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How to both WRITE to and read from PC [NTFS] Drives on macOS

Microsoft NTFS for Mac Screenshot

A file system is the component that allows an OS (operating system) read from and write to files on your devices storage. Every OS has its own file system, some of which are more compatible across platforms than others. For example, Mac computers used exclusively HFS+, while the current versions of Windows uses NTFS (New Technology File System). When you connect a storage device formatted in NTFS to a Mac, it is recognized and read alright, but you can’t modify it by any CRUD operation i.e. Create, Read, Update, Delete any files on it  – unless you have some 3rd party add-ons installed and configured, and you can learn about them in this article to ultimately enable Mac to write onto NTFS drives.

Although the inability to write to NTFS on the Mac might become quite an issue for Mac newbies, be them first-time computer users or switchers from PC, the solution which is was invented as early 2000s, has evolved over the years as macOS (X) has been updated. The Mac operating system formerly called OS X – last year renamed macOS – can always read & write to PC disks and hard drive volumes formatted in FAT32 – a format which is not quite used any more due to its limitations of 4 GB maximum file size and 2 TB for maximum storage volume, whereas NTFS, free of these limitations, is readable not just by Macs since day 1, but by almost all non Windows-PC systems as well. However NTFS is not writable by default outside Windows due to a restriction brought on by Microsoft. As mentioned, there already are a few 3rd party solutions and workarounds to remove this restriction.

With the release of macOS High Sierra which introduced Apple’s new file system called APFS to be used by newer SSD-based Macs replacing the legacy HFS+, bringing on the ability to write to NTFS formatted volumes has become a little more complicated. Since my article titled Ability to write to NTFS volumes on the Mac published back in 2008 has become fairly obsolete so that the suggested workaround(s) in it are now very difficult if not impossible to apply, in this new, 2018 article, I’ll be explaining some of the best solutions for the need to write to PC volumes a.k.a. NTFS drives as an assertive old-timer. I’ve been using Apple computers since 1985 and have been doing computing cross-platform computing since 1993, and have been using Bootcamp since the year it came out and cross-platform working is at the heart of most of my digital activity.

Read on to find out about free and paid solutions to be able to write to NTFS disks and other storage devices mounted on the Mac.

Premium and Fool-Proof Solution: Microsoft NTFS for Mac from Paragon

Microsoft NTFS for Mac from Paragon Software BoxThe most fool-proof solution I have ever tested and experienced is using Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software. It is not for free, but its price tag is usually only $19.95. If you are seeking the easiest way to read or write files from HDD, SSD or a flash drive formatted under Windows, you want Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon. I tried all of the free solutions which I also shared in the below sections, but the hassle of technical labour later proved unworthy, making Paragon worth paying for for the time, money and troubleshooting it saves.

This software will allow you to write, edit, copy, move and delete files on NTFS volumes on your Mac in a fast, seamless, and easy to use way. Mount, unmount, verify, format or set any of your Microsoft NTFS volumes as a startup drive.

Paragon NTFS for Mac version 15 screenshot

Paragon also boasts this as world’s fastest NTFS driver for macOS as it effectively solves the communication problems between the Mac system and NTFS, providing full read & write access to Windows NTFS partitions under macOS – especially ideal for BOOTCAMP partitions which are created to run Windows natively on the Mac in an Apple-supported way.

Because macOS has limited support for Windows volumes — that is, you can only read data, but can’t write or delete anything. Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software provides blazing fast, unlimited read/write access to Microsoft NTFS hard drives, SSDs or thumb drives formatted for Windows computers.

Features of Paragon NTFS for Mac

Features Benefits
Supported Operating Systems
  • macOS High Sierra
  • macOS Sierra
  • Mac OS X El Capitan
  • Mac OS X Yosemite
Supported File Systems All Microsoft NTFS versions are supported (from Windows NT 3.1 to Windows 10).
Write Access When a volume is mounted in write mode, you can do everything with the files and folders it contains: read, edit, delete, rename, create new.
Automount Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software mounts supported volumes automatically at startup, so you don’t need to worry each time you restart the operating system or power your computer on. However, this feature can be disabled at any time in the program interface.
Volume Management Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software easily formats, checks integrity and repairs corrupted volumes.
Internationalization Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software supports all alphabets supported by your operating systems, including those that use non-Roman and non-Latin characters, so you will never face the problem of not getting access to file names on volumes mounted in non-native OS.
Compatible with Apple Boot Camp Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software is fully compatible with Apple Boot Camp software and provides direct read and write access to Mac partitions from Windows installed on Boot Camp.
Compatible with 3rd party software Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software is compatible with popular virtualization and encryption applications including VMware Fusion and Workstation, Parallels Desktop, TrueCrypt and its forks.

 

Free Solutions to be Able to Write to NTFS on the Mac [applicable by advanced Mac users]

The following methods are highly technical, and somewhat risky if you can’t understand very well what they are doing (and how), and performing one or more of the described steps incorrectly may result in losing your data in the process of safely mounting/unmounting volumes, so use at your own risk. (The function of a paid tool like Paragon performs similar steps behind the scenes correctly so that data in the drive shall not become corrupt).

Installing OS X Fuse and NTFS-3G

According to a techie post on Ask Different (Apple @ StackExchange), this solution is compatible with OS X 10.11 El Capitan, macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app in Finder [Screenshot]

  1. Open Terminal(.app).
  2. Install latest osxfuse (3.x.x) from https://github.com/osxfuse/osxfuse/releases. Or install it via Homebrew using the following command on Terminal command-line:
    brew cask install osxfuse
    
  3. Install latest NTFS-3G (2016.2.22) with Homebrew (https://brew.sh/), typing the command as follows:
    brew install ntfs-3g
    
  4. Link NTFS-3G to boot after temporary disabling System Integrity Protection, as follow:
    • [reboot by holding CMD+R to get in recovery mode]
      csrutil disable
      
    • [reboot normally]
      sudo mv /sbin/mount_ntfs /sbin/mount_ntfs.original
      sudo ln -s /usr/local/sbin/mount_ntfs /sbin/mount_ntfs
      
    • [reboot by holding CMD+R to get in recovery mode]
      csrutil enable
      
    • [reboot normally]

You will need to re-link manually (step 3) each year when you upgrade macOS (10.11 → 10.12 → 10.13 → 10.14 → …)

Going it Alone solely with the UNIX commands in the Terminal

The ability to write to NTFS can be turned on using the Terminal. There is a hidden feature left by Apple which is turned off by default but it can be switched on. Be forewarned that this is also a complicated process, and it is not always successful. If you would like to give it a try, follow the steps below:

1. Insert the NTFS drive and make sure that it has a single word name (ex: mywdelements).

2. Launch Terminal. (It is in /Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app)

3. In Terminal, open /etc/fstab for editing with super user privileges with a command-line text editor such as vi or nano. For example, to edit it with nano, type in the command below:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Editing /etc/fstab in Terminal

Press Enter and then type in the command below (replace mywdelements with the name of your NTFS drive)

LABEL=mywdelements none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Editing fstab in Nano

 

4. Press Ctrl + O to save the file. Then you can quit the editor by pressing Ctrl + X.

5. Unplug the drive and then reconnect it. To access the drive with writing capabilities, open it by opening the “Go” menu from the Finder’s menu bar and then select the “Go To folder…” item from this menu. When the “Go to Folder” modal window pops up, type “/Volumes” in the box and hit the Go button.

Go To Folder on macOS

To reverse these changes, you would need to go back to the Terminal again and delete the lines added to the fstab file in the nano editor.

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