NTFS or FAT32 ?

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by aaron5566, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. aaron5566 macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2012
    I have an external hard-drive formatted with NTFS for my Windows, but I need it to write on Mac. Should I format it to FAT32? I heard there would be a large transfer speed difference. Is this true? BTW, I have USB 3.0. I'll be usually writing files less than 2-3 gb as this hard-drive is just for movies and photos.
  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    You could also use exFAT.


    Overview of the four major file systems (called "Formats" in Mac OS X) used on Windows and Mac OS X, compiled by GGJstudios. You can use Disk Utility to format any HDD to your liking.

    Any external hard drive will work with PCs or Macs, as long as the connectors are there (Firewire, USB, etc.) It doesn't matter how the drive is formatted out of the box, since you can re-format any way you like. Formatting can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility, found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Here are your formatting options:

    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)
      • 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. aaron5566 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2012
    Thanks! I just formatted a pendrive to exFAT and it seemed to write pretty fast. I'll be formatting my hard drive to exFAT too now. Thanks again! :)
  4. JoelBC macrumors 6502a

    Jun 16, 2012
  5. pdjudd macrumors 601

    Jun 19, 2007
    Plymouth, MN
    According to Paragon:
    Though MacDrive supports those too. My experience is that Paragon works pretty flawlessly though.
  6. sngx1275 macrumors regular


    Jan 27, 2009
    Can you use exFAT on regular mechanical spinny hard drives that are external? I was under the impression exFAT only worked for flash drives.

    Also, is it no longer the case that a Mac formatted exFAT won't work in Windows? I know I (and others) have had problems formatting as exFAT on a Mac and then having it work on Windows, but if you format as exFAT on Windows it works fine on both.
  7. JoelBC macrumors 6502a

    Jun 16, 2012
    Thanks, much appreciated...
  8. SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040


    Feb 25, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    Yes, it works fine.
  9. ishimura2446 macrumors newbie

    Nov 8, 2012
    DC Metro Area
    I would use exFat for sure. If you use fat simply because you can write to it via your Mac you will run across the size limitation of Fat in Windows. I tote about an ExFat format usb for that reason, all modern releases of Windows and the Xbox support the format too so no worries of incompatibility.

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