I have a RCA VR5220 voice recorder, with a built-in USB connector.

Because this thing was clearly built by Windows-minded engineers, the only way to access the files in Mac OS X is to plug it in and hope that it detects as a FAT32 disk. If it doesn't (i.e., I plug it in and nothing happens -- no disk is mounted, device is invisible to Disk Utility), my options appear to be:

  1. Remove the disk without unmounting, hopefully not wiping it in the process.
  2. Reboot my computer, removing the device after the power-cycle.

I'm a journalist who uses this thing for interviews. It's only happened once, but after a number of times unplugging it without rebooting, the device decided it needed to be formatted -- requiring me to run disk recovery software to save the files I needed that day for my story.

While this is a big enough nuisance that I'm considering buying a new recorder, I could probably get by if I knew a way of ejecting the device without potentially compromising my data.

How does one safely eject disks that haven't mounted properly?


  • FYI, this device says that it doesn't support Mac OS X. See the Connecting to Computer section of the manual. – Nathan Greenstein Jun 24 '11 at 20:58
  • Thanks for the comment. The manual is a bit confusing -- the device itself isn't incompatible with OS X, only the RCA proprietary audio software (which I don't want to use anyway). – aendrew Jun 24 '11 at 21:38
  • sounds like the device might be faulty, buggy, or straight up on the way out. Replace it before it costs you more in lost time and data recovery costs. Also -- fat32, really? Is it über old? – Harv Jun 25 '11 at 0:47

Mac OS X does have built-in read/write support for FAT32, and read support for NTFS, so it should be able to at least see any Windows-formatted volumes. That said, it's possible that Finder/Disk Utility cannot see it, but the system might still know that it's there and something is connected, so we might be able to safely unmount it via the command line.

To see if that's the case, open up Terminal, and type diskutil list. This will output a list of all the volumes connected to the system, even if they're not mounted. They'll appear under a header showing what physical disk they're connected to. In the example below, diskutil is able to see a disk with a NTFS Bootcamp partition, as well as an HFS+ partition.

   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER  
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *500.1 GB   disk3  
   1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk3s1  
   2:                  Apple_HFS mmotm                   409.0 GB   disk3s2  
   3:       Microsoft Basic Data BOOTCAMP                90.8 GB    disk3s3

To eject the pesky device, type in diskutil eject disk# substituting the # for the actual disk number (the part that appears after /dev/).

This has worked for me in similar situations.


If the device is completeley invisible to Disk Utility, it is most likeley not detected by the OS and not being used, so unplugging it shouldnt do any harm. Yet, if you want to be completeley sure you dont loose any files, I suggest you shut down your computer.

Regarding compatiblity, if it's supposed to be detected as a disk, and it does work on Windows this way, it most likely is a NFTS disk. You should be able to check the format on a Windows PC. Plug it in, and if its an ejectable disk check its properties. (Its a long time since I don't use windows, but I think it should tell you there, somewhere, if its an NFTS disk or not).

In case it is, here is a free NFTS driver for mac:


which should allow NFTS drives to be read by the OS. There are also paid alternatives, which offer increased performance and security to your files, but just for accessing a recorder, this should be enough.

Hope it helps!


  • Iiiiiiinteresting! I'll totally give that a shot... – aendrew Jun 24 '11 at 23:42
  • OS X Supports reading from NTFS natively. You do not need drivers. – Fake Name Aug 24 '11 at 7:55

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