Tech Tip: Read/Write both NTFS and HFS+ volumes on both Windows and Mac

If you’ve been itching to know how to access ALL mainstream/default Windows and Mac formatted hard disks on both platforms, you sir have come to the right place. I’ve done my research and have been using this solution for a few months now on my external hard disk, which is a Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus 500gb.

This tech tip is pretty much noob-proof because it doesn’t involve any system hacking – it just involves installing a few apps.

This tip has been fully tested to work under Mac OS X 10.5, however it should work fine in older Mac OS X’s. You just have to install the appropriate app version.

First, let’s look at how you can take FULL control on NTFS partitions from your Mac.

This is actually very simple. Install the following apps in order.

***

1) MacFUSEhttp://code.google.com/p/macfuse/

look for MacFUSE-Core-10.5-1.3.1.dmg if you’re using Leopard, and MacFUSE-Core-10.4-1.3.0.dmg if you’re using Tiger.

2) NTFS-3Ghttp://macntfs-3g.blogspot.com/

the latest blog post should provide you the latest version with download link, i.e. the latest version is 1.2129 at time of writing

***

The installation for both of these apps should be plain simple and straightforward.

Whoa-la! After installing both these apps you should be able to Read and Write data onto your NTFS partition!

ntfs3g.png

Pictured here is a NTFS partition (duh!)

Notable Limitation of the NTFS-3G partition: deleting stuff will not move them to the Trash, you will be prompted to permanently delete them.

***

Now on to Read/Write support for Mac volumes on Windows.

macdrive2.jpg

As of date, there is no free alternative for such capability, one software that I have fully tested for the past few months is MacDrive by Mediafour (http://www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive/). However, it doesn’t come cheap. Retailing at $49.95 USD, you might wanna think twice before deciding wether you want your hard drive to be in NTFS or HFS. I think you already know the answer.

Notable Limitations of this software: You HAVE to soft eject your HFS+ Journaled volume before you try to mount it with MacDrive. Else, you will have trouble mounting it. Also, if you got Daemon Tools installed, make sure it’s updated to the latest version because older versions seems to have conflict with this software, that can prevent your volume from mounting.

macdrive1.png

Pictured here is a HFS+ Journaled volume mounted in Windows XP (it should also work in Vista according to MediaFour).

Any questions? Feel free to post in comments and I’ll try to help.

Also, if anyone finds a better/free alternative for the MacDrive solution feel free to post in comments as well.

P/S: If you’re wondering why my hard drive is so empty. It’s because I was playing with the diskutil command in Terminal, trying to split my partitions into two. The command did the job well, so well that it wiped my data ;(

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63 responses to “Tech Tip: Read/Write both NTFS and HFS+ volumes on both Windows and Mac

  1. that is a good tip thanks.

  2. No problem, glad you liked it :)

  3. Just found a free alternative to MacDrive (minus the write capability).

    HFSExplorer – http://hem.bredband.net/catacombae/index2.html

    This app allows you to Read your HFS+ volume in Windows, at the moment it is still lacking Write capability but it is planned for future versions.

  4. good one. now if u don’t mind making one about home media server kthnbye

  5. lol ben, what about home media server? and which media server are you talking bout?

  6. dunno, i have a spare PC and am thinking of making it into a home server …just don’t know how to =)

  7. wanna turn it into a porn powerhouse?

  8. obviously yes. too dangerous to leave it in ur laptop nowadays lol!

  9. I am necessary wish to find

  10. lol duno where i can post this but check this link out and lemme know what you think. i kinda like it .

    http://www.imalc.com/Site/SleepDisplay.html

  11. lol ben, hot corner’s good enough for me. That stuff is probably good if u don’t like hor corner’s or all 4 corners of ur screen has been assigned to something else.

  12. sorry la …noob mah lol.

  13. sry but how do you soft eject a HFS+ Journaled volume ?

    And I’ve heard of data corruption issues when using such drivers to write onto an NTFS partition in Mac.

    Please advice!

