External HDD for simple tasks

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by ladytonya, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. ladytonya, Jul 8, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011

    ladytonya macrumors 6502a

    Oct 14, 2008
    I have been searching around the forum for discussions regarding external hard drives and most of what I am finding involve people who are doing a lot more with them than I need to do. All I want to do is get an inexpensive, portable drive to use to transfer documents from my current PC laptop to my new MBP and then to use for Time Machine backups.

    Reading all the information I am finding about external hard drives is just managing to confuse me even more. I don't really think I need anything fast so I think a USB 2.0/3.0 drive will work for me. Also, I see that some come formatted for Mac, but I don't think I want that or I won't be able to get what I have on my laptop transferred over. I would just use a thumb drive to do it because that would work for my documents and photographs as I don't really have that many, but I have a lot of music that I have ripped onto my laptop that I want to be sure gets transferred. My husband and I actually have an external hard drive already but I don't know if it would work with my new Mac. Any suggestions/advice on the easiest way to get things transferred and start doing Time Machine backups on my new machine would be greatly appreciated! :confused:

    Edit: Also need to add, I want to be 100% sure that I do whatever I need to do to get my iPhone backup transferred to my MBP so the first time I sync I don't delete my contacts, calendar, and music on my iPhone! Thanks!
  2. awer25 macrumors 65816


    Apr 30, 2011
    Just get any portable USB drive, as they are easiest to use. Get a size sufficient for your Time Machine backups too (I would say at least 1.5-2x the size of the drives to be backed up).

    If it's only a 1-time transfer from your Windows machine to the Mac, either NTFS or FAT32 will work to copy data. After that, erase it on the Mac with Disk Utility to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and set up Time Machine to use it.

    As for the iTunes library, syncing with a new computer isn't always so easy. You can try this. I never used it, but SuperSync is a piece of software supposedly able to do this for you.
  3. duncanbrodie1 macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2011
    Yes, what Awer said.
    The biggest problem that you're facing is a formatting issue. The fact that drives formatted for mac and drives formatted for windows are formatted differently. and dont have the best recognition cross-platforms.
    One format that you can use is FAT-32. This will work for both operating systems. (formatting drives is done in Mac Disk Utility)
    The only problem is, drives formatted to FAT-32 will only accept files under 4GB in size. Which could be a problem if you're transferring any large movies or video clips. If its just documents, music, pictures, things like that, then you should be totally fine.
    If you DO have large files for 4GB then you will have to format to NTFS, which is a windows format. This format can also be READ by Macs, but not written to. Meaning you will be able to drop files from your Windows machine to the drive, and then copy them to your mac's HDD. But after that the drive will be of little use on the Mac. You would have to format it to something like MacOS Journaled. Then do your backups.

    In regards to the actual external HDD itself. USB 3.0 is not necessary because all macbook USB ports are 2.0 anyway.
    A good portable drive would be in your interest I think. That way you don't have to run a power supply to the drive every time you plug it in.
    At the price of storage right now, I see no reason why you shouldn't go for a 1TB drive. I recommend this one:

  4. ladytonya thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 14, 2008
    Just to be clear, my Mac will read from my NTSF drive so I can transfer from it to the Mac? I have more than 4GB of files to transfer to FAT32 will not work, plus I would have to reformat my external drive to do that anyway. I have a 500GB Toshiba portable HDD that I think I am going to use and let my hubby keep the 1TB desktop drive. He'll have more space and I'll have portability. I still haven't started the process, wanted to get used to OS X before transferring everything to the Mac because once this transfer is complete, I am going to reformat the HP and try to sell it. Maybe I can get a few bucks for it! LOL!
  5. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    The 4GB limit for FAT32 is 4 PER FILE, not total, so even if you have more than 4GB to transfer, so long as individual files are smaller than that, you're good to go.

    Yes, the mac will read off NTFS formatted drives without issue, it simply cannot write to it(meaning you would not be able to copy stuff from your mac to the external, but the other way around would work fine).

    For the iPhone thing, I can't be of help, but I'm pretty sure there's going to be a few shenanigans to do to make sure everything is where it's supposed to be.
  6. ladytonya thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 14, 2008
    Thank for all the great advice! I ended up getting a VERY inexpensive Toshiba portable HDD 500 GB from Best Buy. I have now transferred pretty much everything from my old laptop, but I'm holding off on reformatting the external drive until I'm 100% sure I've got EVERYTHING! So far, though, so good. My biggest fear was iTunes and my iPhone. I transferred everything in iTunes and didn't even lose my playlists. Also got my iPhone synced and my contacts and calendar are now on the MacBook. Everything just works, it's so nice, for a change!

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