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External hard drive format for both Mac and PC

by Retheesh / October 5, 2007 10:25 AM PDT

I would like to put a hard drive in an external enclosure. So the question is, what should I format the hard drive for read/write access by both OSX and Windows?

Also, is there a program that I can use to allow read/write support, like format the hard drive to a PC format like NTFS and install some software on the Mac that can read/write to it? Or vice versa?

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That's FAT32, but BEWARE!!!
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 5, 2007 11:51 AM PDT

NEVER rely on it since FAT32 USB drives have been known to corrupt thoroughly on an unplug. So it's fine for transfers but never count on it.


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OK... what do I need to do...
by grimgraphix / October 5, 2007 1:18 PM PDT

... to get a windows PC to read an external HD formated for apple? Will it be "read only" on a PC, the way an NTFS HD is read only when plugged into a mac?

Can you split/partition an external HD so that half is mac compatible and half is windows compatible?



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(NT) Then do that.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 5, 2007 10:31 PM PDT
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I could state the obvious...
by grimgraphix / October 6, 2007 12:24 AM PDT
In reply to: Then do that.

... and say that I wouldn't be asking how to do this, if I did know how to, or even where to start researching it. Instead, I will just walk away, chastened, and put in my place, knowing that the quick answer is not to be found... only to be earned with blood, sweat, and frustration.

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I already answered what to use.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 6, 2007 2:22 AM PDT
In reply to: Then do that.

All that's left is to do it.

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I understood the FAT 32 answer...
by grimgraphix / October 6, 2007 6:30 AM PDT

... I have a western Digital external HD formatted in FAT 32. It reads quite well on my apple and windows computers.

Now, I can open and read a NTFS HD connected to my mac. I can even drag files from it onto my mac... I just can't write to it. But, I also have a Seagate FreeAgent Go that I formatted just for use on my mac. I use this for storing large projects and software to transport from school, to work, to home. When I plug it into a windows PC running XP... it won't even be recognized as a hard drive. That is why I asked... OK... what do I need to do... to get a windows PC to read an external HD formated for apple? Will it be "read only" on a PC, the way an NTFS HD is read only when plugged into a mac?

If reformatting to FAT 32 for a PC to be able to read apple produced files is the only way, then it is the only way. I will grant that I could have asked if there was a windows utility to allow a MS machine to read an apple formatted HD or that I could have been more descriptive of just what I wanted to accomplish. I may know a great deal about some complicated pieces of audio/video and graphic software but I am extremely ignorant about what makes my computer actually work. Thus, telling me that FAT32 is my only option would have been a wee bit more informative than stating "then do that" was.

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To read an Apple formatted drive on the PC...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 6, 2007 6:49 AM PDT

We boot Linux. Not an easy task for some but it has allowed me to copy files out.

For Windows their may be some payware item out there but since Linux is just a boot away (CD, USB, etc) I don't see a need for anything else.

Hope this clears that up.


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(NT) Thank you
by grimgraphix / October 6, 2007 8:48 AM PDT
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How do I know if I formatted the hard drive on a mac
by puchingi / May 18, 2008 3:45 AM PDT

Sorry new to externals... I think I did the format but it was very quick. How can I check? It is a 500GB but it only shows 465, is that normal?

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Yes, it's normal
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / May 18, 2008 4:37 AM PDT

If you did the initialization, format, inside Disk Utility, you are done.
It does not take much more that 30 seconds or so to initialize a disk.

You can check by going to the System Profiler, Apple menu/About this Mac and then clicking More on the resulting window.

Then choose the type of connection your external is using, Firewire or USB, and you will see details of everything connected using that method. You are looking for HFS+(journaled)

Just as an FYI, Firewire is the preferred method of connecting external drives, including optical drives, to a Mac.


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Allowing a pc to read a Mac formatted external drive
by Dayajoti / October 4, 2010 7:08 AM PDT

Hi, I have done this by using a piece of software called 'MacDrive'. It's not free, but pretty cheap. When installed, you can both read and write to a Mac drive from your pc.

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Another option
by boya84 / October 5, 2007 1:31 PM PDT
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Yet another option
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / October 6, 2007 12:00 AM PDT

Take a look at MacFuse.

It enables OS X to read and write to a NTFS formatted disk.

Details Here


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Hey, what are we? Invisible
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / October 6, 2007 8:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Yet another option

The answer is here. Just format the disk using NFTS and run MacFuse on the Mac.

The Mac will read and write to the disk, as will the PC machine and no need to partition or use Linux.


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(NT) Thank you P.
by grimgraphix / October 6, 2007 2:59 PM PDT
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by Retheesh / October 10, 2007 10:37 AM PDT

OK, thanks.