  14. I assume you’re talking bout internal hard disk. I think you don’t need to soft eject the volume if it’s an internal hard disk. Sorry if my guide was confusing, I was actually referring to external hard drives.

    Regarding the data corruption issue, so far I have not encountered one.

    If I were to choose a file system for a storage between Windows and Mac + I can afford MacDrive, then I would choose HFS+ because MacDrive does an excellent job in HFS+ compatibility in Windows. It even allows you to fix your HFS+ drive if it had problems (common problem being not being soft ejected properly if it is an external drive).

    NTFS compatibility in Mac with MacFuse on the other hand, does not feel that complete. For example, deleting a file doesn’t move it to the Trash. You could only permanently delete files. Also, there’s no workaround or ways to fix an improperly ejected hard disk on the Mac. Only way to fix that is to plug the hard disk back into the Windows PC (or dual boot back into Windows) and do the soft eject.

    I hope that answers most of your questions. Anymore questions are welcome ;)

  15. Yep I’m using an internal hardisk so does that mean I don’t need to worry bout this too? :

    “there’s no workaround or ways to fix an improperly ejected hard disk on the Mac. Only way to fix that is to plug the hard disk back into the Windows PC (or dual boot back into Windows) and do the soft eject.”

    I’ve also hav been reading around on MacFuse and NTFS-3G installation tutorials and it seems most of them state that you need to enter some codes in terminal even the NYFS-3G homepage stated this under installation, :

    “Usage

    If there was no error during installation then the NTFS volume can be mounted in read-write mode for everybody as follows. Unmount the volume if it had already been mounted, replace /dev/sda1 and /mnt/windows, if needed.

    mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows

    Please see the ntfs-3g manual page for more options and examples.
    You can also make NTFS to be mounted during boot by adding the following line to the end of the /etc/fstab file:

    /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows ntfs-3g defaults 0 0″

    And in these tutorial they also mention that you need to unmount the NTFS partition with disk utility.

    So I’m kinda confused here, but on the other hand these tutorials date back to 2007 so I not sure if newer versions of MAC-FUsE or NTFS-3G can be installed as simply as use stated.

    Sry for being a NOOB and bombarding you with all these questions, I just hope to get some confirmation.

  16. I have also read those guides before. However, it seems that the newer versions that I use did not require the commands to be typed in. All I needed to do was to plug in my external NTFS hard drive and it will be recognised as a NTFS-3g file system drive.

    So I’m assuming the same thing for internal drives, install MacFuse+ntfs-3g with the guide above and if you don’t see your NTFS drive being read-able yet then you could try rebooting to let the NTFS-3g driver kick in next time round.

    And no, I don’t think you need to worry bout soft ejecting if it’s an internal hard drive. I think the reason you need to soft eject external hard drives is because of things like buffering, journaling and stuff that’s going on.

    My advice is go ahead and try install MacFuse+Ntfs3g. It won’t harm your computer even if it didn’t work. Most of my friends that used my guide had no problems with read/write NTFS drives (except for the common problem that they forgot to soft eject their hard drive in windows).

    Tell me your findings if you try NTFS-3g. Cheers.

  17. I was searching everywhere about how to get NTFS write-enabled in Mac and finally I found this guide really helpful. Thanks for making it extremely simple.

  18. This is quite useful.

    Thanks for making this tut.

  19. any one know how to read/write direct to hard disk track in window?
    Any language.
    I have a disk which write and formated with unknown format.
    When I put in window 2000 it find it is new disk need create new disk ….. so all data on that disk is deleted.
    I need some thing like in old DOS we can read/write direct to the track.
    I also need infomation about how a formated hard disk (FAT32) trak look like.

