I was getting a bit frustrated this morning because of various problems moving files back and forth between my Mac and the other Windows machines in the house. All my portable drives, whether they were flash drives or external hard drives, have been formatted to NTFS for the past few years which always worked okay for me before. Windows obviously handles NTFS perfectly and Linux has no problem reading or writing to that either. Unfortunately, Mac OS doesn’t seem to play as well with NTFS (at least not out of the box). It can read NTFS, but it can’t write to it.

So now starts the file system war again. If I leave my USB drives in NTFS, my Mac can’t write to it. If I format it for the Mac, it won’t work on Windows. If I format it FAT32, it will work on both, but it won’t handle files larger than 4gb.


Now before people start commenting about this or that app that handles different file systems, I want to stress that I am aware such applications and plugins exist, I just wanted this to work easily/natively/out of the box on all computers, without requiring this extra layer.

After quite a bit of digging around, I found out about something called exFAT. You can read the wiki page for more info, but in a sentence, it’s somewhat like FAT, but can handle large files. It’s compatible with pretty much any Windows you’d be running in 2011 (hopefully) and Mac OS starting with Snow Leopard. So this should work fine for thumb drives going between the two OSs.

Of course though, nothing is perfect… exFAT is not compatible with Linux. So sooner or later, the file system war will start again. Until that dark afternoon, let’s pray for peace.

xkcd: Standards