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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger System 10.4
Tiger only hintThis has saved me a lot of trouble: It is now possible to reliably read NTFS disks (NT File System, as used by modern Windows versions such as 2000 or XP) under Mac OS X 10.4 (tested under 10.4.1).

Since I have been interested in using disks usable by both Windows and Mac computers and found info in several other hints on this site which, however, are sometimes rather old and have a long comments section which take a while to read and new points spread in between, I thought maybe some people are interested in a short overview on what can currently be done in this area. As I said, several things here may not be big news to some readers, but I am sure at least some people will appreciate an overview, so here we go...

  • Reading from NTFS disks seems to be very stable now in 10.4.1+. See the bottom of this hint if you are interested in what kind of issues I had using 10.3.8 which were resolved in 10.4.1.
  • Writing to NTFS disks still isn't possible; all NTFS disks are mounted "read only."
  • It is possible to transform a disk with NTFS into a Mac disk with HFS+ format. This hint mentions it is possible with Disk Utiliy, but only after initial unmounting. I can't remember for sure (although I did it just a few minutes ago), but I think you don't need to do manual unmounting in 10.4.1 any more; Disk Utility will do it for you. So the user experience is now like with formatting in any other format.
  • It is not possible, not even in 10.4.1, to create an NTFS partition or disk. If you want an NTFS disk, you have to do the formatting on a Windows machine. At least, it's not possible using the GUI; maybe it can be done using diskutil in the Terminal. I didn't look for it, but I very much doubt it and would strongly discourage you from trying it if you are somewhat interested in your files' integrity.
  • If you want a disk format that can be read both by a Macintosh and a Windows PC, basically the only option is formatting the drive in FAT32 (sometimes also referred to as "MS-DOS" format). FAT32, however, is not suitable as a format for the boot volume of your Mac computer. For Mac use, FAT32 is really rather limited and I recommend using it only on an external hard drive, which would then allow easy exchange of files between the platforms. If you have a network, this is another method of exchanging files, but setting up the correct network configurations and making the different systems talk to each other may be difficult for unexperienced users.
  • If you don't want to (or can't) format the whole drive to MS-DOS format (like when you need to install Mac OS X on it), you may want to create both a Mac (HFS+) and a Windows (MS-DOS) partition on it. This hint deals with this topic. There are many, many comments ... if you don't want to read them all, I posted a longer comment about an improved version on Jan 12, 2004 allowing an MS-DOS partitition to be used by Windows and Mac computers and an HFS+ partition to be used by a Mac computer. However, this had the drawback that it was not possible to boot the Mac from the HFS+ partition. More than a year later, on Apr 15, 2005, silentaccord (using ideas from simoncha) posted a solution which allowed the HFS+ partition to be bootable as well. Make sure you read the most recent comments, though, as all this is a bit experimental and definitely for the advaced users who have experience using the command line.
Generally, keep in mind that using a file system other than the 'native' one (HFS+ for a Mac) on any operating system can cause some problems which may come into play at unexpected moments. These problems include losing resource forks and problems with file names and paths (different systems allow different characters, so a name perfectly usable on one system may not be usable on another). If you are interested in knowing about which problems I had with reading NTFS on 10.3.8 and more background, read on, else you can stop here.

In my case, a family member's Windows laptop broke and I convinced her to get a Mac instead, so I needed to get some old data off the laptop's hard disk. While I could read all the important files using 10.3.8 without problem (I took the hard disk out of the laptop computer and put it in an external USB hard disk enclosure, so I could easily plug it in, browse through the directory cotents and sort out what seemed to be valuable data), I decided it would make me feel more comforable to burn a backup of the whole "Documents and Settings" folder to DVD for archival, in case I forgot to tranfer something.

It was impossible, however, to just transfer the whole folder to any location on my Mac. The transfer would always choke somewhere in between by saying such useful things as 'An item with the name "" already exists in this location' or similar. Indeed, it seemed that many files with duplicate names existed in various directories. Their names were all crippled, with the last character showing as "?," I think. Obviously, this problem was related to file names with 'special' chracters such as German Umlaute. E.g. Thunderbird's personal folders or files for mail caused trouble: They were stored with names such as "Persönliche Ordner" in Windows, but the Finder displayed them as "Pers?". Now, if there are two files named "Persönliche Ordner 1" and "Persönliche Ordner 2", two files "Pers?" will show up int the Finder and prevent the copy operation from succeeding since they alppear identical and it is not allowed to have two files with identical names in the same directory.

