Formatting External for Mac and PC usage both... not sure how this works

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Sean Dempsey, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. Sean Dempsey macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006
    I've got a WD passport that I use as a travel/transfer device between my various computers. It is a 120 gig drive.

    I am trying to get it so that I can fully read/write and use the 120 gigs on both my windows XP pc, and my Mac Pro/Macbook.

    NTFS wouldn't work, I couldn't write to the drive from OSX. So I tried to format it in windows as fat32... that won't work because the partition can only be 32 gigs.

    So I put it in the Macbook and formatted/partitioned it as OSX journaled, as a master boot record, and it works fine in the Macbook, but isn't recognized in the PC.

    How can I get it so I can seamlessly use the drive on both machines? Is this possible? I know I can use a program like macdrive or something else on windows, but I really need it to work natively on both machines for my backup and automation software.

    Thanks ahead of time.
  2. SolrFlare macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2007
    The problem is you tried to format the drive into fat32 In Windows.

    The correct answer is format it into fat32 on the OSX side of things(or a 3rd party windows utility). That will allow partition sizes up to 120gb. And, Windows will recognize that partition size just fine. It's just MS wants to make people use NTFS so they limit their OS to creating a maximum 32gb size fat32 partition, when in reality fat32 can go up to 120gb(or in reality up to 2TB, you just need an updated Windows 2000 or higher OS to recognize anything beyond 120gb. Older versions of windows and MS-Dos are limited to 120gb)
  3. killmoms macrumors 68040


    Jun 23, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Use OS X's disk utility to format it to FAT32 (Called "MS-DOS file system.") The 32gig partition limit is an artificial one imposed by Microsoft's format utility in XP to try to force people to use NTFS.

    Keep in mind, though you can format and use the whole drive with FAT32, you will not be able to write any single files larger than 4GB to it.

    EDIT: Drat! Too slow! SolrFlare, I'm never having a "pistols at dawn, twenty paces" duel with you, that's for sure. ;)
  4. SolrFlare macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2007
    Lol no problem. You beat me to the 4gb file size limit though so it's all good :p
  5. Linkjeniero macrumors 6502

    Jan 6, 2005
    As others said, you'll do OK using FAT32 (unless you want to keep DVD ISOs or other files larger than 4 GB). The problem is that FAT32 is an old filesystem, prone to corruption and fragmentation problems... If you'll be using the drive in you PC only, then I suggest installing a program in it so you can use the HFS+ filesystem there as well (wich is vastly superior). The only one I've heard of is MacDrive, wich you can find here: .

    Hope that helps :)

    Duh! Now I read your post again and saw you don't want to use MacDrive... I should pay more attention. But I think you should give it a shot anyway.
  6. Sean Dempsey thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006
    Okay, so since posting, I decided to try installing Partition Magic 8 that I haven't used in a long time.

    I formatted it to FAT32, the entire drive, and it seemed to work okay on both systems. But, since my new Mac Pro will be my main machine (since I'm now an "mac guy"), I wanted to do it from the OSX side of things.

    So, I put the drive back into the macbook, and removed the partition, then redid it with the "MS-DOS file system" (which I SWEAR wasn't there before), and am going to try it like that. Right now it's "creating partition map

    This doesn't have to be the best/fastest, it just has to work natively in both machines to save/update/copy files.

    and... it looks like it's working fine!!
  7. showtime macrumors 6502

    May 10, 2007
    Anybody have problems deleting files off external media on a mac? I have a western digital passport and a sandisk cruzer and can't really delete things off of it. They're both formatted to fat32. The files do "delete" but they don't free up the space on the drives. Instead I have to go to windows, click show hidden files, and delete hidden folders that are labeled .trashes or something.
  8. AdamL macrumors member

    Aug 4, 2006
    I've notice that also. Anyone have any solution or is that the only way to go about deleting stuff.
  9. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    Just do an Empty Trash on the Mac.

    When you delete from an external drive, it moves the files to .Trash on the drive, not your boot drive. But doing just the same as if you deleted files from your boot drive works.

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