Formatting an external hard drive for Mac/Windows Use

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by gwihannom, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. gwihannom macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    I don't really use automatic backup method, because I have a few computers in the network that I go back and forth.
    I used a Windows based syncing program to sync all computers of Documents, Music, Photos, etc., but it went corrupt.
    So I'm not gonna use that method anymore.

    I don't like automatic backups because I need to access the only specific files from an external hard drive.

    When I modify a file and put it into an external hard drive, "Date Modified" section does not change. Which worries me that the drive is corrupt. (The drive was originally used on a Windows machine.)

    Before I go any further in backup my files, I want to format it based on a Mac since it's primary OS.

    How should I go about this?
    Is there a different format for Mac and Windows drives?
    I want to start from scratch.
    I still need to use it between two OSs.
  2. illegallydead macrumors 6502a


    Oct 22, 2007
    OK, that was really confusing. The BOLD stuff below is the answers to the questions I can understand. As for your backups... well, I'll leave that up to someone else to decipher your intents.

    It doesn't sound like you are truly "backing up" anything, but rather moving certain important files to a main disk. Is this a NAS? Or is it a USB or Firewire drive?
  3. gumbyx84 macrumors 6502


    Dec 7, 2008
    If you are going to use NTFS, do not buy ntfs drivers. NTFS-3G is open-source and FREE. Been using it for about 2 years now on my old Linux laptop and my MBP and never had a problem.
  4. gwihannom thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    Forget the backup part, I guess what I need is an external hard drive that I can use in both mac and pc. I need both mac and pc to be able to write on it. I've searched around but kinda confused as to how to format the drive.
  5. WPB2 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 1, 2008
    Southeast, LA
    FAT32 is the formatting you need.
  6. nope7308 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    External drives should not be formatted as FAT32 because there is a 4GB limit on file sizes. That is, if you format the drive as FAT-32, you cannot write any files larger than 4GB.

    I'm in a similar situation - I use my external between both Macs and PCs. I'm relatively poor, so I was looking for a FREE solution. Here is what I would suggest...

    Format the drive using NTFS (windows). Download NTFS 3G on the Mac (FREE) which will enable both read/write privileges. It's free, it's simple, and it works.

    Caution: I don't use Time Machine, so I'm not sure if it's compatible with NTFS.
  7. gwihannom thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    So how do you format it to FAT32?

    From Disk Utility, I saw that I had options for Mac-OS Extended, Journaled, MS-DOS, and such.
    Which is which?
    What's FAT32?
    What are others, and if I use them,
    are they read/writeale in Windows?

    Looks like my current external hard drive is formatted in FAT32.
    It's 150 GB drive.
    It's weird how 4GB is a maximum size for a FAT32, but I've been putting a single 14GB Virtual Machine file which is used for VMWare.
  8. ZMacintosh macrumors 65816


    Nov 13, 2008
    in disk utility you select the MS-DOS format (thats essentially Fat32)

    the 4gb limit is appointed to a specific individual file; for example a 4GB PSD file, or a 4GB AVI movie file.
    you can have a folder that reaches 40GB with various files ranging in size.

    Your VMWare is probably saving in various sectors of the drive itself, so its not all allocated to one particular location on the drive and probably not alot of INDIVIDUAL files that exceed 4GB.

    i have DVD rips on my 1TB Fat32 external drive (networked) and plays and saves just fine.

    As for the other formats;
    Mac-OS Extended & Journaled are for the OSX file system (also represented as HSF+); these are for PPC and Intel Macs and can be read by most Mac OS computers and with a utility in windows called MacDrive (somewhat unreliable...)
    MS-DOS like i stated is FAT/FAT32 thats read/writable in Mac and Windows

    the only the issue so forth in fat32 is i believe a 2TB partition limit...but not sure if that will make a difference now or in the future when maybe more open file formats will be available for multiple OS access (read/write)
  9. WishingDigiJosh macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2009
    i do a lot of audio and video work and can vouch for MacDrive. It works very well in windows and lets me move easily back and forth between different macs and PCs. And at least you have support from a physical company if something goes wrong. If you feel comfortable, then NTFS-3G for OS X will give you the cross compatibility you're lookin for.

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