It seemed that this problem was not only related to the Finder, since I also tried various other things ranging from copying the files in the Terminal using cp, using Disk Utilty to either copy the whole disk or to create images in different formats from the folders I wanted backed up, and I also tried direct backing up to DVD using Roxio Toast Titanium, but all failed with various error messages. Toast, for instance, verified all files before commencing burning, but then failed somewhere in the middle, stating it could not find a file. So it looked like it was due to poor file system support in Mac OS X for NTFS. After hours of trying I was about to give up, but since I had just upgraded another Mac to 10.4, I finally gave it a try on that one, and -- lo and behold -- it worked like a charm!

Too bad I didn't try earlier; the reason was that that particular Mac running on 10.4.1 does not have a DVD drive, so I always tried on machines with DVD drives, but which were all on 10.3.8. So things have indeed improved a lot since then in terms of reliability. As I could not easily find a note about this fact on the internet after my discovery, I decided to post this here, hoping to maybe save someone else the trouble I had. Note that this may very well have appeared in 10.4.1 -- I quickly searched for "NTFS Tiger" on Apple's support site and was pointed to the 10.4.1 update page which, however does not contain the word "NTFS" anywhere on it (not even on the page with the detail info). Ah well...
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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: macslut on Aug 04, '05 11:34:22AM

Great summary. Two comments:

1) I think we (anyone needing to move drives between Mac and PC) should write to Apple and Microsoft and ask for better support for this. Specifically, Apple needs to (license the tech if necessary) allow formatting and writing NTFS.

2) I have a few external drives that I swap on a regular basis between my Mac and PC. They are large drives (120GB, 250GB 400GB). I format those as FAT32, but the key is to format them as FAT32 *on the Mac*, if you want a single full sized partition. In other words, my iTunes collection is about 250GB. Windows XP limits the maximum partition size to 32GB when formatting. However, I can format the drive as a 250GB single FAT32 partition in OS X, copy my entire library, and then Windows XP will handle it just fine.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: GlowingApple on Aug 04, '05 12:16:19PM

Writing to NTFS has plagued linux users for some time now as the file system is almost entirely proprietary. There are a few programs for a linux that can write to NTFS using the Windows dll driver, but this would not work on Mac (unless it could be recompiled for ppc or support could be added for Intel Macs with some kind of Wine support installed).

I would say that Mac doesn't have much of a choice until MS decides to license their filesystem for other OS's to use, and knowing MS's giving nature with their proprietary code...well, let's just say we may have to wait until someone hacks their code first...

---
Jayson --When Microsoft asks you, "Where do you want to go today?" tell them "Apple."



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: MCDr on Aug 04, '05 03:36:33PM

Windows does not have a max partition size on FAT32 av 32GB! FAT16 has got a max limit, but FAT32 does NOT!

But FAT32 has a filesize limit at 4GB.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: diamondsw on Aug 04, '05 05:50:59PM
Nobody said the volume format had a size limitation - what was stated is Windows XP imposes an artificial 32GB limit, which is true. They want you to use NTFS, period.

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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: Bruce Miller on Aug 04, '05 06:19:12PM

Windows XP built in utility limits 32GB FAT32 formatting, not the OS, just use Partition Magic.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: macslut on Aug 05, '05 02:08:18AM

That's exactly what I meant when I said "Windows XP limits the maximum partition size to 32GB when formatting". Sure, you could spend $70 on PartitionMagic, but the whole point of this thread is that the drive is going to be going back and forth between Mac and PC. The Mac will do the job without additional software.

Also even PartitionMagic has only been tested and is supported on drives up to 300GB (according to Symantec), why bother when OS X will format a single partition up to 400GB or more?

