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Where I work, we constantly switch between Linux, Windows and Mac OS X machines. We use a lot of external hard drives which mostly come preformatted as NTFS. This is a problem because Mac OS X by default cannot natively write to NTFS, and the third party apps that can tend to mess up Bootcamp.

Does anyone know of a single file system that can be read from and written to by every operating system? Please don't say FAT, as Mac OS X tends to mess up flash drives formated in FAT.

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2 Answers

The ntfs-3g driver works on both Linux and Mac OS, and of course Windows supports NTFS natively.

If you insist on pre-installed drivers, FAT is about the only choice. UDF may also be a candidate, but I'm not sure if Windows and Mac OS will run UDF on non-optical drives.

I'm not sure if Mac OS supports ext3, but if it does, then using ext3 with this driver on the windows side might also be an option. However it's a young project and may trash your data - you've been warned.

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I was looking at that, but it messes up bootcamp. Known issues: After installing ntfs-3g, all NTFS drives will disappear from the "Startup Disk" preference pane. Disabling or uninstalling ntfs-3g brings them back. It seems that this issue can't be solved, but only worked around since the Startup Disk preference pane doesn't recognize file system drivers that are not provided by Apple. –  rissicay Jul 17 '11 at 5:21
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@rissicay You can still get into Bootcamp with NTFS-3G installed by holding down the option key at startup. –  Scott Jul 17 '11 at 11:02
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OS X added support for ExFAT (aka FAT64) sometime around 10.6.3 - 10.6.5, so that might be a possibility. I haven't used it much, so I have no idea how robust it is...

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