Share your External drive between Mac and Windows

If you’ve ever tried to use your external storage between Windows and Mac, you will already know that it is not that simple.

Props to AllNewsMac

Here’s why:
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Lion (and Mountain Lion?) can read drives formatted as NTFS, but cannot write to them. As we know, NTFS is the preferred file system for Windows.
  • Windows cannot read or write from drives formatted in HFS+ file system, better known as Mac OS Extended (journaled), the preferred choice for Mac OS X.
The above is true, but can be circumvented with the help of 3rd-party software.
So without investing in extra software or messing about in Terminal, what is the common ground between to the 2 OS’s? Wait for it… FAT32!
Yip, the file system that we thought we wouldn’t see again since the advent of Windows XP over 10 years ago, is still needed to please our mixed platform environments. 
Why were we glad to see the demise of FAT32?
  • 4GB file-size limit. No single files can be over 4GB (4096MB).
  • Windows won’t allow you to make a partition FAT32 if it is more than 32GB in size. Mac will let you go as high as 2TB.
  • Mac OS’s Time Machine will not let you use a FAT32 drive.
So if you can live with the drawbacks of FAT32, and still want to share your drive between the 2 platforms, go ahead and format your external as FAT32. 
Here’s a quickie on how to format your drive using Lion or 7.
Remember, this will FORMAT your external drive, so be sure to backup any data you wish to retrieve afterwards.
Formatting on 7:
  1. Plug in your external drive.
  2. Open My Computer.
  3. Select your drive, and right-click it. Choose Format.
  4. Change the File System to FAT32. Leave the allocation unit at the default. Choose a Label, and select Quick Format.
  5. This will take a few seconds, depending on the size of the drive.
  6. That’s it. Done.
Formatting from Lion:
  1. Plug in your external drive.
  2. Open Finder
  3. Find Disk Utilities under /Applications/Utilities.
  4. Select your drive in the left pane. 
  5. Select Erase. 
  6. Choose your options, including the label and the File System. MS-DOS (FAT).
  7. Remember that if your drive is bigger than 2TB, you will need to partition it to allow you to select the FAT option. Use the Partition tab for this.
  8. That’s it. Done. Enjoy!

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