external HDs pre-formatted for mac and pc?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by haganaga, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. haganaga macrumors member

    May 20, 2010
    Hi there,

    I know you can format a hard drive to be compatible with both mac and pc, but I'm wondering if there are any available for sale without having to mess around with formatting myself. My wife has a PC and I need to transfer about 100GB of pictures from my iMac to her PC. Was hoping to just plug in an external HD into my iMac, drag and drop then plug into her PC and be done with it.

  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I don't know of any drives that come pre-formatted with exFAT, but formatting only takes a few minutes and is simple to do. It doesn't make sense to restrict the type of drive you buy, based on the format it comes with. There's no such thing as a "Mac drive" or "Windows drive", so pick the drive you want, based on factors such as speed, price, reliability, warranty, etc., then format it the way you want it.

    Format A Hard Drive Using Disk Utility (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder)
    Choose the appropriate format:
    HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive) NTFS (Windows NT File System)
    • Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
    • Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X [*]To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X, here are some alternatives:
      • For Mac OS X 10.4 or later (32 or 64-bit), install Paragon (approx $20) (Best Choice for Lion and later)
      • For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
      • For 64-bit Snow Leopard, read this: MacFUSE for 64-bit Snow Leopard
      • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx $36).
      • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and Lion, but is not advisable, due to instability.
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support NTFS
    • Maximum file size: 16 TB
    • Maximum volume size: 256TB
    • You can use this format if you routinely share a drive with multiple Windows systems.
    exFAT (FAT64)
    • Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
    • Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages.
    • exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support exFAT
    • Maximum file size: 16 EiB
    • Maximum volume size: 64 ZiB
    • You can use this format if it is supported by all computers with which you intend to share the drive. See "disadvantages" for details.
    FAT32 (File Allocation Table)
    • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X. [*]Maximum file size: 4GB.
    • Maximum volume size: 2TB
    • You can use this format if you share the drive between Mac OS X and Windows computers and have no files larger than 4GB.
  3. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Any external drive I can recall buying came formatted to FAT32, so that would work out of the box with a Mac and PC both. Only issue you may have is FAT32 has a 4GB file size limitation, so if you have any single file larger than that to copy it won't work. If it just photos, I doubt any one photo would be larger than 4GB.
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    My opinion only (and others will disagree), but I recommend that you re-initialize ANY external drive you buy, to suit your purposes.

    I would also recommend that if you intend to put valuable files on an external drive that you use with your Mac -- that you DO NOT "cross format" it (i.e., use anything other than a "Mac format"). Use HFS+ _only_. I have seen numerous posts from users who had a cross-platform drive, then connected it to a PC, hit the wrong button somehow, and POOF! Their Mac stuff was gone.

    If you need cross-platform compatibility, use a separate drive for this purpose.

    But keep your important Mac files segregated on their own drive...
  5. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    You didn't say what version of PC your wife is using.

    If i were you (in my opinion) i would use GGJstudios suggestion and bend the PC to your Mac. Install MacDrive on the PC and use an external formatted in the OS X native Mac OS Extended. With that software she will be able to see any disk you format on Mac OS Extended and read/write to it like it's native, even format Mac OS Extended. If you think about it most other people will not be able to get into that drive unless they have a Mac.
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I completely agree. I wouldn't trust my data to the pre-formatting that comes with a drive, even though it may be safe most of the time. It only takes a few minutes to ensure it's done right. I also agree that you should keep a backup of important data on a HFS+ drive, with a separate drive for sharing files with other computers.

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