Still, I wish they would cross license HFS+ and NTFS.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: robdew on Aug 04, '05 11:40:00AM

The lack of write capability for NTFS volumes is a real thorn in the side of OS X. Currently windows and OS X don't share write capability on any sort of "professional" disk format. If you use FAT32 you will quickly run into the max file size limit (especially if you do video work).



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: gimpbully on Aug 04, '05 02:36:34PM

This is really a problem with most any no-MS OS. it's just hideously dangerous to do writes.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: robdew on Aug 04, '05 11:43:30AM

" The transfer would always choke somewhere in between"

I've never understood why OS X "prechecks" file transfers for things like available space, but doesn't check the file names.



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preflight checks on filenames?
Authored by: hayne on Aug 04, '05 11:57:20AM
I've never understood why OS X "prechecks" file transfers for things like available space, but doesn't check the file names.
I suspect this is merely due to it being harder to do. To check for available disk space is quite easy. To do preflight checks on filenames would require knowledge of what is acceptable for a filename on the destination system. Sure, this could be built into the copying software but it would require substantial effort.

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preflight checks on filenames?
Authored by: TrumpetPower! on Aug 04, '05 12:57:40PM

robdew wrote:

hayne wrote:

I've never understood why OS X "prechecks" file transfers for things like available space, but doesn't check the file names.

I suspect this is merely due to it being harder to do. To check for available disk space is quite easy. To do preflight checks on filenames would require knowledge of what is acceptable for a filename on the destination system. Sure, this could be built into the copying software but it would require substantial effort.

“Substantial effort” my ahhhh...foot. A simple regular expression is all you need. It's the sort of thing a first-semester programming student can handle.

Cheers,

b&



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preflight checks on filenames?
Authored by: adrianm on Aug 04, '05 01:54:48PM

Please supply this "simple regular expression" for all likely file system candidates, current, past and future.



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preflight checks on filenames?
Authored by: diamondsw on Aug 04, '05 05:55:00PM

Not only will remote systems have differing filename conventions (lengths, allowable characters, etc), but then you'd have to check every single file before copying to see if it will work. Keeping track of space needed is simple, just have a long long of the total bytes needed. Checking the file names would either require creating a buffer of all of the names (fast, but memory-intensive), or checking each one as the algorithm goes (slow, but easier on memory). Either way, it will hurt performance *significantly*.

Why yes, I *do* have a BA in Computer Science.



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Limited Write Support?
Authored by: kaih on Aug 04, '05 07:28:39PM

I haven't tried it personally, however the manual pages for mount_ntfs state that there is limited write support. It may just be that the automounter doesn't mount the disks read/write for safety reasons, whereas you _may_ be able to mount them read/write via the Terminal.

Here's the man page: (man mount_ntfs)

MOUNT_NTFS(8) BSD System Manager's Manual MOUNT_NTFS(8)

NAME
mount_ntfs -- mount an NTFS file system

SYNOPSIS
mount_ntfs [-a] [-s] [-u uid] [-g gid] [-m mask] special node

DESCRIPTION
The mount_ntfs utility attaches the NTFS file system residing on the
device special to the global file system namespace at the location indi-
cated by node. This command is normally executed by mount(8) at boot
time, but can be used by any user to mount an NTFS file system on any
directory that they own (provided, of course, that they have appropriate
access to the device that contains the file system).

The options are as follows:

-a Force behaviour to return MS-DOS 8.3 names also on readdir().

-s Make name lookup case sensitive.

-u uid Set the owner of the files in the file system to uid. The
default owner is the owner of the directory on which the file
system is being mounted.

-g gid Set the group of the files in the file system to gid. The
default group is the group of the directory on which the file
system is being mounted.

-m mask
Specify the maximum file permissions for files in the file sys-
tem.

FEATURES
NTFS file attributes are accessed in following way:

foo[[:ATTRTYPE]:ATTRNAME]

`ATTRTYPE' is one of the identifiers listed in $AttrDef file of volume.
Default is $DATA. `ATTRNAME' is an attribute name. Default is none.

