How can I reformat my external hard drive without losing data?

LillaK

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 26, 2017
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Hi all :),

With my previous laptops (PCs), I've always stored my data on an external hard drive. Now, I have a new MacBook Pro and all my data is still on that external HD. I realized soon that there's a little problem: can't move files from MacBook to external HD. Read about it and found that I'd have to reformat it in Mac OS Extended )Journaled. (The HD will only be used with my MacBook.)

Problem is, I can't reformat it without losing/deleting my data from it, can I? Read about it, I'd have to back up the data (or save) with Time Machine. I'm afraid my data on the hard drive (around 500GB) might be too big for Time Machine to save. (Initially, I had 250 GB internal SSD space, now I have 176 GB left. Call me ignorant, but I don't know where Time Machine backs up the data or how it even works.)

What should I do about the data on the hard drive before reformatting it? If not Time Machine, are there any other easy solutions? What's the procedure?
 

jerryk

macrumors 603
Nov 3, 2011
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SF Bay Area
What happens when you connect the external drive to the MacBook Pro? This should just work. The drive may come up with a funny looking name, but should be in Finder.
 

Gjwilly

macrumors 68030
May 1, 2011
2,882
526
SF Bay Area
Buy or borrow a 2nd external hard drive.
Format to Mac compatible file system.
Copy original drive to 2nd drive.
At this point you can discard the original drive or else format it also and then copy the files back.
 
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LillaK

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 26, 2017
14
0
Its file format is NTSF, unfortunately.
[doublepost=1504119499][/doublepost]
What happens when you connect the external drive to the MacBook Pro? This should just work. The drive may come up with a funny looking name, but should be in Finder.
Well, it is in Finder, the laptop can read it, but for example, I can't move anything from the laptop to the external drive.
 

ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
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I agree with others - you have two viable options:

1 - purchase a second hard drive, format the new hard drive in HFS+, transfer the files from the NTFS drive into the new HFS+ external, and then format the old NTFS drive to HFS+, ExFAT, or FAT32. Also, if your current hard drive is more than 5 years old, it probably is nearing the end of its service life and needs to be replaced.

2 - purchase an App like Tuxera, Fuse, or Paragon that allows you to read and write to NTFS drives. IMO, this is less ideal than option number 1. (Some strong opinions exist on the practicality of using Apps for NTFS write support.)

(3 - use a cloud storage service to act as a temporary storage medium [this would be a pain, require access to a Windows PC, require installing software on both computers, modifying the Mac's default destination location where cloud files are saved, and then waiting the long time required for upload and subsequent download.])

(4 - enable OS X's experimental NTFS write support. This, while free, is not a good idea as this is an experimental feature that is not predictable, and data loss while using this feature has been reported.)

If these are important files, you should always keep two copies of them at an absolute minimum (three is strongly recommended.) External hard drives fail all of the time for many different reasons, sometimes without warning, and hardware data recovery can range from $400-3,000 per incident. After the fourth year of ownership/usage, hard drive failure rates skyrocket. Data corruption can occur as well, turning the contents into an unrecoverable mess.

If you store these files on one external hard drive, you should use a second external hard drive for the Time Machine backups, and configure Time Machine to backup the first external hard drive. If these are very important files, you can also back them up to a (paid) cloud storage service using something like DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud Drive. This would give you three versions of the same files, and would form a backup solution that accounts for most of the common causes of data loss!
 
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LillaK

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 26, 2017
14
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Thank you; very helpful answers!!! I think I'll go with buying a 2nd hard drive...

While we're at it, can you explain briefly what's difference between HFS+, ExFAT and FAT32? Does it matter? Why should I choose HFS+ for the new hard drive?
 

LarryJoe33

macrumors 68020
Jul 17, 2017
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Boston
Thank you; very helpful answers!!! I think I'll go with buying a 2nd hard drive...

While we're at it, can you explain briefly what's difference between HFS+, ExFAT and FAT32? Does it matter? Why should I choose HFS+ for the new hard drive?
Good move. Look on eBay for a G-Drive. I got a FW800 750GB for $35 shipped.
 

patrcie.a

macrumors newbie
Mar 8, 2018
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0
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journaled

HFS+ is a journalled file system and the others are not, making HFS+ much less prone to data loss.
Hi all!!! I am in terrible need for help. I have a 2TB external drive called "WD My Passport for Mac" It's been over a year since I last used it on my iMac.
Now, I am trying to use it on my MacBook Pro, and it lights up, its also recognized by my mac, I can see it on Disk Utility, but I can't open it.
I am afraid I will have to do a format, but I have everything in there, so many important files on it... I am terrified!! Does someone know what I can do not to lose the data on it and still be able to open it?

Thank you so much!! I could even pay for help if needed. Thanks a lot in advance!!
 

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LarryJoe33

macrumors 68020
Jul 17, 2017
2,011
678
Boston
Hi all!!! I am in terrible need for help. I have a 2TB external drive called "WD My Passport for Mac" It's been over a year since I last used it on my iMac.
Now, I am trying to use it on my MacBook Pro, and it lights up, its also recognized by my mac, I can see it on Disk Utility, but I can't open it.
I am afraid I will have to do a format, but I have everything in there, so many important files on it... I am terrified!! Does someone know what I can do not to lose the data on it and still be able to open it?

Thank you so much!! I could even pay for help if needed. Thanks a lot in advance!!
Definitely check out what @Weaselboy is inquiring about and see if it mounts. If this doesn't work, don't format and blow it away just yet. Try it on another machine not running High Sierra but something earlier. I would also try plugging it into a Windows machine and see if you can read it or copy it to somewhere. You would be surprised how much better Windows is at reading a variety of file systems. If none of this works, the data or the drive might just be corrupt. Good luck, I feel for ya!
 
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