External HD for Mac and PC?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Elvishammer, May 31, 2009.

  1. Elvishammer macrumors newbie

    May 31, 2009
    I've been using a Lacie external HD to back up and share files from both my Macbook Pro and my work PC for about 4 years. Mostly music , pictures and word documents. I never had any problems doing this.

    The Lacie crashed so I decided to get a 500g Seagate Freeagent drive. I formatted it for the PC and now it's only Read Only on the MAC. I've been reading forums and there are lots of suggestions on how to format into NTFS(?) etc. but most say it can't be done on the Seagate.

    Is there a brand out there that will work on both without any formatting? If not, is there a way to EASILY format one? Should I buy another Lacie?

    I am not too technical, so simplicity would be very appreciated.

  2. i.shaun macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2008
    It shouldn't matter who makes the HDD, but in some cases it might.

    I say this because I have a 300GB Maxtor One Touch external HDD, and it has software for OS X that is used for automatic backups/syncing. That program corrupted my iTunes library, so I stopped using it, and thinking it was of no use to me -- I deleted it.

    The maxtor would randomly dismount, causing the iMac to reboot suddenly. It was quite annoying and possibly harmful to it (as I currently have an internal HDD issue).

    The fix for this was to re-install that program. I never run it/use it, but I keep it on the mac. I guess it has drivers for the maxtor that it requires.

    Other then that, if the external requires no software, it's the Disk format that is the issue.

    Here is a basic list of OS' and their ability to read/write.

    Windows: Supports Read/Write to FAT32 & NTFS // Cannot Read/write to HFS+(mac format)

    OS X: Supports Read/Write to FAT32 & HFS/HFS+ (mac format) // Read-only support for NTFS

    Other (such as DVD players, Playstation 3, etc..): Other devices usually support only FAT32. FAT32 is the most universal and widely used among portable devices such as USB sticks.

    There are programs around that can give OS X the ability to write to NTFS, and that's probably the best option around if you plan to use the drive for only Mac/Pc. If you have a PS3, and would like to use it on that too, FAT32 is the only thing it will read.

    FAT32: Universal, but limited. It can only support single files up to 4GB in size, and is less secure than other file systems.

    NTFS: NT File System, built for WinNT/2000/XP, and used also on VISTA. It is more advanced, has more security, no file size limit (that I know of), and is the best bet for windows. It probably cannot be read on other devices such as Playstation 3 consoles, or other devices. OS X can read, but is unable to write to it without third party support (software).

    HFS+: OS X file system, cannot be read on Windows natively, but there is an expensive program that allows Windows to read/write to it.
  3. Bill Gates macrumors 68020

    Bill Gates

    Jun 21, 2006
    You can format every hard drive to whatever filesystem you choose, with few exceptions. I would recommend formatting the drive to FAT32 if and only if you may need to hook the drive up to a computer that is not your own. FAT32 becomes easily fragmented and is very susceptible to sowing down as you add more and more files to the filesystem. It also suffers from a 4GB file-size limit, evidence of its age.

    I would therefore recommend formatting the drive as NTFS if you only need to connect the drive to Windows machines and Macs that you are familiar with, and are able to install software on in order to access the drive. You can download MacFUSE and NTFS-3G which are conveniently bundled together here, to install on any and all Macintosh computers that you need to access the drive with. Click the link under the "Download" heading in order to download the latest build.

    I only would recommend using HFS+ if you only need to access the drive form Macintosh computers, as Windows is completely lacking in free software to access HFS+ natively through Explorer. There are free programs such as HFS Explorer which get the job done, but don't work nearly as well as NTFS-3G for the Mac, which integrates nicely with the system, offering complete transparency with any and all NTFS-formatted drives.

    Since you've already formatted the drive and it's read-only under Mac OS, I would assume that you formatted it as NTFS. In that case download NTFS-3G under Mac OS and you should be good to go. If this is not the case, then I would therefore start by formatting the drive to the filesystem of your choosing. Format as NTFS or FAT32 under Windows, or HFS+ under Mac OS, depending on which you have chosen. I feel certain that you can do so for your new Seagate drive, although there may be Windows-software included with the drive that won't work if you choose HFS+. There is no need to purchase another drive.

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