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transfering files from desktop to external hard drive

by illectuallydemented / September 13, 2007 11:05 AM PDT


i am a photographer and a new mac user.

as the title says, i'm having trouble transfering a folder into my external hardrive.

i have two usb devices going. one is a compact flash card reader and the other is an external hard drive. i'm trying to copy the card reader's files into my external hard drive.

i've tried copying the folder by simply dragging the folder from the CF card reader to the external hard drive but it won't let me. there is always a message telling me i cannot. this is what i get;

[the item "foldername" could not be moved because "USB-HDD" cannot be modified]

i have various sub folders in the external device i wish my folder to be put in but no matter where i drag it to it'll keep saying the above statement.

i have even tried copying the files onto my desktop first and then dragging it to my external but the same message appears.

how am i supposed back up my files if my storage device "cannot be modified?"


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If there are folders in the main folder you are
by boya84 / September 13, 2007 3:00 PM PDT

trying to copy, it is possible that there are "invisible" files in there that don't like something.

Presuming a single document can transfer OK, then try multiple documents. If there are multiple subdirectories, try a single subdirectory first, with no subdirectories in it - only documents... find out where the error message hits.

It is also possible that the naming convention used for the memory card has some sort of odd requirement... Did you ever format the card or just plug and play?

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External HD
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / September 13, 2007 9:44 PM PDT

There is a possibility, however slight, that the external USB drive is not formatted for use with your Mac. You describe yourself as a new Mac user which could imply that in a previous incarnation you used a Windows machine and this drive was part of that setup.

If that is the case, it could be that the drive is formatted as NTFS which is normal in a Windows environment.
While OS X is able to READ from a drive that is formatted at NTFS, it cannot WRITE to one. You will get a warning saying that the drive cannot be modified.

If this is the case, the only way around it is to format the drive as HFS+, the normal Mac OS X format, using the Disk Utility. The downside is that you will lose ALL the data that is on the drive at the time of formatting. Remember to save everything to the Mac's drive before you format.

Let us know what you find out.


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RE: External HD
by illectuallydemented / September 15, 2007 12:39 AM PDT
In reply to: External HD

What you describe is exactly what the problem is. I was a previous Windows user and so that's probably what the set up was because whenever i try to transfer files it keeps saying that the drive cannot be modified but i am able to read files and transfer them to my desktop.

thanks. i'll let you know what the outcome is after i have formatted the external HD.


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RE: RE: External HD
by illectuallydemented / September 15, 2007 8:17 AM PDT
In reply to: RE: External HD

After several hours of backing up all the files from my external HD onto my desktop, then formatting the external HD, and then retransfering the files from my desktop back to my external HD the task is done and the problem solved. I can now save or write files from my Mac to my external HD.

Thank you very much for all your help!


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You are quite welcome
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / September 15, 2007 9:05 AM PDT
In reply to: RE: RE: External HD

Glad it worked out for you


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Help please
by Jtho1 / September 2, 2008 6:08 AM PDT
In reply to: You are quite welcome

Hi there,

I just bought a WD 160 GB external hard drive for my Mac book.
It came with no instructions
I read somewhere I need to format my drive or something? this is all gibberish to me, can you explain exactly what i need to do.

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Connect your external drive to your Mac
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / September 2, 2008 8:54 AM PDT
In reply to: Help please

Use Firewire if available, otherwise, use USB.

Drive will mount on the desktop

Open Disk Utility. Applications/Utilities

You will notice that there are two icons for every drive attached to your Mac.
Find the external HD in the left hand window.
Select the top icon, the one that shows the size of the drive, not the one underneath it.

Click the Erase Tab. Select Mac OS Extended(Journaled). Give the drive a name. Click erase.

That should do you.


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External Hard drive to iMac
by nomadd74 / September 27, 2008 11:48 AM PDT

I found this information interesting, as I never realised that an external hard drive could be formatted from NTFS to HFS+. In fact I didn't know that external drives were different and assumed they could tackle all.

I have Time Machine on my iMac 10.5.2 desktop, but have not yet used same. I have been intending to purchase a 4GB memory stick with USB and will check this out before buying, or carry out as you suggest.

For my purpose I only want to check limited things and use the memory stick like Windows System Restore.
I loved System Restore on Windows since it solved the majority of my problems.

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Memory Stick
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / September 27, 2008 11:46 PM PDT

I'm not sure that there is a way to use the memory stick like a Windows System Restore.
Most Mac software plays nicely with each other and restoring to another time is not built into OS X

That said, Time Machine will do something similar but it requires a Hard Drive and not a memory stick.

What do you mean by "Only want to check limited things"?

