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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive Storage Devices
This hint (from way back in 2003) is still the best I have come across in terms of explaining how to partition HFS+ and FAT32 on the same external hard drive. In this hint, I'll explain how to add NTFS to the mix, and note some significant improvements upon the previous hint's awesome efforts. If needed, print this hint, and then go to the above link for more help (and there's another link further down that may be of some help).

To add NTFS to the mix from the previous hint, in the first step, just divide things up into three parts instead of two. Then, after step seven in the first hint, insert a similar-looking step -- put 2s3 at end of command instead. Finally, use a Windows machine to reformat the remaining VOLUME you formatted to FAT32 to NTFS instead. (Control Panel » Administration Tools » Computer Management » Disk Management.)

Here's my real contribution to improving the method in the previous hint. You can avoid the annoyance noted in step number nine (doesn't automatically mount the HFS+ partition) if you just format all three partitions (or two if you're not adding NTFS) to FAT32 first (since those automatically mount so great). Once it's all working, go back and use OS X's Disk Utility to reformat one of the FAT32 partitions to HFS+ (or extended journaled, if you prefer). Another thing to note is that the order of your partitions established in step one determine the order the partitions will be mounting when connecting your external hard drive to your computer.

So in a nutshell, just format all the partitions (however many you choose) to FAT32 when doing the Terminal code stuff. (Follow his step seven as an example of how to do that. Just remember to go from rdisk1s1 to rdisk1s2 to rdisk1s3 every time you use the Terminal code to format a volume. So even when you are in step six, you will take a look at step seven in order to change the command that applies to the type of format to reflect FAT32.) After all partitions are in FAT32, use your Mac (HFS+) and Windows (NTFS) machines to alter the format on two of the partitions. You can leave the desired FAT32 volume alone, of course.

In the original hint, there wasn't much explanation given for the first step. For those of you who need it, here's some step-by-stpe help that may help you get going in the right direction.
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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: tatilsever on Apr 18, '08 09:34:34AM

If you don't need any partitions bigger than 32GB for FAT32 or HFS+, you can use Windows to create all of the partitions and then format NTFS (which can be quite large) and FAT32 ones inside Windows. Afterwards, format the partition(s) intended eventually to be HFS+ as FAT32 (again inside Windows.) Now when you connect the drive to a Mac, you can convert any of the FAT32 partitions into HFS+. Of course, it is annoying to have the limit of 32GB on FAT32 and HFS+ partitions if you use this method.

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: TonyT on Apr 20, '08 02:11:34PM

Why not just use Disk Utility? (I've done this already)
Create 3 Partitions in Disk Utility, Format 1 HFS+ and the other 2 FAT32, then connect to a Windows machine and re-format one of the FAT32 partitions to NTFS

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: Brooklynshot on Sep 09, '08 11:48:33AM

This hint did not work for me... mostly problems in terminal - failure to format error. I tried it straight from disk utility too and still it did not work - disk utility kept locking up during the format process. BUT I DID FIND A SOLUTION! At least one that worked for me.

I was using a 150 GB external HD and wanted one 80 GB HFS partition (to use for Time Machine), one 30 GB FAT32 Partition (to share between PC and Mac) and one 35 GB NTFS Partition (for PC files large than 4 GB).

I pluged in my external drive to a PC (I was loged in as an administrator) and turned the drive on to let Win XP regognize the drive. I used the Windows XP Disk Management tool in the Computer management program (Start>control panel>Administrative Tools>Computer Management) and located the drive.

Right click the drive and choose create partition... follow the wizard and create Primary partitions. Any partition over 32 GB will default to NTFS but that's ok. Assign a drive letter and name to each. I called the 80 GB partition "HFS Volume" and formatted it NTFS (you will reformat it later but the name helps keep it straight as to what you will do with it later). I created another partition - a 30 GB partition (after... or to the right of the 80 GB one) named "FAT Volume" and formatted it as FAT32. Lastly I created a 35 GB partition named "NTFS Volume" and formatted it as NTFS. I did this on a PC first since Mac will recognize PC partitions but PC sometimes (or always) won't recognize Mac partitions.

Next take the drive to your Mac. Plug it in and turn it on. All 3 volumes should mount and be visible. Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility and open Disk Utility.
Locate your drive. Click on the volume you previously named "HFS Volume" that is actually formatted as NTFS. With your "HFS Volume" highlighted, click "Erase". Follow the instructions and reformat this Partition "HFS Volume" as Mac OSX Extended (Journaled). I chose not to zero out or do multiple overrights in the "secuity tab". Rename the Volume as "HFS Volume" again. Follow all the instructions and prompts and wait for the formatting to finish. You are done!

You should now have 1 external hard drive with 3 volumes: one HFS, one FAT32 and one NTFS. All done with no special software. The drive should be usable in both Mac and PC. Just remember: Mac and PC can both read and write to FAT32. Mac can read NTFS but not write to NTFS. PC can read and write to NTFS. Mac can read and write to HFS and you can use HFS for your Time Machine back ups and mac only type files. PC can do absolutely nothing with HFS - no read no write.

