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Other Hardware and Peripherals Other Apple systems and peripherals discussions including the Apple Watch.

FAT32 vs. HFS+

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Member Since: Sep 20, 2007
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So I need a little advice on my external hard drive problem...

...I bought a new (maxtor) external hard and I'm going to use it mostly with my macbook pro but I also know I'm going to need to use it with some PCs from time to time and I know I have this 2 options if I want it to run on both OS:

1) I can format it in FAT and I will be able to read/write bot on mac and windows (XP)...but I'm wondering what are the downsides of FAT, like max. file size or partition size?

2) or I can format it in HFS+ and when I need to use it with windows XP I heard there is a program macdrive7 that enables it to read/write data?

Are there any other solutions I am not aware of? If you have any expirience what are the possible problems like restrictions or incompatibility?

I'm greateful for any kind of advices

P.S. Please excuse my bad english - it's not my native language.
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I would go into Disk Utility under OS X and format it as MS-DOS. Its worked for my external (which is now internal). AS for your other questions Im not to knowledgeable on the benefits of different formats in windows. Welcome to Mac-Forums!
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Fat32 has a limitation of a max size of 4GB per file. So you can't write a 4.3GB DVDR image onto it. You will have to split the files or something. But its okay otherwise for cross platform compatibility.

Another way is to install NTFS for mac (intro'ed on this forum, there's a thread somewhere). If it works for you, that is, after formatting your disk to NTFS, it should work on both your mac and PC and have no limitations. Its also a better file system (nothing like HFS though!)

Mac drive should work as well, but you have to have a separate license for every PC you install it on(?)
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reDORAnge, Welcome to Mac Forums!!

There are a variety of options that will let you share the same drive between both your PC and your Mac. Happily, both machines now support three common file systems:

1/ FAT32 - The older, lesser Windows standard file system

2/ NTFS - Win NT, 2000, XP and Vista all default to this

3/ ext2/3 - Mac, Win and Linux all share this format

4/ HFS+ - this is the native Mac OS X format.

Here is how to do each one:

1/ FAT32 - this is supported natively by both Windows and Mac. Just format your drive for it and both Win and Mac can read and write. Drawbacks? It has no file permission model, making it somewhat insecure, plus causing the loss of Mac OS X's carefully crafted per file permissions as you transfer things back and forth. FAT32 is "cheap and cheerful", but not recommended.

2/ NTFS - This has been supported by Windows for a long time, and has just very, very recently become available in full read/write mode for Macs. See the following thread, by Paragon Software, advertising beta availability of their NTFS for Mac:

Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X Public Beta Testing

This *is* beta, and it will be shareware, but first reports are that it works very well. Previous file system offerings from Paragon seem very well regarded. They have been in the file system driver business for a lot of years.

NTFS does have a more mature permissions model than FAT32 and is generally more secure. This option is better than the first one.

3/ ext2/3 - this is the standard Linux file system. Both Windows and Mac have installable file system drivers for it. For the Mac, see this:

and for the PC, see this:

ext2/3 is an extremely mature, fast and very well regarded file system. It supports pretty much the same full file permissions model that HFS+ does (both, after all, are *nix based file systems), making it a recommended solution. Both the Mac and PC drivers are free, so that is attractive too.

4/ HFS+. This is the Mac standard system. To enable this for the PC, you need to get MacDrive. This mature and well regarded piece of software adds seamless support for HFS+ to your PC. If you are willing to spend the money, it may be the best solution of all.

So, there you have it. LOTS of options for sharing your hard drive between your PC and your Mac.

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