EXAMPLES
To mount an ntfs volume located in /dev/ad1s1:

# mount_ntfs /dev/ad1s1 /mnt

To get the volume name (in Unicode):

# cat /mnt/\$Volume:\$VOLUME_NAME

To read directory raw data:

# cat /mnt/foodir:\$INDEX_ROOT:\$I30

WRITING
There is limited writing ability. Limitations: file must be nonresident
and must not contain any sparces (uninitialized areas); compressed files
are also not supported.

SEE ALSO
mount(2), unmount(2), fstab(5), mount(8), mount_msdosfs(8)

CAVEATS
This utility is primarily used for read access to an NTFS volume. See
the WRITING section for details about writing to an NTFS volume.

HISTORY
The mount_ntfs utility first appeared in FreeBSD 3.0.

AUTHORS
The NTFS kernel implementation, mount_ntfs utility, and manual were writ-
ten by Semen Ustimenko <semenu@FreeBSD.org>.

BSD November 11, 2004 BSD

---
k:.



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Limited Write Support?
Authored by: moritzh on Aug 05, '05 01:32:08PM
I haven't tried it personally, however the manual pages for mount_ntfs state that there is limited write support. It may just be that the automounter doesn't mount the disks read/write for safety reasons, whereas you _may_ be able to mount them read/write via the Terminal.

Here's the man page: (man mount_ntfs)
...
WRITING
There is limited writing ability. Limitations: file must be nonresident and must not contain any sparces (uninitialized areas); compressed files are also not supported.

I submitted the hint more than two months ago [but it was published only now because there were apparently some problems with the hint queue on the the site - Rob is aware of this and wants to publish any other hints soon that have experienced similar problems as mine ]. Thus, and because I don't have 10.4.1 anymore, I am not totally sure, but I believe I saw the same in the manual at that time, but I decided not to try that.

I had done some research on the net about NTFS etc. and saw that Linux has been struggling with writing support for a while and that NTFS is a rather advanced file system (many features). My guess was that Apple probably wouldn't be ahead of all those Linux hackers, so I decided that writing support would probably not realiably work OS X. Personally, I won't try it out because it seems too risky to me (and I don't recommend anyone trying it with important data).



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: ruaric on Aug 05, '05 06:33:37AM
In my case, a family member's Windows laptop broke and I convinced her to get a Mac instead, so I needed to get some old data off the laptop's hard disk. While I could read all the important files using 10.3.8 without problem (I took the hard disk out of the laptop computer and put it in an external USB hard disk enclosure, so I could easily plug it in, browse through the directory contents and sort out what seemed to be valuable data), I decided it would make me feel more comfortable to burn a backup of the whole "Documents and Settings" folder to DVD for archival, in case I forgot to transfer something.

Interesting. Presumably when you say it 'broke' you mean it was non-bootable. Clearly the hard drive was still working. Was the rest of the hardware intact? I had a similar situation with a friend recently. Her machine would not boot into Windows (it got as far as the Windows boot screen and restarted). She had one of those Windows XP restore CDs that formats your drive and replaces it with a system image. This would have resulted in the complete loss of all her files. I considered taking her drive out and attaching it to my Mac but assumed that MacOS X would not be able to read NTFS at all. (In any case I run 10.3.9, so may not have had much luck anyway).

I fixed her situation as follows. I downloaded a Knoppix CD ISO (A Linux boot CD distribution) and burn it to a cd with hdiutl burn KNOPPIX_V3.9-2005-05-27-EN.iso. I then booted the 'dead' PC with Knoppix, whilst plugged into my home network. Once booted I mounted her hard disk under Linux and navigated to her Documents and Settings folder. Then I started netkit-ftp and connected via ftp to my Mac and issued the following command under the ftp prompt


ftp> bin
ftp> put "| tar cvf - herusername" herusername_backup.tar
This will placed her user directory (which includes "My Documents", Desktop, etc.) into a tar file called herusername_backup.tar, which was uploaded onto my Mac.

I was then able to use the XP system restore CD to reinstall Windows XP onto her machine (plus various service packs and updates downloaded from the web) and restore her personal files by grabbing the tar file from my Mac via ftp. (I downloaded a Windows version of tar to open the tar file; Winzip or one of the many other archivers would also have worked).

