External Hard Drive Question

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by JTag, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. JTag macrumors newbie

    Aug 28, 2007
    I am planning to buy and external hard drive for my macbook and I was wondering if all brands of hard drives work with Macs. Also, can I use it with both a PC and a Mac at the same time or are they formatted differently?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Pretty much all brands of drives work on Macs and PCs, except that some enclosures have been known to not boot Macs for whatever reason. So if possible, you want to find one that you know others on the net, for instance, have used for booting. There are literally hundreds of recommendations here on MR in various threads.

    Some things to consider:

    - There are lots of USB only drives out there, but Firewire is much, much faster. Even though USB2 is rated at 480 MBPS, it is practically much slower than Firewire 400 (400 MBPS) because Firewire is designed for sustained transfers, whereas USB is better at short bursts. Get Firewire if at all possible. The practical difference in activities like copying over several gigs of files can literally be that it is 1.5-2.5x faster on Firewire.

    - We have a guide at guides.macrumors.com regarding formats. Basically, any option has limitations. HFS+ is the best for Macs, but you need special software to read / write it in Windows. NTFS is best for Windows, but you need special software to write to it on Macs. FAT32 works fine on both, but cannot handle single files >4GB in size. There are other options like EXT2FS that handle big files on both platforms, but they need special (free) drivers on both Windows and OS X, so no Mac or Windows computer will be able to read/write them unless you install the drivers first.
  3. killerrobot macrumors 68020


    Jun 7, 2007
    Another thing to consider when buying an external is to make sure it has it´s own power source (especially if USB 2.0) because they can´t always pull enough power off the computer to fully mount/spin/be recognized.

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