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I have read through this question and the associated apple kb article. I know that I can use an existing external hard drive and time machine can backup to it without affecting the other files.

However, it seems that is only the case if the external drive is formatted as HFS+. So if I want to have an external drive that I can use to store files that will be used by both Mac OS X and Windows 7 (and possibly linux), is my only option to partition the external disk?

Partition 1: HFS+ (Time Machine backups)
Partition 2: exFAT (Docs, Music, Videos for use by W7 and OS X)

Is there another way to accomplish this without having to partition the external drive?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would suggest using Mac Drive by Mediafour: http://www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive

I've used their product for years and it has always been rock solid. I'd say at $49.99, it is reasonably priced too. And honestly, you may find a free solution, but to me, data integrity will always trump a slight to the wallet.

That is if you absolutely want one partition, but considering that one is a dedicated Time Machine repository, I would advise against it. While Time Machine makes a simple folder with all the backups (Backups.backupdb), it is ill-advised to store anything else on that particular partition. I know people that do it without problems, and all Apple says about the practice is the following:

Note: Time Machine works best if you use your backup disk only for Time Machine backups. If you keep files on your backup disk, Time Machine won’t back up those files, and the space available for Time Machine backups will be reduced.

But again, it's just good to keep things separate in my opinion. I'm not one for arbitrary compartmentalization, but in the case of backups, maybe letting them have their own room might not be such a bad thing.

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Ok, I agree that storing extra files on a Time Machine partition would be bad. So if I don't mind partitioning the disk, is that probably the best solution? (Dumb question: Once it is partitioned, it will show up as separate disks in Finder and windows explorer correct?) That software looks good, but I think I would rather have the shared partition be a non-HFS+ filesystem. Thanks for your help. –  jjeaton Sep 1 '11 at 2:02
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I would (and do) partition it, yes. And since you aren't wanting to use HFS+, that is your only avenue actually (as Time Machine will not work on non-native Mac OS filesystems). Yes, the partitions will show up as two distinct "hard drives" on both Mac and PC. And I'm sure you can hide them in both OSes should you not wish to see one or the other. –  cksum Sep 1 '11 at 2:12
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The only other option I can see is buying HFS+ drivers from Windows such as these,

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/hfs-windows/ (like $20)

or using a special application to browse the drive, such as this one:

http://www.catacombae.org/hfsx.html (free).

Regarding linux, this might be useful:

http://www.ardistech.com/hfsplus/

Hope it helps! Good luck.

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