Anyway, I'm writing this as I thought it might be useful info for others here who are similarly trying to access files on a broken Windows machine. You would of course need a network to use this method but it does allow you to make use of Linux's NTFS reading capabilities should you not have MacOS x 10.4 or greater (and you don't have to mess with hardware by removing or adding drives to anyof the machines). I believe Knoppix will also allow writing of an NTFS disk (if you use the Captive NTFS tool), though I did not test this as it wasn't needed in this case.

Finally, using put "| tar cvpf - foldername" backup.tar from the ftp prompt of MacOS X is a good way of backing stuff from your Mac to another machine (be it Mac, Linux or Windows) because it will ensure that your resource forks, file names and permissions are properly saved. This assumes you running 10.4 or greater, since the old versions of tar do not support resource forks (though a work around would be to use xtar). I have written up a separate (more detailed) hint about this but it has not yet been published.

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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: moritzh on Aug 05, '05 02:13:59PM
Presumably when you say it 'broke' you mean it was non-bootable. Clearly the hard drive was still working. Was the rest of the hardware intact?

No, it was one of those cheap notebooks and, all of a sudden, couldn't even be switched on. The power lamp was on for a few seconds, but nothing happened (no HHD spin-up, no fan running, ...). Did some research on the model and found out that other people had problems with that manufacturer's main boards (corroded BIOS chip contacts after a year, ...). Took the thing apart, but the circuit plans in the manual were of no help discovering what could be the problem... Because I had an opportunity to get a cheap iBook, because I know the Mac better than a Windows machine so I would be able to give better 'tech support' to my mother (the future owner) in case of problems and, well, because I just like the Macs better, I decided to dump the old thing and get a new Mac instead.

Since I live in another city far away, my mother had to send me the laptop by mail. Luckily, the HDD was OK and I could get the data as described.

Some higher forces decided to make the whole thing a little more complicated, however. I also needed some other files from my mother's other (desktop) Windows computer so I could merge (copy/convert to different format) all the data onto the new iBook. So I asked someone else to take that computer's HDD out as well and mail it to me, making a backup of the most important stuff before (in case that thing would get lost in the mail). Well, that guy broke the HDD doing that (not spinning up anymore) - argh! Luckily, he broke it just after doing the partial backup to one DVD, so I could at least recover the most important things (except for, e.g., a SMIME private key, rendering some encryped data useless).

Now my mother has a broken Windows laptop, a broken Windows desktop computer and a working iBook (until I visit and fix the desktop machine). Well, I sort of like it actually, because now at least there is no way for chaos to arise due to her using two computers (files scattered among the two) and two different operating systems.

The point of the whole story: Better do critical things yourself if you want them to turn out well. And, most important: backup, backup, backup!

Regarding your comment/hint: Pretty impressive procedure, sounds really good. I might have tried doing something similar if the laptop had been still OK. I prefer to do things over a network, if possible. That is not always easy for beginners, however, so just plugging the drive into an external case might be easier. If you do that, be careful, however, some of those small 2.5" drives have plugs that allow you to connect them the wrong way, making you fry the whole thing (speaking out of experience from way back in my earlier days when I was playing around with a disk (no data on it, luckily)...).

I have written up a separate (more detailed) hint about this but it has not yet been published.

If you submitted it a long time ago, it may have been overlooked (see my other comment above), but that should be fixed soon.



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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: jackchance on Aug 05, '05 09:27:32PM
There is a way to use a Win XP disc to

a) repair a windows installation -> it basically copies the system files from the CD over the existing and presumably corrupted existing one.

b) install windows without reformatting the disc. HOWEVER, this tends to overwrite the 'Documents and Settings' folder, so if you keep you stuff where windows tells you to, it will be gone.

if you want the details for performing these check out http://jerlich.com/blogs/argh

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10.4: An overview of NTFS support in Tiger
Authored by: pageophile on Dec 19, '05 07:18:16PM

Hello All

Well, I'm running 10.4.3 and NTFS support is some what lacking :( While the system profiler shows the external firewire harddrive as a NTFS volume, there is no way for me to access it. Thanks for all the hints/tips, got any more?



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