    Thanks
    zhuanglicai@yahoo.com

  20. your question is kinda vague.
    first of all, the reason your disk could not be read is because as you suggested — it is in a format that Windows could not recognize.
    This could be all kinds of file systems such as HFS (Mac), ext (Linux) and so on.
    I don’t understand what you mean by read/write directly on the hard disk track. Do you mean you’re gonna read and write hexadecimels directly on the hard disk track? I think this can be done with Acronis Disk Editor.
    Also, I don’t really understand what you mean when you ask how does a FAT32 hard disk track look like. That’s like asking how does a UDF or ISO cd-rom media look like.
    Is this some sort of assignment you’re working on or is it just some personal hobby?

    Cheers.

  21. So, just bought a new external Seagate drive. What format should i have it in, considering all above info? I want to be able to plug it into a few different windows pcs. Not sure on the format then…

  22. Since you’ll be plugging it into a few windows PCs, I assume that windows will be the dominant/majority platform for your hard drive.

    So I’m suggesting you go with NTFS, then install MacFUSE + NTFS-3G on your mac to have full access on it.

  23. I have a WD MyBook 500 and I want to use it for backup purposes for our small biz network. It is a USB interface drive. I would like to set it up with the ability to boot from it in case of critical internal drive failure of the Mac G5 w/ Panther 10.2.8 loaded. I would also like to use the majority of the drive to backup our WinXP systems as well. This drive is going to be offsite most of the time and brought in @ every 2 weeks to update the offsite backup. The problem I am having is, if I partition it on the Mac, WinXP can’t see any partitions. If I partition it on the WinXP machine, I haven’t been able to find any way to get the Mac to format/automount the partition, let alone boot from it. I did find an article on MacOSHints which talks about using Terminal to be able to format the partition to HFS, but after I formatted that partition, it doesn’t mount the drive unless I go back into Terminal and use the hdid command. Any suggestions?

    Summary:
    WD MyBook 500gb (@450gb formatted) USB 2.0 drive
    Goal: Partition(?) Drive for backup use of Mac OSX 10.2.8 and WinXP SP3 network
    Mac partition(?) @120 gb
    Win partition(?) @330 gb

  24. Edit: Though I don’t need access to the opposite OS’s files on either system (Mac nor WinXP), this blog is the closest I have found to information to help me do what I am trying to do. Also, the article I referred to in MacOSXHints is here: http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20030613121738812

  25. falcon8r: What partition map scheme did you use when you formatted your drive using MacOS X?

    Did you try to choose GUID Partition Table instead of Apple Partition Map? That’s what I can think of atm off my head.

    Cheers.

  26. Btw, forgot to explain that Both Windows and Mac should be able to read drives partition’d using GUID but only the Mac can only read Apple Partition Maps.

  27. In Drive Utility, I do not find any Option button to allow me to specify any Partition Format. The only thing listed as Options is a check box to Install OS9 Disk Drivers. As I said, I am using Panther 10.2.8

  28. Edit: Sorry I guess I don’t know which ct I have…my OS X is v10.2.8 tho, whichever cat (Jaguar/Panther/???) that is.

  29. Was just doing some research and from what I can tell, Apple did not incorporate GUID option into OS X until 10.4. If so, is there some utility I can use to Partition my drive with GUID and would 10.2.8 be able to then read the drive?

  30. I think 10.2.8 cannot recognise GUID drives because if I’m not mistaken GUID can only work on Intel Macs.

    Have you tried MacDrive to see if it works? You can download a free trial from mediafour.com/macdrive.

  31. I haven’t tried MacDrive as yet because as I said, I am planning to use the majority of the drive for WinXP backup (as well as the cost). However, if it turns out that there really aren’t any other feasible methods to use this drive between both systems, particularly having the drive bootable on the Mac, then I will look more into using MacDrive. Any other thoughts?

  32. I can’t think of any other ideas as Windows/Mac interoperability wasn’t as good back then.

    Since you mentioned that this drive will be booted on the Mac during emergency, then an Apple partition table should be used.

    MacDrive might be the only solution you got right now but try the trial first to see if it works.

  33. Hi Tzechuen,

    I need to transfer a lot of large files from an XP machine to a MAC.

