General Question

xTheDreamer's avatar

How to transfer files from a MacBook Pro to an external harddrive?

Asked by xTheDreamer (845 points ) November 27th, 2010

I have a MacBook Pro and a WesterDigital My Passport Essential SE external harddrive.

I’ve tried to transfer some file through the drag-and-drop method to the external harddrive but it won’t let me transfer the files to it. It will show a forbidden sign.

With a Windows laptop/pc I would just plug in my external harddrive then drag and drop the files to the external hdd as it is. It would just let me transfer the files without any problem.

So I don’t really know why it won’t go with the MacBook Pro, can anyone tell me how can I enable the hdd to let me transfer the files on my MBP to the hdd? Or what is wrong?

Also I’m a newbie to the MBP.

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7 Answers

crisw's avatar

From what I can find, this is a Windows-formatted device; the Mac version is called “WesterDigital My Passport for Mac.”

Check here for how to reformat the drive for your Mac if this is the case.

wenn's avatar

the most likely problem is the external hd is formatted for windows and is not a format that plays well with mac.

use disk utility app on your mbp to reformat your external hd to mac extended journaled

heres a video tutorial:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8te1bg07MsQ

jlelandg's avatar

This could be a very complicated problem…especially if your MBP is a newer one. You might need to get an older system to reformat. When I had this problem I took it to an Apple owner who had an older system and he reformated to (I think fat32?).

jerv's avatar

Most modern Windows drives are formatted in FAT32 or NTFS. FAT16/FAT32 is sometimes used for smaller drives (mostly USB Flash drives), and also able to be dealt with by most operating systems. However, NTFS is preferred for Windoze as it has many nice features that enhance disk utilization, performance, and reliability. Also, NTFS volumes can exceed the rather low size limits of FAT16/FAT32, and given the size of hard drives these days, I would say that it is likely that your external drive is formatted as NTFS.

Unfortunately, most non-Windoze operating systems have fun dealing with NTFS, and by “fun”, I mean “difficulty”. It took years for Linux to get full read/write access to NTFS volumes to be a stable feature.

Macs use HFS+, and starting with OS X 10.6, they only support older HFS Mac volumes in read-only mode. Likewise, their support for NTFS is also read-only. They are about where Linux was a few years ago in that regard.

“Mac OS X v10.3 and later include read-only support for NTFS-formatted partitions… NTFS write support has been discovered in Mac OS X 10.6, but has not been activated as of version 10.6.1, although hacks do exist to enable the functionality. However, user reports indicate the functionality is unstable and tends to cause kernel panics, probably the reason why write support has not been enabled or advertised.”

I can think of a few workarounds that do not involve reformatting your external drive, but they all involve access to a PC. You could copy the files to a USB Flash drive on the Mac, or you could email yourself the file as an attachment and then go to a PC to pick them up. Of course, that is a band-aid solution if you plan to use the drive with both Mac and Windoze, so you may be better off reformatting the thing… if you can.

arturodiaz's avatar

Just open disk utility, you can search for it on spotlight. Click on the external drive on the left sidebar, click partition tab. There select one partition, put the name to the partition. If you are going to use it on windows too select FAT32 on the format option. If not, just leave it al Mac OS Plus. And click apply. Remember this will erase all data in your drive.

If you want to do a backup I recommend you use time machine, else super duper and carbon copy cloner are great utilities for system backup. Search for them on google.

Good luck.

camertron's avatar

Caution! Using @arturodiaz, @wenn, and @jlelandg‘s solution will erase your hard drive. Wow @jerv excellent answer – you’re absolutely right. The only way to use an external hard drive on both Mac OS and Windows is to format it using the FAT32 file system. (quick fact: FAT stands for File Allocation Table)

hungerforpizza's avatar

Use FAT32, it is compatible with most things. NTFS is better (it has no file size limits) but it is not as compatible.

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