If you have any problems using the drive on PC... but you shouldn't...try switching the order of the partitions with the HFS partition in the middle.

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: scottsymes on Oct 31, '08 05:29:06AM

I was having issues with newfs not wanting to create HFS+ on most of the partitions I was making. "Partition size not a multiple of 4k" was the error. being lazy and not wanting to do any maths when the computer seemed more than capable (and why didn't it just dock a couple of k off the end of the partition?), I hunted around until I got the right command:

diskutil partitionDisk disk1 2 MBRFormat "MS-DOS FAT32" FATVOL 21% HFS+ HFS 79%

I tried 20% and 80% first, but again with the size error. struck it lucky on the second attempt at my preferred ratio.

This is using OSX 10.5.5 and trying to partition an external 1TB drive

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: js27pub on Dec 21, '08 11:04:36PM

Neither the original hint nor the hint that started this thread worked for me, but I found that Brooklynshot's solution worked great! FYI, my configuration was a MacMini, OS 10.5.6 Leopard, external USB hard-drive. Windows XP Pro SP3 via Bootcamp.

Here's the issues I encountered with the original hint:
- (in windows) the windows partitioning went smoothly (I did 3 partitions, no formatting), using (Start>control panel>Administrative Tools>Computer Management->Disk Management)
- rebooted to OS X 10.5.6 (Leopard)
- the command line instructions for OS X terminal from the original hint worked fine up through and including the newfs_* commands, for both the HFS+ and FAT32.
- but when I did the final "hdid" step, it gave an error message that it couldn't mount the drive. So I gave up on this solution.

Now, here's the issues I encountered with the hint that started this thread:
- (in windows) did windows partitioning, all 3 partitions (no formatting)
- rebooted to OS X 10.5.6 (Leopard)
- did the command line instructions, formatted all 3 partitions as FAT32 with names of my choice
- went to OS X Disk Utility, and the renamed partitions all showed up just fine.
- but whenever I did the Erase step to set to Extended Journaled (or just Extended), it would revert the name of the partition to the rdisk2s1 (or s2, or s3) name, and would be FAT32, even if I had indicated Extended/Journaled. So I gave up on this solution.

Now, I tried Brooklynshot's solution:
- (in windows) partitioned first and second partitions as NTFS (they were bigger than 32GB each), and third partition as FAT32 (was <32GB), names of my choice.
- rebooted to OS X 10.5.6 (Leopard)
- all 3 partitions showed up on the desktop!
- opened OS X Disk Utility. All 3 partitions showed up. Did Erase with Extended Journaled for the first partition, it worked fine, didn't lose the name, etc. Repeated for second partition, worked fine.

So I don't know why the first two solutions didn't work (looking at the man page of "hdid" in 10.5.6 indicates it is an obsolete command, so maybe Leopard broke the original hint solution?), but since Leopard apparently can mount NTFS partitions, the simple approach works just fine.

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: mizzos on Aug 08, '09 11:47:43PM


Thanks for this hint. Brooklynshot's solution worked just fine for me.

Did the first step via Parallels.

Have a nice one

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Create an HFS+/NTFS/FAT32 external drive
Authored by: maciiman on Aug 09, '10 08:07:37PM

With Mac OS X 10.5, you can partition Fat32 and HFS+ all using Disk Utility's Partition function. (Choose your number of partition, select the partition, choose the file format and the file size). BTW, the Fat32 partition can be larger than 32GB.

In order to format a partition as NTFS, you'll need to first install NTFS-3G ( - I believe version 2010.5.22 is still free. After it's installed, Disk Utility will give you the option to partition as "Windows NT Filesystem (NTFS-3G)".

While on topic, I just want to provide some benefits and limitations with each format (as I have discovered):

HFS+ - Works perfectly on a Mac system. Cannot be read on a Windows computer. Can be read but not write on a Unix system (i.e. Ubuntu).

NTFS - Works perfectly on a Windows computer. Mac OS 10.5 and above user can read only. Older OS can't even read. In order to read and write, you'll need the above mentioned NTFS-3G application. BUT the drive read and write much slower than a HFS+ format drive. (I'm using a Powerbook 12" 1Ghz and it's about 2 to 3 times slower - very aggravating when you're transferring large files.)

Fat 32 - Can read and write on a Mac and Windows. However, it has a 4GB file size limit. Most people don't have files that is larger than 4GB, so this could be a win-win for most people transferring files between Mac and Windows. But many Bluray ripped files are often larger than 4GB which prevents you from copying such files onto a Fat 32 drive.

If you often share files between Mac and Windows with file sizes larger than 4GB, then perhaps creating a drive with both HFS+ and NTFS partitions is the best solution. Use the HFS+ partition for regular "Mac use" and the NTFS partition for sharing with your Windows friend.

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