    Step #1. Make 6GB to 8GB DVD backups (.iso image, not Audio/Video_TS folders), onto a 500GB External USB drive. This work will be done on a XPsp3 machine (currently have).

    Step #2. Take that drive and plug it into a MAC Laptop (unknown Hardware and OS, it’s about 2 years old, will know the specs tomorrow). From the Laptop, the .iso’s will later be burned back to DVD’s.

    As far as I know, the External USB HDD will not be used/accessed by a Windows PC again so I want to do all the work from an XP machine now, BUT, with the USB HDD already formated for/ready to plug in to the Mac later on.

    I also do not want to install any software on or make any changes to the Mac if possible. I’m a windows guy, if anything goes wrong with my XP machine, I can fix/rebuild/etc… If anything goes wrong with the Mac, I am toast!

    If possible, free software would be very cool, or maybe a demo of software with the ‘time’ being the only limitation (no 50MB or 1 file limit etc…)

    Also, I doubt I can get the 2 machines in the same room, so net work data-transfer is out of the question, it has to be done via USB HDD.

    How would you suggest I go about this?

    Thanks,
    Barry

  34. I suggest you get a copy of MacDrive 7 ($49.95). Why? First of all, you are transferring HUGE data and from my experience MacFUSE+NTFS3G seems to suffer from performance problems so it will take much longer to transfer big files. MacDrive is well-built and I would highly recommend this software if you are doing serious work such as yours.

    Sadly, I don’t think there’s a free software alternative to MacDrive, not even the nearest. There’s only HFSExplorer which only allow read and no write capability to Mac (HFS) partitions.

    So there you go, format your USB HDD to HFS+ and use MacDrive. Best solution I can think of for your situation.

  35. Hi Tzechuen,

    I checked out MAcDrive 7 and it IS a full demo version, just a 5 day time limit! That’s perfect for me, it’ll only take 1 day to copy everything over. I need the huge data because it’s backups of DVD’s, a lot of them are dual layer so 6-8GB. Thanks again for your advice, like I said, I’m a M$ Windows guy and the more I googled, the more confused I was becoming about how to go about it.

    Cheers!

    Barry

  36. Hey Barry,

    Good to know MacDrive provides a fully functional demo. I always thought there was some sort of data transfer limit for the demo, must have mistaken it with some other software. Glad I could help! Cheers.

  37. Pingback: Mi disco duro externo para MAC y PC? | Corporativo Lacer

  38. Hey, great post! Thanks a lot!

  39. hey man thanks for your thanks but im trying to install mac leopard on my HP PC and i need to format my partition for mac to read it and a can install stuff on mac because its not install so really need a program to format that partition so it can read it in the set up in disk util if you can help out that would be great thanks

  40. oh and i mean thanks for your help lol and a need to format it to HFS+ so ya now if i go to the set up in mac it cant find that partition because its not the right format so if you can help

  41. When you try to install Mac OS you should be able to see a Utilities in the menu bar up there and there should be a Disk Utility for you to use. Try that joel. Hope that helps.

  42. oh and i have a AMD chipset i dont know if that helps you or not oh and my hard drive is sata so just trying to give you more info to help you onder stand

  43. ya i tryed but it cant find my hard drive in Disk Utilitys so i dont know what to do

  44. There is much more coherent article and comments about this topic at TUAW: http://www.tuaw.com/2007/11/19/ntfs-on-your-mac-two-ways/

  45. Thanks for the guide; I’m incredibly lazy and this made it very easy to write to NTFS.

    Though just so you know, the latest build as of April 2009 comes with MacFUSE built in :)

    http://macntfs-3g.blogspot.com/2009/04/ntfs-3g-200944.html

    Thanks again!

  46. Hi there!

    I’ve got a good tip for anyone who feel that NTFS-3G is a bit slow:

    Try Paragon NTFS, relly simple install and really fast NTFS writing on os x.

