How to read Mac formatted hard drives in Windows & write to NTFS in OSX

By | 4th September 2011

Standard Windows computers cannot read or write hard disk drives formatted for use in Apple Macs with the HFS+ file system.

HFSExplorer from Catacombae will allow you to read all HFS, HFS+ and HFSX drives. If you like HFSExplorer then consider making a donation to the developer Erik Larrson via the PayPal button on the Catacombae home page.

HFSExplorer also has a neat trick of being able to read .dmg image files.

If you want to write to Mac drives then there are paid for solutions like MacDrive.

FAT32 is read/write compatible with current and recent Windows, Macs and Linux computers but has a 4GB file size limitation. Hence it’s not suitable for most video editors.

Mac’s running OSX can read NTFS drives as standard but cannot write to them. If you want to write to an NTFS drive with a Mac then NTFS for Mac from Tuxera is a good option.

You can also move files to and from Windows and Mac machines across your network or use a NAS drive as an intermediate storage device. Network connection speed, the size of data to be moved and the amount of time you have available may rule out this option.

exFAT – Mac and Windows friendly

Screen grab of exFAT formatting dialogue box in WindowsIn 2006 Microsoft introduced the Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) file system. It was initially developed as a Windows CE component for flash drives to be a less demanding (in terms of processing power) alternative to NTFS..

Apple introduced support for exFAT hard drives with the release of OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.6). Windows XP needs SP2, Vista needs SP1. Windows XP users who can’t see the exFAT option may also need this Windows XP 32bit exFAT patch. Windows Vista onwards includes exFAT support as standard.

exFAT is very useful because it overcomes the 4GB file size limit of FAT32. It also supports large hard drives without any need for special formatting software.

As content creators we often need to work with projects on both Windows and Mac platforms. Video files are especially large and can present real problems when it comes to moving them around on hard drives or memory sticks using HFS, FAT32 or NTFS. For video editors the exFAT file system is ideal for sharing and exchanging large amounts data.

SDXC memory cards use exFAT as standard. Some Linux based devices such as PVRs and NAS drives don’t support exFAT because of licensing requirements but this is changing and you should be able to check for compatibility as necessary if you think it may affect your intended use.

Useful software links

Software to read Mac formatted drives in Windows

Commercial software to write to NTFS drives in OSX
Tuxera NTFS for Mac
Paragon NTFS for Mac

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