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not as simple as that
by just trying to help / January 1, 2009 8:52 AM PST

I don't think it's as simple as just installing macFuze and then you can magically use NTFS with your Mac. You have to install Fuze and then a program to utilize Fuze in order to be able to write to NTFS.

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Apparently, it was
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / January 1, 2009 9:14 AM PST
In reply to: not as simple as that

Two years into it and no complaints.


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Reformat Mac hard drive?
by petepatpan / November 8, 2009 9:08 AM PST
In reply to: Yet another option

I had 250Gb external usb drive is had window format. I need to how to reformat Mac ox?

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Connect it to your Mac,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 8, 2009 10:01 PM PST

fire up disk utility,
select the drive in the left hand pane,
choose Erase from the tabs.
If Erase is not available, move on to the Partition tab
Select 1 partition from the drop down
If you are using an Intel Mac, click Customize (or Options), and select GUID as the format type
Otherwise, select Apple Partition Map

Hit the apply button and you should be good to go


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Seems too easy
by virginmac / October 31, 2007 8:56 AM PDT

I had a problem getting files from my old PC (Win 98) to my new iMac. I finally borrowed a HDD enclosure (Icy Box). Put my old HDD in plugged it in and hey presto got everything I needed except my address book. I didn't even need to move the jumpers to 'slave'.
I then thought about re formatting the disk for Mac OS using Disk Utility but then realised there may be a problem for PCs to read or write to the disk. It is formatted in FAT 32 and the Mac has no problem reading or writing to it. It is connected via USB 2 so probably not the fastest transfer but........
FAT 32 seems to work well for both platforms.
I hope this is useful to some of you.

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by Retheesh / November 7, 2007 12:10 PM PST
In reply to: Seems too easy

It's not really a flaw, but FAT32 wasn't really designed to be used on large hard drives. In your case, Win 98 must've been a small HD, hence why FAT32 would work perfectly for your needs. I have a 200GB HD and FAT32 slowly degrades in performance over time. Also, there would be a lot of wasted space by using FAT32 on a larger HD.

I just wanted to say that I solved my problem by following the Macfuse method. I had to save my data to another hard disk, then format the drive in Mac format, transfer the files back to the newly formatted HD, and use the network and/or flash drive if I needed to transfer any data to/from a Windows computer. I decided not to get Macfuse because I barely use my Windows PC anymore. Again, this method works for me because I'm on the Mac most of the time.

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I have no problems as yet with FAT32.
by Me, Myself and You / November 7, 2007 10:03 PM PST

I have a large external, and three partitions:

-A medium sized partition, HFS+ for Mac backup.

-A large NTFS partition for Windows, for backup.

-A small-ish FAT32 partition for transferring files between both.

Works flawlessly.

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Formatting a External Drive for Mac and PC use
by Wizebuyer / May 11, 2008 1:08 AM PDT

Hey how did you format your external drive with Mac, NTFS, and Fat on three different partitions?? What platform and software did you use?

Anybody else know how to do this on a Mac with Panther OS?
I got a LaCie d2 Quadra external.

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"Mac, NTFS, and Fat on three different partitions??"
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 11, 2008 5:55 AM PDT

Let me share I've seen this and the poor owner had lost it all some dozen times till I shared the tip about MacFuse. Try it.

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External Drive for both Mac/PC
by winelvr / January 16, 2009 1:01 PM PST

Just bought an IMac running Mac OSX10.5 Leopard .... wanted to use the Maxtor 300 GB external drive I have connected to my Dell Laptop. After some research, I found a program called "Paragon NTFS for Mac OSX."

It allows full read/write access to my Maxtor (NTFS formated) external drive by BOTH my new IMac and Dell Windows XP laptop. As I recall it was about $29.

There's additional information on the Web if you Google "Paragon NTFS for Mac"

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by neptunexx7 / December 7, 2009 10:10 PM PST

I am looking into buying the software you mentioned, it looks like the software lets you connect right up to a pc, is there a specific cable that you use to connect to 2 computers? Also I would like to have the capability of using an ext. hard rive between my work pc and my imac at home as well, will this software work for that? Can you use any kind of ext. hard drive? I bought a 500gb Seagate, its brand new.

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What the software does,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 8, 2009 1:09 AM PST
In reply to: Hi

is allow a Mac to read and write to an NTFS (windows) formatted disk.
Without the software, the Mac can only read from a disk formatted in that way.

Your 500GB Seagate will work just fine. Remember to format it on your Windows machine so that the format is NTFS.
Install the Paragon software on your Mac.
Connect the Seagate, with a USB cable, to either of your two machines and you will be set to go


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by neptunexx7 / December 8, 2009 1:46 AM PST

Thats sounds very easy, thanks, I will let you know next week how it goes!


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