Using a NTFS Drive on mac

Fact: You cannot use a windows formatted hard drive on a mac, and vise versa. It just won’t work. Second Fact: The first fact is true to a degree, here are the full details

Hard Drives formatted for windows are typically in either Fat32 or NTFS File Systems. (Yes, NTFS file system = ATM Machine, aka redundant. Please don’t post a comment)


Mac Drives are typically formatted as HFS+ which just flat out won’t even show up on a windows computer, even windows 7 Windows will just ask “would you like to format this disk?”

Now if you have ever tried to hook up an external hard drive to a mac that is formatted as FAT32 it will work to an extent. Fat32 does not support files larger than 4GB. Most flash drives and older external hard drives are formatted as fat32 by default. While it does give you some crosplatformability (trademark pending 2011), the 4gb limit is just to obtrusive with todays large file transfers. Most drives that claim to be mac and windows compatible are shipped formatted as fat32.

You could get around the 4gb issue by instead formatting the drive as NTFS. Many poor souls have tried this, and have sat down at a mac with a sly grin fully believing that they have beaten the burocracy. The drive will show up perfectly, you can copy files off of it, and everything appears to be hunkydory. What then usually happens, is that poor soul will spend 4 hours editing a file in photoshop only to get a sinking feeling when they try and save it to the drive and find out they cant.

Here are 3 ways to get Mac and Windows to play nicely.

  1. Install MacFuse.
    • MacFuse by itself doesn’t give you NTFS support, but lets you install 3rd party drivers.
    • While your at it, why not download a linux driver aswell.
    • Install Tuxera, the NTFS driver. Has a free and a paid version.
  1. Try going the other way. Install MacDrive on your windows computers, and format your drive as HFS+

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About spuder
spuder is a "super computer" support engineer by day, and tinkerer / hobbyist by night.

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