Tag Archives: NTFS

Adding Storage to Your Mac

28 Oct

that a Windows-based machine can also access

If you work with multimedia files, (photos, videos, etc.), you may max out an internal hard drive in a relatively short amount of time. So what to do when you need to add disk space to your Mac? An external drive is one of the easiest and quickest fixes. But there are a number of things to consider before you purchase a drive.

Access Speed:

When adding an external drive, consider access time for that data. USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections are the fastest options for connecting an external drive and reading and writing rapidly. You will probably not notice a big difference between the two technologies, other than cost. Currently, Thunderbolt is more expensive. This article explores the differences in more depth.


Dependability is a big factor with storage. Seagate drives are some of the most dependable in the industry. When I worked as a computer specialist 20 years ago (supporting hardware and software), the Seagate name was synonymous with reliability. Seagate drives are also economical, a big plus. No matter what drive you are considering, do your homework. Read the user reviews. Check out the company’s web site. What does their support page look like? Check out the user forums.

Now for the tricky part – Sharing files between Mac and PC:

First, you must use a file system that is supported by both platforms. The most current Windows format is called NTFS, and while a Mac can read this type of drive, it cannot write to it. The Mac uses Mac OS Extended, or HFS+. Windows machines cannot access data on this type of drive.


So, the easiest way to have the drive accessible to both types of machines is to reformat the drive using OS X’s disk utility to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). This will erase any data on the drive, so make sure to back up first if it is not a brand new drive.

You could also format the drive via Windows to FAT32 format, both PC’s and Mac’s can access a drive formatted this way, but the FAT32 format cannot handle files larger than 4 GB, and sometimes it does not work with the permissions structure of Mac OS X.

Additional Software

The other option is to install some software on the drive so that both platforms can access it.

If the drive is NTFS formatted, you can use a third party application called NTFS for Mac 6.0, or if it is Seagate Backup Plus or GoFlex drive, you can download the NTFS driver for Mac OSX.

If the drive is HFS+ formatted, you can install MacDrive so that Windows-based machines can access the drive.


I am currently using two Seagate drives, a portable 500 GB Backup Plus and a 4 TB Desktop Backup Plus.

The portable drive is NTFS formatted with the Seagate NTFS drive for Mac OSX installed. When I purchased this drive, it was NTFS formatted. I left the drive NTFS formatted and installed the driver for 2 reasons.

  1. I started using the drive right out of the box with my HP laptop to store vacation photos that would eventually go on the Mac. So I already had lots of data on the drive when I realized it was not going to plug and play with the Mac.
  2. I took the easiest route; I installed the NTFS driver, and everything works okay.

For the 4 TB desktop unit, I reformatted it using the Mac’s Disk Utility to the Mac OS Extended format.

I did this because I knew this drive was going to be my main media hard drive on my Mac. It would be nice to be able to share files easily with my laptop, but not super critical. I already had that functionality with the portable drive.

There are certainly other solutions for adding storage, and accessing the drives among different platforms. But I found these to be the easiest and most economical answers for me.

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