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How to read and write to external NTFS drives from a Mac

macfuse

If you’ve ever taken a USB hard drive that had been working just fine on a Windows computer and tried to use it on a Mac you may have had mixed results.

Sure, when you first plug it in you see the drive show up in Finder and everything looks great, and largely it is. You can open the drive, browse the folders, even open the files. But, when you try and save to that drive is when you see thing’s not quite right.

What you’re running into is a difference between the file system that the Mac uses versus the one the PC uses.

I won’t bore you with what the differences because for most users it really doesn’t matter–you just want your drive to work.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Download and install MacFUSE Core from Google Code. I used the file MacFUSE-Core-10.5-1.3.1.dmg which was the newest version for Leopard available at the time but if there’s a newer version available on the download page go for it. They have a version for Tiger too, just remember–all you want is the MacFUSE Core.

  2. Download and install NTFS-3G from here. I used NTFS-3G.1.2216 [stable] but if there is a newer stable version available use that one.

After installing NTFS-3G you’ll be prompted to restart your computer. After you’ve restarted, that’s it–all done.

When you plug in your USB hard drive nothing will look different so you won’t necessarily know that anything is different. Even the icon that shows up when the drive is connected is the same.

As soon as you try and write to the drive you’ll see right away what’s different–it now works.

Its not going to be blazing fast, but its also not slow. For me, I copying a 2GB file from my MacBook to my USB hard drive took about 10 minutes.

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