There have been other questions regarding the use of HFS+ formatted drives on Linux (e.g. this); however, I am specifically interested in knowing if this is a good idea for a particular purpose.

I have a 64 GB USB flash drive which I would like to use for short term manual backups of files on a linux box, but to which I would also like to have read/write access from my Mac (I don't need Windows compatibility). From what I have read, it appears to me that HFS+ (with journaling disabled) would suit this purpose quite well given that both Linux and OS X have native read/write support for it. Nevertheless, since I plan on using this drive for backups I am concerned with stability.

Therefore, in brief:

  • Are there any dangers with using an HFS+ drive under Linux (e.g. messing up permissions/other metadata, data corruption)?
  • Am I better to just format the drive in ext4 and use a virtual machine/MacFuse to access the drive on my mac?

Note: FAT32 is out because I would rather avoid having to split my tar archives (not to mention no metadata support).

  • By "metadata" do you mean extended attributes, or the journaling you mentioned would have to be disabled to keep the HFS+ partition usable from Linux?
    – killermist
    Jul 7, 2012 at 22:11
  • What I am referring to by metadata are things such as permissions, ownership, atime, ctime, and mtime which are associated with all files in *nix based systems. I am wondering if these might be preserved on HFS+ drives given that OS X is a Unix-based OS. It is possible to mount journaled HFS+ drives on Linux but this requires additional packages and is possibly unsafe so I would like to avoid it. Jul 8, 2012 at 0:58

3 Answers 3


ldconfig aborts (SIGABRT)
make sometimes fails with S_ISADIRECTORY being false.
I would know because I have a SD Card with mmcblk0p2 as type hfs+ that boots up gentoo
also another note: linux will never mount a hfs+ volume read-write without an explicite force if it not cleanly unmounted.


On one system I tried using a HFS+ partition under linux and experimented some issues.

I noticed that some files written from linux being locked when opened afterward in Mac OS, this happened to be annoying, especially when i came to not being able to delete the even after correcting the lock flag (using SetFile -a l).

I had to copy the files and the delete the whole containing folder.

Usually for shared systems, I choose FAT32 despite the downsides.


UFS drives are meant for VFAT, and some are set up for it (special handling of the FAT, and so on), so formatting them with another filesystem might not be the best idea.

AFAIU, HFS handling under Linux is spotty at best.

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