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Other Hardware and Peripherals Other Apple systems and peripherals discussion.

External Drive for both Mac OS X and Windows Xp/Vista ? time machine and backups


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Simon.Rain

 
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Hi everyone,

I just got a MacBook Pro (early 2008 model) and I love it but I also own a Dell laptop running vista and a desktop with XP on it.

I want to buy an external hard drive but I don't know what would be best for all my computers. I don't even know if it's possible to have one for the 3 machines. What I want to be able to do is use time machine for back ups and also store some of my files from my 2 other windows machines (mostly music, video and pictures).

The one I want is the Western Digital My Passport Studio Portable. It's the thin one formated for Macs and with firewire.

Does the "formated for macs" means I will only be able to use it for macs ?

If anyone knows a portable hard drive that will allow me to use Time Machine and store media from my other machines and has a firewire, I would appreciate it.

also doing backups(or hard drive images) for my 2 other windows machine would be an added bonus. this sounds like a tall order
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kahlil88

 
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In general, there is no problem using an external hard drive between computers, just as long as you format it with a filesystem that is compatible between operating systems (FAT32 or NTFS is recommended). The only problem is with FireWire - most Macs since the slot-loading iMac G3 have FireWire ports, but very few PCs do and Apple apparently has dropped it from their laptops. You will have to create a separate partition for Time Machine - since it's a very MacOS-specific thing, it probably has to be formatted as HFS+

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scathe

 
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You can get any kind of hard drive ant it will be able to run with your Mac, it's not a question of how the drive is made, they don't make a drive that will run only on Mac or only on Windows ... so what's the difference? It's all in the filesystem on the drive itself, a filesystem is something like an organizational scheme and Mac and Windows have their own ... but you can make it compatible

back to your post, if it says formated for Macs then yes, Windows won't be able to read/write (might read, not sure) but that doesn't mean you can't format the disk in a way that both your Mac and Windows can access it

All you need is Disk Utility (comes with OSX)
you have several options to go:
1) If you download something called "NTFS-3G" you can format the disk to standard Windows ntfs filesystem and use it on you Mac ... basically NTFS-3G adds the ntfs filesystem compatibility to your operating system, this doesn't mean you will loose anything or reformat anything, it just means you will be able to format and write/read an ntfs drive.
To run NTFS-3G you also need MacFUSE, both can be googled easily
This is probably the way to go, or at least I think so
Although it will allow you to use the disk anywhere, it might also be a good idea to leave a Mac partition for Time Machine

2) you can partition the disk in 2, one partition being the Mac OS Extended filesystem and the other NTFS for windows, this would be helpful only if you needed the Mac partition to be Mac-indexed (for spotlight) ... although Mac could read your NTFS partition you couldn't write to that part. from MacOS.
So basically one part for Windows, one part for Mac with limited compatibility

3) use FAT32, which is fully supported by both Mac and Windows without doing anything, but I strongly suggest against this, it's an old and slow filesystem which even limits you to a max filesize of 4Gb


In any way, you said the drive is Mac formated, this means it has the MacOS Extended filesystem, so you will need to do all your partitioning from Disk Utility on your Mac, but it's very simple to do and pretty straight-forward
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Simon.Rain

 
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That was a thorough answer thank you from both of you =)

I plan on getting a 500Gb or more so I will partition one part in HFS+ and use it as a time machine backup and extra media space and use the rest in NTFS format for backing up the main important files from my 2 other PCs.

I will be using it mainly for the mac so better start with the formated for mac first and the HD has both firewire and USB
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scathe

 
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just a comment, if you buy a disk that is not Mac formated, you can easily format it for Mac using Disk Utility just if you come across a drive you like better, but is not Mac formated
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Shortcup

 
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I have a 500g Seagate external drive formatted fat32. I have 200gigs free and would like to use 150g of the free space for time machine. if i create a partition from the free space for osx extended (journaled) will it erase the used space of the fat32? or will disk utility even allow me to turn the fat32 free space into osx format? any help would be incredibly appreciated.
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sarj

 
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Hello Scathe,

I was just reading your post with the three recommendations and was wondering if this is like a 3-step process or if any of the three options will work. The reason I ask is because I have a clean formatted NTFS external drive with NTFS-3G installed and yet Time Machine does not recognize this drive at all as something it can use.

I can Read & Write to this drive in Snow Leopard but TM does not want to use it. Any ideas why? Any help is appreciated.

Sarj
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cwa107

 
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To put it simply, because Time Machine wants it formatted in HFS+.

I would partition the drive with an HFS+ partition for Mac backups and NTFS for Windows.

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