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File systems for Mac and PC
February 22, 2007 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I just bought my first Mac and I keep finding conflicting reports when it comes to file systems. All of my music and photos are on an external drive, formatted NTFS. Will OS X be able to read/write to it, or will I have to backup the files and reformat? I still need to be able to connect the external HD to a PC on occasion, but it will primarily be used with the Mac. Thanks in advance!
posted by emoeby to Technology (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm pretty sure you can't write to an NTFS disk, only read. FAT32 is fully supported.
posted by chunking express at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2007


A default installation of Mac OS X will read NTFS volumes but not be able to write to them.

However, a developer at Google has been working on a file system driver port of Linux FUSE called MacFUSE.

MacFUSE extends OS X to support other file systems with the right drivers installed, including NTFS and others.

Instructions on using MacFUSE to support NTFS are available.

Keep in mind that this is still "beta" software, so I wouldn't do critical stuff with this software unless I had backups. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2007


What I wrote is for a normal 10.4 install. You can install MacFUSE, and add support for a variety of other file systems, including NTFS.
posted by chunking express at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2007


NTFS: Read: yes; write: no, or at least, not without a third party tool (MacDrive, probably others).
posted by mosk at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2007


The only other option would be to connect the ext. HD to a PC, share it through windows and use SMB to connect to the file share (full r/w available). Of course, the PC would need to be on all the time you want to access the data.
posted by SirOmega at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2007


I should add that when I bought the mac mini, I asked a guy at the Apple Store if I'd be able to use my NTFS drive, and he said yes. Granted, he looked extremely confused when I asked him, but I was hoping he was right :)
posted by emoeby at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2007


My guess is that most people asking about NTFS externals are looking to read data (music, photos, video) not write to it, hence the Apple Store answer. If you're wanting to use the drive plugged into the Mac mini as a networked file server, I'd be tempted to work out a way to backup and reformat -- that would make the share available to the PC. It really depends on what's most convenient to your needs.
posted by holgate at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2007


I just recently ran into some problems trying to back up Mac files to an NTFS drive (a network share, really). You may want to consider this before using NTFS. The problem ended up being a / in one of my filenames. This isn't allowed on NTFS.

Unfortunately, if you try to copy a directory to the NTFS drive, you won't be told about this filename problem until that particular file is reached. At that point, you won't have the option to simply skip the file. You'll have to stop the entire copy operation and start over. You also won't be told where the file was. Neat!

Anyway, I worked around it by making a sparse disk image on the shared drive and mounting that on the mac, then filling it with my files and unmounting it. This is not the ideal method, though, since I have yet to find a good way to read these disk images on the PC side.
posted by odinsdream at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2007


IMO, if the Mac is going to be your primary computer, your best bet is going to be to backup and reformat. MacFUSE/MacDrive/etc. are all fine for occasional use, but I wouldn't want to have to use one every day, in order to get any work done.

You can reformat that drive with FAT, and both your Mac and Windows will play nicely with it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2007


MacDrive isn't for the Mac, dude. :)
It's for the Windows box that needs to deal with external drives from a Mac.
posted by drstein at 3:36 PM on February 22, 2007


The simplest and safest solution, as Kadin2048 said, is to back up and reformat the shared drive to FAT32.

However, I second the "Instructions on using MacFUSE to support NTFS" Blazecock Pileon posted. In addition, you may want to explore backwards through this Applenova thread to make sure you have the latest versions. For example, here is the latest of the NTFS-3G packages ShadowOfGed put together for MacFUSE.
posted by musicinmybrain at 4:01 PM on February 22, 2007


Hey! An update for future readers: You can get the latest MacFUSE Tools and NTFS-3G binaries here.
posted by musicinmybrain at 7:21 PM on March 11, 2007


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