Which Portabe hard drive for both Mac & PC?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Sorcie, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Sorcie macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    I'm planning to buy a portable hard drive to use with my Macbook (yes, that old white MB with OS X 10.5.8 since 2007) and a PC (Win 7).
    I want to store and transfer movies, music, photos, documents... between me and my friends, and also, as a backup disk for my MacBook. But I've read a few posts with complaints that once you used HDD as a backup disk for a Mac, Windows PC can't read/write it?

    So, tech savies, please give me advices on which one I should buy?
    My budget is about 100$ and below, about 500GB storage.

    P.S: I'm kind of hitech-allergy, hi-tech items tend to mysteriously break down or malfunction when I use them, like 2 of my friends' Western Digital passport essential devices didn't like me, weren't recognized on both my MB and PC. :confused:

    Thanks in advance! :apple:
  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Any HDD will work, once it is properly formatted. Use exFAT as file system and MBR (Master Boot Record) as partition map scheme, which can be employed using the method in the following guide, where you chose MBR instead of GUID in step 4.


    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:

    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.
    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.
    HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)
    • Read/Write HFS+ from native Mac OS X
    • Required for Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! backups of Mac internal hard drive.
      [*]To Read/Write HFS+ from Windows, Install MacDrive
      [*]To Read HFS+ (but not Write) from Windows, Install HFSExplorer
    • Maximum file size: 8EiB
    • Maximum volume size: 8EiB
    • You can use this format if you only use the drive with Mac OS X, or use it for backups of your Mac OS X internal drive, or if you only share it with one Windows PC (with MacDrive installed on the PC)
    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.
  3. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    It doesn't have anything to do with brand, but with formatting. Buy any portable HD you want; if it's formatted as FAT both OS X and Windows can read/write to it. If it's formatted as NTFS you need something like Macfuse or NTFS-3G to write to it on OS X (or maybe there are newer things to do this, or even native support... it's been a long time since I cared).
  4. Sorcie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    Thanks a lot for your quick replies. The links gave lots of helpful info.

    But @Simsaladimbamba, why MBR not GUID? I want the HD to be a backup disk for my Mac, not PC.
    And if I got it right, I should partition the HD into 2 parts, 1 for the backup thingy, and 1 for normal file storage. Is there a way to partition like that?
  5. xxBURT0Nxx macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2009
    doesn't using your portable HDD (that you store your media and files on) as a backup drive defeat the purpose?

    If your drive fails or you lose it or it's stolen you are going to lose all of your stuff and your backup. Just buy two drives...
  6. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Yeah, I forgot, 64-bit Windows can actually mount GUID partitioned HDDs, thus you can use GUID of course.
    As for partitioning, you can use Disk Utility to make as many partitions as you like, just yesterday I made 10 partitions on an external HDD for storing standard Mac OS X installations (10.5 to 10.8) and the installers, thus eight partitions for that, and two extra partitions for backup purposes.

    As for a file system, I would advise for exFAT, as you can store files onto such formatted volumes bigger than 4 GB.


    Links to guides on how to use Disk Utility, the application Mac OS X provides for managing internal and external HDD/SSDs and its formats.
  7. Sorcie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    I would, if I could plant and grow money on a tree.

    Another question pls, if I partition a HD into 2 parts, can I format 2 parts to 2 different formats? :eek:

    And I see a lot of topics asking about that FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra–portable, is the drive a Mac OS friendly product or a problem-magnet one?

    Now I'm wavering between the Hitachi touro pro, Lacie porsche and the FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra–portable. I prefer 1TB storage, but the Hitachi one is only 750gb, and the Lacie and Seagate 1tb are kinda too big. :(

    Now here I am scratching my head till it goes bald.
  8. xxBURT0Nxx macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2009
    yes, you can partition a drive and format each partition separately.

    free agent go flex is a good hdd, i use a Lacie at home and it's great, the porsche series just look even better.
  9. Sorcie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    Thanks a lot for the answers. I'll come back after I get one :D
  10. Else1163 macrumors newbie

    Mar 27, 2012

    Ok, so, I found this post after a most frustrating evening and miserable morning. I have a few things I need done and done in a certain order and No one around me (personally) can help.

    I purchased a Seagate 1.5 TB ext HD. The reason I purchased is 2 fold.

    1. I am getting all my families 8mm celluloid films put onto this thing but it needs to be in NTFS format for the dude to use it. But I run on an IMAC, He says any of his customers can use the files in iMovie to edit after I get the HD back from him.

    2. after I get it back, I need to update my personal system to Leopard, yeah I know I'm behind, but money was an issue. Anyway, I need to be able to back up my system on the HD but I don't want to do it before I send it away to this guy.

    3. What I'm finding is that the partitioning is not working. Albeit I have 10.4.11 running is that it? I've tried everything and it says I can't partition. Error message.

    I need Most of it MAC and just a little NTFS

    Thanks in advance for your help, I feel like chucking the HD into my computer screen at this point.

    ~Else Ayala
  11. Revelation78 macrumors 68000


    Dec 18, 2008
    North Carolina
    You need to find an NTFS read/write program for your operating system or upgrade and download one of the many available for your new operating system. Then you should be good to go.

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