MacOS X and NTFS – Will it Blend?

In the Windows world the best file system to be using is NTFS (New Technology File System), hands down. Compared to legacy FAT file systems (including FAT32) the robustness, reliability and scalability of NTFS is undisputed. However, since NTFS is proprietary to Microsoft it is often incompatible with non-Microsoft platforms such as MacOS X. Of course, there have been third party drivers that have attempted to fill the gap such as Tuxera NTFS-3G or Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X but there has not been a solution native to the operating system for MacOS X since its release last decade.

Until Snow Leopard (MacOS X 10.6).

By default, you can read NTFS drives but you cannot write to them. This would solve the immediate problem for most people of transferring content from Windows computers to a Mac. However, trying to copy files from a Mac to a Windows machine with an NTFS formatted drive would have been a problem. On top of that, you won’t find many Windows machines that will read HFS+ formatted hard drives (the native file system for MacOS X).

Whilst most people could get away with a separate FAT32 drive some people might run into problems with a file size limitation of 2GB and a drive/volume limitation of 2TB. With drives now breaking the 2TB barrier, a FAT32 drive will result in significant amount of wasted space (a whole terabyte in the case of a 3TB drive – a whopping 33%).

What most people know is that you can enable MacOS X 10.6 and later to write to NTFS drives without the need for third party software but it does involve a little bit of work. One such method is outlined at Wesley’s Tool-Box which shows how to enable writing to any NTFS volumes connected to your Mac. However, it should be noted that writing to NTFS volumes is disabled for a good reason. Any non-proprietary implementation can be susceptible to corruption and data loss so your mileage may vary.

With that in mind, proceed with caution!

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