You will find that OS X is very stable and does not seem to get corrupted as easily as Windows. The disks that came with your iMac will allow you to restore the OS, without losing any data, quickly and easily.

BTW, as of this post, the current OS for your machine is 10.5.5, take a look at software update.


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External Hard Disk
by giri3344 / September 15, 2012 2:23 AM PDT
In reply to: External HD

After formatting the external HD to HFS+ format from NTFS format...can the newly formatted HD used on mac and windows as well...i use a mac at home and windows at office.....

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / September 15, 2012 9:38 AM PDT
In reply to: External Hard Disk

Mac can read NTFS but cannot write to it

Windows cannot read or write to a Mac OS X Extended disk. (Includes HFS+)

For both machines to read that drive, it would need to be formatted at FAT32


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Hard Drive
by oliv95 / February 26, 2009 2:16 PM PST

Earlier, my friend came and brought his portable USB harddrive, and he put files on my Windows. ( I have a mac, running Xp as well on Vmware Fusion 2) He connected his hd, and put info on my pc. It only recognized the USB on my pc. When i came and tried to connect MY own USB, it said read only, and that it could not be modified. I could not backup anything on that drive. However, I tried putting info on another USB hd, and it worked. Could anybody help? Thanks

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 26, 2009 8:54 PM PST
In reply to: Hard Drive

Were in OS X or Windows when you tried to put things onto your USB device (whatever it was)?

How is your USB device formatted? FAT, FAT16, NTFS, HFS+ (Mac)?


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MAC OS Extended file transfer issues
by FrankieGhoul / February 24, 2012 4:34 AM PST
In reply to: Information


I bought a Lacie Rikiki 500GB. It cam with CD software that partitioned the drives so one partition is FAT32 and the other NTFS.
It worked fine for a month. The on day my Playstation 3 which is FAT32 didn't want to read it. I ended up reformatting the whole thing to NTFS and can't go back to FAT32.

Now I'm trying to back up to this drive, data from the most recent mac (Lion OS). I reformatted the NTFS Lacie to Mac OS Extended using disk utility and the drive gets mounted to the desktop fine after, and I can drag some small files over and it works no problem. But when I send a 30GB folder over with in the first 10GB it picks a random file and says it's in use and cancels the whole upload. I reformatted it 10 time already, tried various big folders. These files are not in use!! Could it be that even though these files weren't used in a long time I still need to close the application they were created in. These are mostly Illustrator and Photoshop files.

Please help.

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Just a thought.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 24, 2012 5:02 AM PST

If the files were in use since the last reboot, try rebooting first.

About formatting. I can't tell from this post but are you conversant about removing partitions, creating new ones and then formatting?

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Mac Os extended file transfer issues
by FrankieGhoul / February 24, 2012 11:04 AM PST
In reply to: Just a thought.

The files weren't in use since the last reboot.

When I first bought the drive before use I was forced to partition the drive by Lacie. They forced me to create a maximum 30gb Fat32 and 470Gb Ntfs partitions. I did that using their software.

Drive worked fine for a month.
Then files that usually would read in PS3 stopped working. Like movies when you try to play them. I reformatted the drive using windows to NTFS. No Partitions. Then learned that PS3 doesn't accept NTFS.

I said screw it and left the drive alone.

Then I took it to work and plugged it in to a brand new IMac. It showed up. It's Bot compatible with Mac simi used the iMac to reformat it to Mac Os extended. Now it work but I can't transfer large anything to it. Just one small file
At a time. I have 300gb to back up, I can't do it file after file.

Bottom line, why won't it function normally after formatting.

We are planning to land on mars and Voyager is about to exit the solar system but we can't a hard drive that works with both platforms. Madness! Happy

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Personally, I would remove all the partitions
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 24, 2012 12:50 PM PST

on that drive and reformat it as Mac OS X extended(journaled)

Use Disk Utility to create one partition, not just using the "Current" option.
Make sure that GUID is selected under Options
Ditto the choice of OS X Extended(journaled)

Give that a whirl.

Actually we have had a drive format that works on both platforms for a long time now. It's called FAT and is not at all reliable.
It's what most HD's come formatted as so that end users can just plug it in. Usually they come back here wondering where all their data has gone to though.

On the subject of that backup. Instead of dragging stuff around, why not let Time Machine take care of it for you?


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Mac OS extended file transfer
by FrankieGhoul / February 24, 2012 1:42 PM PST

Thank you. I will check the GUID on Monday and try again.

I don't time machine because at my place of work they are not too exited about
artist backing up their artwork. I can't have an HD just on my desk. I come in
once every three months and add 40 new gigs of work.

Fat32 would be perfect if it wasn't limited by 4gb write limit.

They need to release FAT64 an update that can break the 4gb limit.


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