Reading and Writing NTFS (and Ext3) disks from MacOsX

Mac OS X should be able to natively  read (but not to write) NTFS disks. However, when I plugged in a USB disk formatted in NTFS, there was no way to view it from my Macbook running Snow Leopard. By using VMWare Fusion I could see the disk from my virtual Windows,  but the problem then was to copy a big file (several GB) onto my Mac: the Win virtual disk was too small, and copying the file directly onto the Mac file system was unsuccessful (I do not know why: the copy started but then never completed).

Since a while I was curious to install Bootcamp – especially since I swapped the internal disk of my MacBook with a new 500 GB that costed less than 100 €. Now I had an additional reason to do so – so I did (it’s straightforward and easy although it’s time consuming, since you have to install Windows, which takes approximately an hour). At that point I could see the disk , copy files onto the Bootcamp partition, and then from MacOSX move the files from the Win partition to the Mac one. In the meantime I was updating Windows with the MS updater –  but soon the Windows XP installation was  messed up horribly by the  updater, when it tried to install the SP3 (now Win is unusable and should be reinstalled from scatch…).

Finally I decided to take a serious look at two nice pices of software: the first one, MacFuse, enables the MacOS to use other filesystems. It acts like a hub onto which you must plug adapters for the filesystem(s) you are interested in. Here comes into play the second element: NTFS-3G Catacombae, which is an adapter for NTFS. There are actually several other options, some are commercial, other are based on Fink or MacPorts, but I chose NTFS-3G Catacombae because it’s free and its installation is extremely simple. You just first install Mac Fuse as a normal app, and do the same with the second piece of software. Reboot and… my USB disk was there, readable and writeable!

Later I needed to exchange data with a Linux box. MacFuse helped me again: adding fuse-ext2 allows reading (but not writing) a disk formatted as ext3 on Linux. I read some additional info about the exchange of data with Linux:

  • MacFuse works, but it’s pretty slow, and write support is very experimental
  • Linux has perfectly good support for the Mac filesystem, HFS+, as long as you turn journaling off

My experience was that:

  • with fuse-ext2 I had read-only support on the Mac
  • using MacFuse + fuse-ext2 was actually slow (40 min to copy 16 GB, while writing those files on Linux was at least 10 times faster)
  • with journaling on the HFS+ disk was readable on Linux, but it it was read-only – actually by turning off journaling the disk was also writable (and it took 10 min to write the same set of data).

Of course another easy solution for exchanging data would have be to use the ubiquitous FAT32  – but that’s it’s a pretty bad file system, and in certain conditions (e.g .many small files) it wastes a lot of disk space.

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Posted in Admin, Win on Mac

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