I have a macbook pro, and I'm putting a nice new 500gb ssd in it. I'm going to reformat and do a complete reinstallation. I would like a filesystem that Windows computers can read/write (not OSX Journaled, HFS, HFS+). I also want support for file-sizes over 4gb (rules out MS-DOS). There's one other option that I can use in the recovery, but I forgot what it was and I'm pretty sure it was incompatible with Windows.

So is there a way to install OSX on a drive that uses say ExFat? Or will I simply have to sacrifice cross-compatibility and stick with HFS or HFS+ ?

Edit: ExFat was the other option, which is totally compatible with Windows. I've learned that although it does overcome the hurdles of the 4gb block, a lot of Mac functionality is lost. Backups, encryption, and also less usable space. I'll stick to HFS.

  • OS X does not support NTFS without third party software this can not be installed on a NTFS partition – Ramhound Feb 3 '16 at 1:19
  • @Ramhound Careful, OS X supports reading NTFS without third party software. But yes, OS X cannot be installed on an NTFS partition, because it needs to be able to write to the partition it's installed on, and it can't do that natively on NTFS. – Spiff Feb 3 '16 at 2:25
  • OS X will only boot from HFS+ on GUID. – Tetsujin Feb 3 '16 at 8:41

Don't use NTFS for your OSX installation. Both OSes need to be installed on SEPARATE partitions/volumes.

  1. Install OSX first. Partition how much space you feel you'll need for OSX, leaving enough space left over for Windows. Format the OSX partition as HFS, and do not create a Windows partition yet.

  2. Once you have OSX installed, run the Bootcamp Assistant. It will allow you to partition the drive properly for both OSes to live in peace and harmony. It will walk you through installing Windows from the media.

  3. During the Windows Install, select the partition that Bootcamp Assistant told you to choose, and let Windows install.

  4. Once you have Windows installed, insert your OSX DVD, and install the Bootcamp Drivers for Windows.

    Part of the driver package includes read support for HFS. This will let you read data on the OSX side.

  5. Install something such as NTFS-3G for OSX to read and write NTFS data.

If you want one central place to keep your data, then set a small amount for both OSes - I set 100GB each for OSX and Windows 7. Then, the remainder of the hard drive is partitions as exFAT, using diskpart under Windows. Both OSes can mount it, and read/write data on them. It also gets past the 4GB limit, by allowing up to 128 PB for a single file, if necessary.

  • I can see tears at bedtime, asking dispart to play inside what it believes to be an MBR disk. iPartition could do the task successfully from the Mac side, so long as the drive isn't Core Storage. Disk Utility won't do it, it will not create a 5th volume on a drive. EFI/Recovery/Mac/Windows is all it will let you have. – Tetsujin Feb 3 '16 at 8:38
  • Windows Vista and above can handle gpt – Canadian Luke Feb 3 '16 at 15:49

You could partition the hard drive and install format one partition as NTFS and the other partition as HFS. I multi-booted my MacBook with Windows XP and I used OSX's Disk Settings to create the partitions, then used the Windows CD to format that new partition as NTFS.

If that doesn't do it, you can start with the Windows partition then install OSX on a second partition, although you wouldn't be able to use bootcamp.

  • I'm not sure how you managed to get that to work, without Boot Camp, as the Mac partition must be on a GUID drive & Windows XP must be on an MBR. Boot Camp would have done that, idk of anything else that can. – Tetsujin Feb 3 '16 at 8:34

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