PC and Mac read and write access to an external hard drive?
December 29, 2005 7:09 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to share an external hard drive between a PC and a Mac (both laptops) so that both computers can read and write to it? Can it even be done?

I have an external hard drive that holds a digital music collection. I recently Switched to an iBook as my primary machine, but still use my PC occasionally. I would like to be able to use both computers to access the music, yet store backup files from both machines on the external drive. Is this even possible?
posted by LouMac to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think formatting it as a Fat32 drive, you can do this with the Mac, should do it.
posted by Navek Rednam at 7:12 AM on December 29, 2005

Both simultaneously, without unplugging? I don't think that's possible.

The easiest way is to plug it in to one, and then SMB mount it over the network to the other.

Note that sharing the music can be a bit tricky if you're using iTunes. Using the iTunes library sharing is best and foolproof, but isn't quite the same.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 AM on December 29, 2005

There's approximately zero obstruction to doing this with a FAT drive - just do it - but I think OS X still can't mount NTFS volumes as read/write (read only).
posted by Wolfdog at 7:15 AM on December 29, 2005

Network Storage Link
posted by The Carolingian at 7:24 AM on December 29, 2005

Any large external USB/firewire drive you buy (Maxtor, Seagate, etc) will come preformatted as FAT which is readable and writable by Macs and PCs.

If you want both machines to use the external drive simultaneously then connect the external drive to whichever machine is on most often and share the drive over your network using File Sharing in Windows and SMB on the Mac.

Another idea I never attempted is if the external drive has both firewire and USB connections what happens if you plug the firewire cable into the iBook and the USB cable to PC at the same time?
posted by StarForce5 at 7:28 AM on December 29, 2005

I have my music collection on a 500 GB lacie drive. I have the drive connected via Firewire to my Mac, and then using Dave, I can share it to my pc laptop.

Theoretically, since the LaCie has two Fireware inputs, you could plug both the Mac and the PC into via firewire, and both would be able to access it, but I haven't tried this configuration yet.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 7:48 AM on December 29, 2005

I have to second the idea that sharing the drive on the network is the simplest solution, assuming both these workstations are on the same network. Then it should not matter how it's formatted, etc. Once you set the share up and it works, you need never touch it again.

I would be positively stunned to find you could hook it up locally to both machines simultaneously, but switching them out between them should not cause problems, as long as you use a mutually accessible format, such as Fat32.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:41 AM on December 29, 2005

You could buy MacDrive for the PC, then format your HD as HFS+. That's going to get messy if you're using it for PC backups.

A network share is going to be much cheaper and easier, and what you might consider is a network drive enclosure. That'll definitely allow both laptops to access it simultaneously.
posted by holgate at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2005

Response by poster: For some odd reason network sharing doesn't work in my house. I haven't been able to configure things so that my two laptops and the desktop can all see each other. It's a really fscked up system which I've given up on after many hours fighting with Windows Networking configurations.

I think I'll just back up the PC to CDs and use the external drive for music and the Mac.

Thanks for all of the answers, though!
posted by LouMac at 7:43 PM on December 29, 2005

Oooh, oooh.

I just got this, it is a cheapo Network Attached Storage enclosure.

Cost me $99 CDN. I threw in a 300GB drive and plugged it into my Linksys router.

Initially I got either a dud unit, or bad drive - but my retailer exchanged both for me - I didn't want to take the chance on exchanging only one, then going home to find out I exchanged the wrong item...

Everything works like a charm, I'm backing up all of my various other drives to it as I right this. It is a little slower than I would have hoped - but I am stressing it out with 5 machines dumping data to it now, over 100MB lan.
posted by jkaczor at 10:51 PM on December 29, 2005

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