Are there external hard drives that work on both a Mac and PC?

And by work on both a Mac and PC I mean you can copy a file to the external drive from one and move it to the other and it will read/write to it as well.

I have some software from Mediafour which allows a drive formatted on a Mac to be read on a PC but it has a habit of locking things up and I am not very happy with it as a solution (and this is on a brand new PC build with Windows 7).

I also realize that a drive formatted as FAT-32 will work on both but the limitations of FAT-32 are too much for my needs (moving and storing large video files on a high capacity drive).

You’d think by now someone would figure there is a market for such a thing but my Google-fu is failing me today if there is.


There are third-party extensions that will allow a Mac to read/write an NTFS drive. Read capability is built into the Mac OS, but not the write capability. (Search MacFUSE for an open source option that used to work fine for me, but which is no longer maintained.)

The Boot Camp drivers (if you install Windows on a Mac) give you read-only access to HFS+ drives, as well (no write, to prevent Windows viruses from corrupting the Mac side). I’ve used this in concert with the MacFUSE solution given earlier to move files back and forth between otherwise incompatible volumes, but FUSE hasn’t worked reliably since the 64-bit era (it’s open source abandonware, so far as I can tell).

I actually suspect there isn’t a market for this: FAT is the easy answer, and it works for 95+% of folks. For larger files, there are a variety of SAN, NAS, and other file-sharing solutions built in, but they’ll be slow.

I suspect folks like you (who need fast access of large files) are a small enough minority that you don’t make up a market.

I used to not be able to write from my wife’s mac onto a shared network NTFS drive. But then sudenly one day I could. Was there an Apple update that allowed this? Am I just crazy?

If you do want to copy files larger than 2GB, then Microsoft’s patent encumbered exFAT format is probably your best choice. The wikipedia page lists some restrictions, but the tl;dr is you need MacOS X 10.6.5 or newer and Windows XP Service Pack 2 + updates or newer. How exactly you go about formatting the external drive to exFAT is either a matter of searching for instructions, or just clicking around in the format utilities until you find the right options.

Due to the patent issues, the drive will only be readable by Windows and MacOSX systems. If that’s not a problem, then it’s probably the best choice.

If echoreply’s solution doesn’t work, try Paragon NTFS for Mac. I’ve been using it for a few years and it works well.

They also offer an HFS solution for Windows, but it was a little quirky (although it has been a couple of years since I’ve used it).

Whack-a-Mole, I actually work over at Mediafour – I’m sorry you’re having problems, and if you’re willing, I’d be happy to look into what’s happening for you. We’re a small software company and our development team works really closely with support on user-reported problems, and are generally pretty great about finding solutions if something isn’t working right.

Just let me know anytime if you need a hand. Just kick me a PM or whatever you’re comfortable with, and I can get some info from you about what’s happening and work with you directly if you like.