External hard drive used previously on a Windows based laptop

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by jam5971, Aug 18, 2015.

  1. jam5971 macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2015
    I've just bought a Mac mini to replace a windows laptop that has come to the end of its days. I have an external hard drive that I have back ups of my digital photos on, along with files I want to take across to my Mac. Whilst the drive is recognised and I can view or copy the files from it to my Mac I cannot write to it or delete files stored on it. It is I believe a 2tb drive, which is probably less than a quarter full, so I want to make use of it. From looking on this website and other internet sites I guess it's currently formatted just for PC, so will need reformatting to enable write as well as read only access from my Mac. If I'm understanding it correctly I have two options to make it useable as a backup and not lose the data on it.

    option one
    copy all the files on it onto my macs internal hard drive. Format my external to suit my Mac. Copy/move files back onto external.

    option two
    copy all the files onto my macs internal. Format external to suit Mac. Leave files on internal. Use external as a time machine, which, if I'm understanding it correctlay, will give the advantage of backing up the whole system and not just my files.

    My question is (a) is my understanding correct and (b) which is the best option?
  2. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Look around for a free driver...

    NTFS-3G Safe Read/Write NTFS Driver

    or the pay for use ones such as

    Paragon NTFS

    and others.


    If you do decide to reformat the drive, you can also repartition the drive at the same time an leave a portion of the drive for Time Machine Backup. And still use the other side for files, and maybe a 3rd one for windows if you so choose.

    I did this with a small 1TB drive to break out a portion of the drive for an emergency boot partition (for some reason, seems easier to find the external drive than the emergency boot thumb drive hidden around the house), and I use the other partition solely for Time Machine backups for 2 machines.
  3. Celerondon macrumors 6502a


    Oct 17, 2013
    Southern Cal
    I have used the Paragon NTFS for Mac product for years. This simple driver is trouble free and transparent. At less than $20 (US) NTFS for Mac was inexpensive and they offer discounts and free updates sometimes. Paragon provides timely updates to match Apple's OS X versions. https://www.paragon-software.com/home/ntfs-mac/
    It just works! :D
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    What follows is my opinion only.

    If you have Mac files that are IMPORTANT to you, they should be stored on a "Mac-formatted" drive.
    By "Mac-formatted", I mean HFS+ with journaling enabled.

    Of the two options above, perhaps "a blend" of the two is what will work best for you.
    That is:
    1. Copy ALL the files you want to keep from the drive to the Mac
    2. Re-initialize the drive to HFS+ with journaling enabled.
    3. Now, you must do "an assessment" of which files are important enough to you to keep accessible on the internal drive, and those others that are less important or that you'll access rarely.
    4. Now, copy the "less important" stuff back over to the external drive, and keep the more important stuff on your internal drive.

    One last thing to consider:
    You DO, of course, need some kind of backup drive.

    If the external drive is large enough (2tb), it will do.

    You might consider partitioning the external drive.
    Use the first partition for the storage of less-important stuff (as mentioned above)
    Use the second partition for backup.

    I'm going to go against the grain of most here, and recommend that you DO NOT use TIme Machine, but instead use either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to create a cloned backup of your internal drive. Much more useful in "moments of extreme need".

    Again, my opinion only.
  5. dwig macrumors 6502

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL
    ... and I'll challenge the wisdom of both camps. One backup solution is not the best for all situation so I recommend using two.

    CarbonCopyCloner is horrid when you only need to recover a single file that you just overwrote with bogus edits and TimeMachine is horrid when you need to restore a totally trashed system. I suggest that you do both.

    Run TimeMachine using an HFS+ partitiion and periodically use CarbonCopyCloner to image the boot system and possibly the external "file" partitioin to another set of HFS+ partitions. The CCC clone partition(s) would be best kept on a drive that is NOT used on a day to day basis which means the OP needs a second external drive for the CCC clone(s).
  6. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Option B is your best option. It does not sound like you need the ability to use the drive in Windows any longer, so there is no need to keep the drive formatted in NTFS and therefor no need for adding an NTFS driver to OS X.

    Option B will give you the original photos on the internal, plus the entire system including the photos backed up using Time Machine to the external drive.
  7. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    If you are never going to use it with a PC again then there's no need for an NTFS driver. Copy the data to the internal drive, format the drive and then either copy the data back or leave it on the internal drive and then use the newly formatted external drive for something else.
  8. jam5971 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2015
    Can't see me using it with windows once I've got all my files I want to keep across, unless I go back to a windows pc in years to come but that won't be for several years so I won't worry about formatting it so windows can write to it, I can always reformat it again if the need arises.

    I just need to decide whether to just format it and use it as a straight storage device or as a Time machine backup. Might format it with 2 partitions and do both.
  9. jam5971 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2015
    Formatted it and partitioned it in two. Straight files on one and time machine on the other
  10. angrystroker macrumors newbie


    Dec 13, 2010
    Atlanta, Ga (downtown)
    X2, partition it in two, not a fan of time machine. OS was updated via Apple updater, hosed one of the applications, a bug from them. Could not recover from the time machine back up app. and never looked back. Not a beta tester no time for nonsense, I will take a sure thing every time.
    So to back up, use the Disk Utility, easy as falling off a log and you will always have a bootable drive. backUp.jpg
    I do have an auto folder back up, came with and external drive I purchased. Speed tools is the CD name good stuff. Has a defrag and auto back up apps. and other disk tools.

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