Adding NTFS support to Mac OS X

I’m perfectly capable of changing the oil in my truck, but I’d rather pay someone to do it. Sometimes the same holds for making a DIY system change to OS X or simply purchasing a utility to do it for you.

That came up recently when I tried to connect a NTFS-formatted external hard drive to my Mac Book Pro. I was surprised to discover that El Capitan does not fully support Microsoft’s standard format by default. My USB-connected Seagate FreeAgent drive was set to read-only. That’s a pain for anyone who moves many gigabytes of Windows and Mac files onto and off of the same portable drive. (A chore I haven’t had needed to do recently. Most of the file transfers happen over the local network.)

A bit of research on the Web turned up two options: making a change in the OS X Terminal or buying a utility that would add NTFS support. I decided to try the free option first (perhaps a result of my Scottish ancestry). The instructions are given in a TechRepublic article.

I tried them, but it did not immediately work. So I jumped to option two. (I blame my impatience on my Irish ancestors.) There are two commonly listed apps that will do the job: Paragon’s NTFS for Mac (more info) and Tuxera’s similarly named product (site). Tuxera’s version is U.S. $31; but I downloaded and installed Paragon’s app because it’s $20 and I had used it in the distant past. (Both products offer a free trial period.)

Installation was quick and easy, and after a system reboot, my Seagate drive was now read/write. I have only one complaint about Paragon; I kept getting incorrect product-key errors when I tried to validate the purchase. Turns out the printed instructions truncated the key. Fortunately, the emailed instructions had the full combination of letters and numbers. (I also had trouble closing out of the MyParagon Customer Portal dialog box.)

That brings up a final gripe. Due to printed and screen fonts, given keys should never contain certain letters. For example, is a character the number zero (0) or the capital letter “O” — it can be hard to tell. That goes also for the number one (1) and capital “I.” I wasted about 15 minutes trying different combinations, until I discovered that the key was incomplete.

9 thoughts on “Adding NTFS support to Mac OS X

  1. Re format: I probably shouldn’t respond to this because you’re working with a Seagate drive, while this reply is about a WD drive, but what the heck. I have a couple of WD 2TB “Passport” drives, and they can use an EXFAT format that works with both Windows and Mac. Very handy.

    Re I’s and O’s: I agree with you whole-heartedly. Along with Zero, One, Oscar, and India, you can add Lima. (Typewriters as old as I am did not have a One key because we had the lower-case Lima. ) When I’m in doubt, I’ll just copy the problem text and paste it into Notepad or Text Edit using a font that eliminates any doubt. Most of the fonts distinguish Zero and Oscar by making them thin and fat, respectively. I ran across the Andale Mono font which puts a dot in the middle of the Zero.

    Re alphabets: I wish everybody would use the NATO phonetic alphabet. You can do away with the time-wasting “___ as in ___” format, and just say “papa, echo, alpha, charlie, echo”.

  2. I use exFAT formatting for the bigger of 2 partitions on my external drive, and I format a second partition as OSX, which I use exclusively with Time Machine for backups. Obviously, I don’t need my windows machine to read an OSX backup, but all other files can be transferred back and forth from the exFAT partition to either a Windows machine or a Mac.

  3. This problem was there in my Yosemite also which I could solve after installing Paragon. But Paragon says the tit supports upto OS X 10.10 only. The El capital is 10.11 onwards. Does the Paragon still works or it has any recent upgrade? Any inform would help. Thank you

    1. This is the downside to Paragon. You need to buy a new version for every OS X version. So if you have Paragon on Yosemite, you’ll need to buy an new one for El Capitan. There is no “one free upgrade” or anything, you’ll need to get it yet again. I’ve tried all three methods, build it myself, Tuxera and Paragon. I like Paragon the best even though I have to rebuy it every OS X version.

  4. Very frustrating when the key contains indistinguishable characters! Yes, O and 0, but you helped me realize a confusion I had between I and l. Can you see a difference? Cap I and letter l look the same. Companies that do that are sadists.

  5. One trick for distinguishing between zeros and “o”s and ones and “l”s is to copy and paste the text/numbers into a word processor and then format them with a typeface that has very different shapes for the characters. A few of the monospaced fonts work well for this, such as Andale Mono on newer Macs or Monaco on classic Macs.

  6. On my Mac 10.6.8 I have used NTFS-3G for years. It has allowed me to read and write to NTFS files
    with no size limitations. I dont know whether it is still available or whether it is compatible with the
    latest Mac OS. It used to be free and I think it was available from Apple Apps.

  7. Some remarks:
    NTFS was never writeable for OSX, but only readable (unthinkable that Apple pays a license fee to Microsoft 😉
    NTFS-3G is still available, it is the same as Tuxeira with a simpler GUI.
    Paragon has always been slow for updating the driver for new OSX.

  8. Tracey Capen – I have been using Paragon’s NTFS ever since I purchased my iMac a few years ago. Yes, I went though the same product key hassle. But otherwise this NTFS works trouble-free. It even updates now and then.

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