11 Replies Latest reply: Dec 24, 2009 3:25 AM by alabanco
billt630 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
I have a question on external hard drives. I am looking for an external drive that will work with both my Mac and Windows xp pro. I remember that Mac used to be able to read windows format but not vise versa. I know that thumb drives switch back and forth with no problem but it seems that hard drives do not. I went to the store and was told and the boxes state that the windows drives must be reformatted to work with Mac and the WD Mac drive said that it must be reformatted to work in Windows, (as I expected). Is this something new between the OS's or something to do with the drive sizes? Any help would be appreciated as I would like to be able to move large files, usually movies, between the two formats by simply moving the external drive from one to the other.
Thank you

iMac 8,1 24" 2.8GHz 4GB ram OS 10.6.2, Mac OS X (10.6.2), 500GB external drive on firewire 800 for time machine
  • Niel Level 10 Level 10 (289,610 points)
    You need to format the drive or a partition on it as MS-DOS from the Disk Utility in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder. This format has a file size limit of 4GB; if you need to use a single drive to transport larger files between the OSes, install the NTFS-3G drivers on the Mac and use NTFS, or MacDrive on the PC and use Mac OS Extended.

  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    It's not really the drive hardware but how it is formatted. Flash drives usually work because they are formatted as FAT32, which is readable and writeable by both Mac OS X and Windows. It is not an ideal format for larger storage devices because it is not as efficient as NTFS (on Windows) or Mac OS Extended (aka HFS+ on Mac OS X). Also, FAT32 has a limitation on files size of something like 4GB.

    However, if you want a drive that is useable on both Macs and Windows PCs, you have to use FAT32, called +MS-DOS (FAT)+ in Disk Utility. Macs can read NTFS but not write it.

    To format a drive that way on a Mac, run Disk Utility. Select the drive in the sidebar (select the DRIVE and not the volume indented under the drive). Go to the Erase tab. For format, select +MS-DOS (FAT)+. This will obviously erase anything that is currently on the drive.

    Also, since most Windows PC do not have FireWire, you should get a USB 2.0 drive. Any standard external hard drive, in terms of hardware, should work with Mac OS X and Windows.
  • Shimodax Level 1 Level 1 (60 points)
    As the others said, Macs can read NTFS but not write it and Windows (except without special software) can't use HFS+. FAT32 serves both worlds.

    However, if you partition a disk on the Mac (even with a 1-partition scheme) make sure you create a MS-DOS compatible partition scheme (there's an option in Disk util somewhere to partition with MS-DOS vs. GPUID table).

    With an MS-DOS type table, you can create two partitions, one NTFS for Windows, one HFS+ for the Mac and even a third with FAT32 to exchange data between the two.
  • billt630 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    It appears from what others have said, since my files are larger than 4gb therefore fat32 won't work then probably the best option although more expensive will be to buy an ethernet drive and connect to my router. It appears from the mfg. docs that this will allow me to save large 8+gb files on one computer and then read them on the other and vise versa. Am I correct in this thinking?
    Thank you for reminding me of the FAT 32 4gb limitation as I may have just purchased several 16gb thumb drives only to have not solved the problem.
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    Just to clarify, the 4GB file size limit is for each file. It is not a 4GB limit on the total space used by all of your files. Video files and disk image files can readily exceed 4GB for a single file, but that limit is pretty high for most other needs (even these days).
  • billt630 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Thank you. My video files are running in the 6 to 8 Gb range and I have yet to start adding titles, music, and other enhancements. Wow another Power Mac 8100 user who added a G3 card to it. I hate to remember how much we paid for the 8100's with extra 16mb ram and a second hard drive. After reading this thread I just for the heck of it tried to copy a 6gb file to an 8gb flash drive, NO JOY!
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    If you reformat that flash drive to use +Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)+, it will probably work. But then, you would not be able to use it on the Windows PC (until you reformatted it again).

    then probably the best option although more expensive will be to buy an ethernet drive and connect to my router.

    Or maybe you can do a direct transfer from PC to Mac or Mac to PC over wired Ethernet, and put the extra storage drive on the Mac or PC, formatted to be optimal for the respective connected OS. If your PC has gigabit Ethernet (and your router is has gigabit ports), it should be fairly fast. Make sure the cables are rated Cat-5e or better.

    Wow another Power Mac 8100 user who added a G3 card to it.

    Still a machine that is set up and runs fine, for using my old Mac OS 9 programs. I bought mine used after it was already a few years old, but it was used as my primary Mac longer than any other machine before or since. It stayed relevant for a long long time.
  • alabanco Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    I don't understand why do you talk so much about a simple issue.

    the answer is clear and simple.

    1. Format external drive to NTFS
    2. Install Paragon NTFS 6 or 7 - that will make your mac to write on NTFS system drives.
    3. Enjoy.
  • billt630 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    It seems that Paragon NTFS 7 is a reasonable and inexpensive ($27.95) solution. I do have one question though. On the Paragon web site it says there is a new version available that is compatable with Mac OS X Snow Leopard* the asteric says *64 bit version is not supported. I looked at the user manual for NTFS 7 and page 7 under system requrements 10.6 Snow Leopard (the 32-bitkernal only). On page 22 Known Issues, "2. Our driver doesn't support the 64-bit kernal of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. So if you've got our driver installed and have started up MAC OS X Snow Leopardin the 64-bit mode, all NTFS volumes will be mounted with the native read only driver."
    I do not understand what this means to me on my Mac. I just start up the Mac and I do not know 32-bit from 64-bit, but I thought that 64-bit was the new normal for my Mac. Is this so and does it perhaps make Paragon NTFS 7 not the best solution? If I am wrong I sure would like to know it and I will buy NTFS 7.
    Thanks a lot, Bill
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    Never liked installing a third-party kernel extensions for something as important as the file system.
  • alabanco Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Since the person asked for the way to save files both on mac and windows, there is no other way. That's is the client's decision. I can't see a problem in it. As far as I know Paragon NTFS works good.