross-platform" compatibility, the best way to handle this is to keep a "dedicated drive" formatted in Windows format ("fat32"?). Use it to move and share things, but again -- DON'T use it as "primary storage" for valued Mac stuff.

A USB flash drive of sufficient capacity is just right for this task.
 

Turnpike

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Oct 2, 2011
411
218
New York City!
I'm looking to merge my photos to a Windows computer.... what would be the best way to do this then? I'm not opposed to spending money for a good or simple solution.
 

dwig

macrumors 6502a
Jan 4, 2015
652
238
Key West FL
...
Options for being able to read/write for both macOS and Windows computers include the use of third party apps (Paragon and Tuxera) or formatting the drive to an ExFAT partition...
I format my "transport" drives, those used back and forth between Mac and Win, as ExFAT using the Format service in Windows. I've done this for years and it works well. Mac support for ExFAT began with OSX10.6.5 and Windows support goes back to XPsp3.
 

Turnpike

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Oct 2, 2011
411
218
New York City!
Thanks for all the input- one thing I found online is that if I offload my photos and files I have saved on a Mac to a external flash drive formatted in Fat 32, that I should be able to use that to put the files onto my Windows desktop without any issues, does that sound right, or are there issues with that?
 

dwig

macrumors 6502a
Jan 4, 2015
652
238
Key West FL
Thanks for all the input- one thing I found online is that if I offload my photos and files I have saved on a Mac to a external flash drive formatted in Fat 32, that I should be able to use that to put the files onto my Windows desktop without any issues, does that sound right, or are there issues with that?
Yes, FAT32 is supported by both Windows and Mac.

FAT32 has limitations, but none that should impact most people's photos. Its main limitation for this type of use is its 2gb maximum file size. No matter how large the storage device, no one file can be 2gb or larger. This can be an issue for videos and for still images produced by some crazy photographers (read: me, who regularly builds files that Photoshop's PSD format can't handle and can be 10-15gb each and forcing me to use PSB Large Document Format or TIFF).
 

dwfaust

macrumors 603
Jul 3, 2011
5,482
6,180
Thanks for all the input- one thing I found online is that if I offload my photos and files I have saved on a Mac to a external flash drive formatted in Fat 32, that I should be able to use that to put the files onto my Windows desktop without any issues, does that sound right, or are there issues with that?
FAT32 does not allow files larger than 4GB... these days, that's a real, hard limit. ExFAT has no real file size limitations. Most modern devices support ExFAT (more than support NTFS), but older devices may not support ExFAT.