Ask LH: How Can I Use An NTFS Drive On A Mac?

Ask LH: How Can I Use An NTFS Drive On A Mac?

Hey Lifehacker, I’ve made the switch to a MacBook Air and I have one problem — trying to open (with write access) a NTFS-formatted hard drive. Given this is one of the most common formats for Windows PCs, I’d hope there might be a simple, free solution. Any suggestions? Thanks, Driven Mad

Dear DM,

Technically, Macs are unable to natively write to NTFS drives — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any workarounds.

One option is to format your external drives in FAT32 or exFAT which are platform-independent. Naturally, this will require you to back everything up prior to formatting and then transfer it back. If you have lots of data on there, this is arguably more hassle than it’s worth.

Another solution is to download a dedicated utility or third-party driver. One of the most popular choices in the Mac community is Paragon for NTFS which allows you to create, delete or modify files between NTFS and HFS drives with support for OS X 10.10.

Unfortunately, Paragon isn’t free: downloading this solution will set you back $15.96 after the initial 10-day trial expires. There may be other, cheaper options on the market but we cannot personally vouch for any of them so use with caution.

If you’d prefer not to spend any money, it is possible to achieve the same results by diving into the OS X terminal and tinkering with the system configuration files. Thankfully, the steps have all been laid out in the below YouTube tutorial:

If pulled off correctly, this should enable writing to NTFS drives in OS X. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • There is (or at least was) a free MacFUSE NTFS driver (I think it was called NTFS-3G??) that worked fairly reliably for write access.
    The Paragon software is/was based on this.

    • I was under the impression that Paragon driver was completely independently developed. (It doesn’t use FUSE, for example).

      In some testing I did a while back, Paragon was much faster than NTFS-3G (or the Tuxera driver).

      • Maybe it was Tuxera that was the Pay for version..
        Jumped to Linux 5 years ago, so haven’t used a Mac for quite a while.

        • Yeah, I still just don’t find the Linux desktop quite consistent enough (and I use Photoshop, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have a Linux base rather than a BSD base, but there is just no Linux desktop environment I’m happy with at this stage.
          (Of course, everything that [i]doesn’t[/i] need a UI I run on Linux).

  • Paragon is worth its weight in gold, I wouldn’t own a mac without it. Highly recommended.
    By far the fastest of all options I tested and never had a glitch with moving terrabytes of files around.

  • Use a Linux distro to format drives to NTFS for free on mac.
    Enable NTFS write with the terminal command for free.

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