Reformatting an External Hard Drive Mac OS X
Posted: Apr 14, 11, 11:11 techAdmin
Status: Site Admin
Joined: 26 Sep 2003
Location: East Coast, West Coast? I know it's one of them.
Ok, here's the problem. Someone with a mac has purchased an external hard disk. Being normal Mac users, they don't know very much about hardware, operating systems, computer file systems, etc.
So the disk is plugged in. It appears on the desktop, and it's in Finder. Click on it, the system doesn't complain. But then the moment of truth arrives: the person thinks, ok, now time to transfer my files, or use TimeMachine.
Drag the file to it, nothing happens. No error, no message telling you anything. Just a red circle with with a slash through it. Again, zero error message, just no result from the action. Usability score? 0. Shame on you mac, this is a standard issue, and you should handle this better.
The cause? The hard disk is formatted with NTFS. Mac OS X version the person has does not support write operations to NTFS. Does support read. Since most users have exactly zero idea of read/write differences, permissions, or anything else, the vaunted Mac user friendliness shows a big FAIL here. Shame on you Mac.
So, we have to fix this for our friend, who has been stymied by this fact. But first a bit of speculation. Apple some years ago, during their down years, took a large investment from Microsoft. In exchange for this, they got access to a lot of Microsoft Intellectual property, including I assume the specs to create a driver for NTFS, the standard Windows file system since Windows 2000. Also the standard file system large external disk drives are formatted with. So my suspicion is that Apple WANTS their users to experience this failure, so that they then head off to the local mac store and buy the hardware there, where of course everything 'just works'. I believe, as I extend this forum's how-tos, you will find this a repeating theme when it comes to strange non user friendly issues I have encountered, that are all easily fixable on a technical level.
Ok, enough talk, let's get to work, and fix the issue.
What we need to do is reformat the large disk drive to either a straight Mac OS X native file system, or to a file system that everything will be able to read and write to, for large disks, you'll want to use the exfat that is offered.
I found a very clear how to reformat hard drive in OS X, including nice screen shots, but I'll post the steps here for those who don't need pictures.
How to Format a drive in OS X
This should be a complete set of steps.
And that's it, the drive that was frustrating your friend and the people who were trying to help him is now available for use on OS X. Remember, if you are going to use this drive as a time machine backup drive, it should be formatted in Mac Extended journaled file system, or case sensitive.
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