  47. Pingback: Discos duros: ¿para Mac y PC?

  48. Can anyone explain to me…. under the Mac OS X partition environment, I mae copy of (windows) folders & files originally from NTFS fromatted partition to HFS+ formatted partition and there is no problem of it. However when I logon to Window XP under bootcamp partition, I cannot read those and folders and files. They are invisible and thus no way I can copy the folders and files . I am really sure that I have enabled to show hidden files and folder option. What is the technical rational?

  49. A simple way to explain this just to say that Windows do not recognize or don’t have the feature to read HFS+. But Mac has the feature to read/write NTFS because of FUSE.

    What is the rational? Analyze this. Mac cannot read NTFS previously. Then a group of person thought of a project to read/write NTFS in Mac. So, there you are.. NTFS-3g. Now, if only there is anothere group that will develop a feature that allow windows to read HFS+. . . . . . .

  50. Pingback: Jolanda-Pieta van Arnhem, M.F.A. » Blog Archive » Musing of a Techie – Stuff I WISH I Could Forget

  51. Viper: I think an open source HFS+ read/write implementation for Windows would be great, given that some of us wouldn’t get MacDrive just to access the HFS+ drive once in a blue moon…

  52. I’ve just moved over to a Mac (G4 model) from a PC running XP. I have an external HDD filled with Windows files and folders (also music files of various kinds). I know about software solutions. Currently I’m bridging the gap with Paragon NTFS for Mac . What I really want to do, however, is make everything uniform. This seems especially wise as I understand there may be problems with Mac software running on non-native platforms.

    My plan at any rate is to wipe the external (NTFS) HDD and reformat using HSF+, then fill up again with the same files and folders from my XP computer. At that point, with all the data on the external HDD, I want to move all of it to the internal hard drive on my Mac.

    I just need to be sure nothing will prevent the actual transfer. Can I physically transfer a Windows NTFS file to a Mac file system (forget read/write permissions for the moment)? Transferring folders/files (especially music files) from my external to the Mac has caused me a number of headaches to date, and I have the impression macs can be rather temperamental.

    Second, is there a way of transferring large numbers of files (either from my PC to the external or the external to the Mac, it doesn’t really matter in principle I suspect) by other than a piecemeal approach? I seem to recall using disk imaging to transfer data on to the external hard drive to begin with, but that was using Windows of course, and anyway I can’t remember now for the life of me.

    Thanks for any help.

  53. Antony, given that you’re using a G4, would be good to know which OS X version you’re using.

    Otherwise, I think there is only one software out there that can convert file systems on a Mac, it’s called iPartition. I have not tried this software before and if you’re willing to fork out $29.95 then perhaps it can do what you want to do.

    Or, you can just do what you said, wipe the HDD and reformat then fill it up again. That should do the trick.

    There are a few methods for disk imaging, one is to copy files between drives and the other is to do a sector by sector cloning which clones the entire drive including its partition information etc to the other.

    For your case of course you don’t need sector cloning, so I would suggest you use something like SuperDuper on the Mac if you want to copy files easily.

    • Thanks for the tips Tzechuan. In the end it was a piecemeal affair but I managed it. No more Windows – hurrah! I was lost, but now I am found….

  54. Antony: Glad I was able to help ;)

  55. Pingback: Musing of a Techie – Stuff I WISH I Could Forget « Jolanda-Pieta van Arnhem, MFA

  56. There is a temporarily free solution that rivals with MacDrive develloped by paragon solutions. They are giving away 50,000 licenses and then it won’t be free anymore. HFS for windows 7.5 :

    http://www.paragon-software.com/home/hfs-windows/giveaway.html

  57. Hi
    does your tip work for use of time machine for a NTFS hard drive?

  58. thanks for the tips ;)

    i’ll use macdrive !

    Seb

  59. Pingback: Hfsexplorer | TagHall

  60. hfs explorer does not work for me at all-it cannot see a hfs+ volume.

  61. Previously, I used HFSExplorer. But a few times he took me to a great shock. So I bought the HFS + for Window. And I do not regret having paid – now my Windows a calm works with HFS+.

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