I Have an External USB hard disk (Seagate 500Gb) which came formatted as NTFS which I want to use to back up a friend's slightly creaky G4 MacBook. When I plug the drive in however, it does not appear as an icon on the Desktop.

Do Macs normally mount NTFS drives or will I need to reformat it as FAT32 for it to be picked up?


  • The Mac runs OS-X 10.2.3 which won't run FUSE/NTFS-3D.
  • Tried formatting as FAT using the Mac Disk Utility which claimed the volume was too large.
  • Tried mounting on a Windows machine and sharing the drive.
    This almost worked but errors when copying some files (this turned out to be files containing illegal characters for Windows such as '\')

In the end I formatted a USB memory stick with the Mac file system and backed up to that and am sharing the drive via a Windows machine.

Answer to original question is 'Yes, Macs should mount a NTFS drive' (read-only on older OS versions I think) so there's something wrong with the Mac. Time for an OS update at the very least I think.

  • Is there a reason that you didn't want to go with FAT32? That might be the safer choice, even though FAT32 has a number of limitations... – Reuben Sep 12 '09 at 21:59
  • @Reuben. The drive was formatted as NTFS when bought. The Mac Disk Utility fell over when trying to format as 'MS-DOS'. – pelms Sep 14 '09 at 13:12
  • Mac OS X 10.2.3? Wow. You should seriously consider upgrading at least to 10.2.8 for the bug fixes let alone 10.4 or 10.5. – Chealion Sep 14 '09 at 15:01
  • Way past time for an OS update, I'd say. 10.2 is pretty old. Try upgrading to Leopard (Snow Leopard won't work on a G4). – David Thornley Sep 14 '09 at 15:15
  • Yep, 10.2 won't run anything fun (Firefox 3, Google Earth etc. etc.) Would Leopard run on G4 hardware (I think it's got 768Mb Ram)? – pelms Sep 14 '09 at 21:40

By default Mac OS X will mount NTFS drives read-only without any additional software. There are instances that they will not mount if the drive requires a file check because of not being properly ejected. NTFS-3G will allow you to force mount it however and allows you to write to the hard drives as well.

  • Thanks C. Does this mean that I should see a drive icon on the desktop, even if it's read only? I'm not sure if the Mac is faulty or if it's behaving normally in this respect. – pelms Sep 12 '09 at 20:13
  • @pelms: Yes you should be seeing a drive icon on your Desktop (assuming you have External Drives set to display on your Desktop which is default). You can use Disk Utility to see if the drive is even being recognized. – Chealion Sep 12 '09 at 20:22
  • Unfortunately I can't boot from the install disk to get to the Disk Utility as the CD drive is knackered... I think I'll try reformatting as FAT32 and see if sees the drive – pelms Sep 12 '09 at 21:06
  • Disk Utility is in /Applications/Utilties/ and would be the program you would use to format the drive. – Chealion Sep 12 '09 at 22:46
  • Thanks Chealion. Disk Utility sees the disk but won't mount. Tried formatting as 'MS-DOS' but now luck got a 'volume too large' error (disk is 500Gb). – pelms Sep 14 '09 at 13:15

NTFS read/write support for Mac OS X

  • Thanks Molly. I came across NTFS-3G but am wary of installing more to this machine as it's very flaky. It currently won't respond to the shutdown command and gives an error when copying to a USB thumb drive :¬( – pelms Sep 12 '09 at 20:16

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