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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!


Tag: Windows

You’d think that after so many years of PCs and Macs co-existing that they’d be very interoperable.

Not so- and I’ve been struggling trying to set up an external hard-disk drive that I can use on both systems.

Mac prefers its own format (HFS/HFS+), PC would like another (FAT/NTFS). NTFS is partially compatible, but natively, Mac can only read, not write, in that format.

A little research suggested I might be able to use Ext2, a mature Linux format, and install plugins on either machine to handle it. The plan would be to create a three partition drive. A large main partition and one smaller one for each platform onto which I could store Ext2 drivers- so I could travel to any computer with the drive.

I tried three times to create this partition layout on the Mac (I couldn’t find an easy way to create an Ext2 partition on PC). Each time resulted in a system lock after about an hour – with a serious-looking ‘Press the power button on the back of your computer’ dialog that I haven’t seen before. Disk Utility was unable to repair the Ext2 partition.

The eventual adopted solution was to ditch Ext2 and…

  1. Using the Mac’s Disk Utility, I created a two partition drive- with a large PC partition (FAT) and a small MacOSX partition (HTS+ /1GB).
  2. On the PC, I reformatted the FAT partition into NTFS using Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management.
  3. I picked up an open-source plugin called NTFS-3G for the Mac. This permits writing to NTFS. There’s a commercial version of the code called Tuxera, but also a free-use one [NTFS-3G] buried away, but available.
  4. I installed the package on the Mac, and also copied it to the Mac partition of the external hard-drive, so I can install it anywhere.

If you do set up your drive like this, make sure you always safely eject the drive before disconnecting it- otherwise the Mac will whinge and you may lose data.

Ebony and ivory living together in perfect harmony. Maybe!


I’ve gone all this time not knowing that holding down Windows key and pressing ‘E’ will open a new explorer window.

There are plenty more keyboard short-cuts for the curious power user!