external harddrive and OS X - FAT32 problem?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Oats, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. Oats macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2003
    New York
    so I just purchased an 80GB external harddrive to use as backup for my mac and PC system, so I need to use a filesystem available for both OS X and windows. Currently, the drive is formatted FAT32. Can OS X recognize NTFS? I have heard this is a more desirable format for large volumes.

    Anyway, I am having a strange problem copying files from my Mac to the drive... for example, when I try to copy my OpenOffice.org1.0.1 folder to the drive, I get an error, "One or more items can't be copied. Do you want to skip them and copy the remaining items?" I press "Continue", thinking that it may drop a file or two that is corrupted or something, but it doesn't copy a single file, or even the containing folder! What is the deal? Can anyone help? Does it have to do with filename limitations? I know the files are not corrupted because I can copy to one of my HFS drives just fine.
  2. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    well my 250GB FAT disk was giving me kernel panics!

    Basically I wanted to reformat so I looked to see if (for free) windows could read either HFS or UFS (the other choices my iMac could format the disk in), i went with UFS, the unix file system, as there is some free software from http://ffsdrv.sourceforge.net/ which windows users can use to read it, so I'll just get them to install that.

    There also seems to be an open source NTFS project for the Mac

    so that might work too, though the project doesn't seem that advanced yet...

    I haven't actually tested either yet but would be interested to know which was best.
  3. lexfuzo macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2005
    The heart of Europe
    FAT's OK

    I'd use FAT32 for the 80GB disk in question. It's the most flexible solution.
    250GB is a bit too much AFAIK - partition the drive to 2x125 and you can format with FAT.

    Do keep in mind that you can't have files >4GB on FAT partitions.

    I'm not sure why it won't copy your Oo_O-folder. Try cp in Terminal. Perhaps that helps.
  4. grapes911 Moderator emeritus


    Jul 28, 2003
    Citizens Bank Park
    All my external hard drives are FAT32. There are two problems:

    1. No file single can be larger than 4GB minus 1 Byte.
    2. Apps generally can't be run from FAT32 drives.

    FAT32 is generally the best choice because it is the only file system that both OSs can read/write natively.

    NTFS is read-only in OS X.
  5. Oats thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2003
    New York
    i found out the problem:
    alias files

    for some reason, OS X (version 10.4.5, by the way) cannot handle copying shortcut files/alias files from the OS X to the FAT32 drive. it complains about not being able to copy the files, but doesnt tell me which ones! also, if there is an alias file ANYWHERE in a directory or subdirectory, the entire directory tree containing the file will not be copied. this is pretty annoying. has anyone ever run into this sort of thing? what is so special about alias files that NTFS can't handle them?
  6. Uma888 macrumors 6502

    Jan 10, 2005
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    I found that out the hard way. :mad:
  7. brettbolt macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Rocklin, California
    My external drive has problems too (works fine on a PC though).

    I have a FAT32 formatted 200GB Maxtor inside an APS MicroSlot USB 2.0 enclosure.

    Sometimes it works OK on my iMac Core Duo, but most often it doesn't. I called Apple Tech support, which was no help. All he could say was "Try formatting it with the Mac File System". But then my PC can't read it and the whole reason to have it is to transfer large files. :confused:
  8. jalagl macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2003
    Costa Rica
    I have a 250GB external HD. After a couple of tries, I finally settled on usng HFS+ and use Macdrive to access it from my Windows laptop.
  9. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    I take you mean symbolic links? Well, Windows filesystems don't handle symbolic links, (Windows shortcuts are not the same) so of course can't be saved. It's a bummer though that OS X doesn't tell you what can't be saved.

    Anyway, what I would do if I were you would be to format the external drive into 2 partitions, one FAT32, the other HFS+. Use the FAT32 partition only for data files that you want to share, like documents, images and iTunes folders, and the other for backing up Mac-only directories e.g. backing up applications. The size of the partitions would depend on whether you are saving more shared data or Mac backups.
  10. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    I just took my own advice and repartitioned my FAT32 USB2 external hard drive, 30GB for shared data, 90GB for Mac-only data (mainly iMovies and iDVD so far.)

    Well, I didn't expect this, but when I put back the 20GB shared data on the FAT32 partition, I was getting about 5MB/s write speed (approx 1 hour to copy). Writing 25GB of iMovie data to the Mac partition, I got 19MB/s write speed (approx 20 minutes to copy).

Share This Page