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  1. #1


    Member Since
    Nov 02, 2012
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    How to use external hard drive on pc and mac
    First off, I'm an amateur when it comes to tech jargon, so bear with me. I just got my first mac (running Mountain Lion) and I have a bunch of files saved to an external hard drive from my old pc. A lot of it is music and I was able to import it to the mac easily. But I also have a ton of pictures, videos etc. that I don't want to lose and I want to keep on that hard drive.

    I want to be able to use the external hard drive to save files from my mac on as well. I read something about going to disc utility to reformat to FAT32 (to me, that's just a bunch of letters and numbers). I'm not experienced doing such things and when I went to disc utility to see about doing this, it appeared as if I would have to delete all the files currently on the harddrive before it could be reformatted to use for both mac and windows.

    Is this the case? Can I reformat it to save mac files without having to erase what's already on there?

    If someone could provide a step by step instruction on how to do this, I would much appreciate it. (it mentioned something about partitions too and I have no idea what that all means...not like I NEED to know what it means, but I am just telling you) Unfortunately a lot of the knowledge that you guys have as far as where to go and what to do (more tech jargon) is something I don't yet have, so the instructions would need to be clear on how to go about doing this. Thanks a lot, in advance.

  2. #2

    vansmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksandals View Post
    Is this the case? Can I reformat it to save mac files without having to erase what's already on there?
    Unfortunately no, you can't. If you want to keep the files but reformat it, copy the files to the Mac, format the drive and then copy the files back to the external HD. There are also a few pieces of software that will let you write to NTFS formatted drives (what it's likely formatted as right now) but I don't have much experience with those so I'll let someone else fill you in on those.

    If you choose to format it as FAT, follow the instructions here except for five, you want "MS-DOS (FAT)", not "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)."
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  3. #3

    IvanLasston's Avatar
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    If you want an external disk that you can use on both a Mac and PC I'd recommend a Seagate drive. Anything that says it works with a Mac. Basically the drives come with a stripped down version ov Paragon NTFS for Mac - that only works with Seagate drives. Anyway just install that software and you can keep the drive NTFS formatted and use it on both PCs and Macs.

    One thing you cannot do is use it for time machine backup if you keep it NTFS. You'll need to use a HFS+ partition to use time machine. Now you could partition the drive so you could use it as a time machine backup and have an NTFS partition for file sharing.

  4. #4


    Member Since
    Nov 02, 2012
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    So here's what I did....I moved the files that I had on the WD external hard drive to the mac, so now if I erase the external hd, all my files are still on the mac and I can move them back to the hd once it is reformatted. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Now, as far as what was mentioned about a time machine backup and using a different partition....I understand that time machine can back up the mac, but I am clueless about partitions. But, I would want to use time machine, thus apparently I would need this 2nd partition. As such, can someone give me directions on what to do to allow myself to be able to reformat so that I can use the hd on both a pc and mac so I can move my music, photo and video files back to the hard drive and then also have it set up so i can use time machine as well?

    I apologize for my cluelessness but appreciate the support

  5. #5

    vansmith's Avatar
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    Here you go. Remember - the Time Machine partition has to be formatted "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" (I don't actually know if it needs to be journaled but go with it anyway).
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  6. #6


    Member Since
    Nov 02, 2012
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    Great, thank you. Before I follow those guidelines to partition, what do I need to do in order to make it both a mac and pc capable hard drive. Do I have to go here..http://www.macworld.com/article/1158...d.html...first and format the drive... and then partition, or will it format it properly as I partition it?

    Secondly, any idea how much space I should leave in the partition for time machine? I obviously don't want to use any more space for that then is necessary. Mind you, I am a novice user and am not backing up massive amounts of large video files etc., but rather just music, photos and some home videos. (not sure if that even makes a difference). Thanks

  7. #7

    vansmith's Avatar
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    Partition the drive and then format each partition - one as FAT and the other as Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

    As to how much space you need, you should probably aim for at least 1.5 times as much space is available on your hard drive (there isn't really a magical number though). Ideally, you give it as much as possible since, the more space you have, the further "back in time" you can go.
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