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I've a laptop with triple boot, Yosemite, Windows 8.1, CentOS 7, and need a partition for sharing files between the 3 os's, i've been using exFAT, as it is supported by OSX & Windows but had some issues with linux and after try to mount it on linux, osx didn't recognize it, and i was unable to mount it, then just windows recognized it and after 1 day of using it got corrupted, i had to get my data back with TesDrive.

Now i'm looking for the most accepted file sys to share files between them, so far i've found these options:

  • NTFS: Using MacFUSE & NTFS-3G to enable read/write access, or Paragon NTFS, but i've heard some bad things about stability & speed of those options... i would not like to lose my data.

  • HFS+: Using MacDrive Pro in windows to have read/write access to mac partition, i guess there's a way to allow linux support for hfs+. Heard some good & bad things about MacDrive but still not so sure...

  • exFAT: This way is the way i've already tried, bad experience with it, but most of the people seems to approve this option. Maybe i did something wrogn, BUT still the data loss is a problem...

  • FAT32: Limited drive size. Limited permission settings. Not the one i would like to pick.

Needs hierarchically ordered:

  1. Stability (No data loss)
  2. Great File Size support
  3. Journaling
  4. Speed

UPDATE 1: After more research i've found Tuxera NTFS for mac, seems to be nice, but... how good is it in real life? does it offer real NTFS full support as it says?, great Stability? Speed? Journaling? Is it worth for the price?

  • I've always used Paragon with no ill-effects, but i haven't tried Tuxera for comparison. – Tetsujin Feb 4 '15 at 8:48
  • @Tetsujin really? well maybe will try Paragon if Tuxera dissappoints me... but so far it's really great, tansfer speed if really nice, can't talk about stability since i've used it just for 2 days but seems nice – Jonathan Solorzano Feb 4 '15 at 23:57
  • Seems they both have their adherents. I'd stick with whichever one is working for you. I've seen reports that say Paragon is slightly faster, but the downside is the update price every year. – Tetsujin Feb 5 '15 at 7:19
  • @Tetsujin Forget what i said, Tuxera is not writing to my NTFS partition, it says it does from osx, but when i go & check into windows the files that i copy to the disk they aren't... i think i'll try paragon – Jonathan Solorzano Feb 6 '15 at 3:08
  • I'd recommend Paragon. I've used both Tuxera and Paragon for NTFS access in OSX successfully (actually Tuxera gives you a bit more control), BUT Paragon also provides drivers for Windows (for HFS+) and Linux. See paragon-software.com/technologies/ufsd.html. I'm not related with them; just a happy user of their tech. – JJarava Feb 10 '15 at 23:30
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I've done this kind of thing for years and can probably help you avoid the same pains I went through.

Cloud storage would be ideal for some use-cases, but sketchy on privacy/security without additional work, and not necessarily suitable for use cases involving a large amount of data. (I've worked around security/privacy issues with transparent per-file encryption, and use this in parallel with the solution I've outlined below, for different use cases.)

Here are the local storage solutions in increasing order of viability (which is inherently subjective and dependent on specific use cases):

  1. exFAT: At the bottom only because of my own lack of experience with it, and its relative newness. There are compatibility problems between the platforms because of different block sizes. Apparently, formatting the drive in Windows with a block size smaller than 1024 bytes might work.
  2. NTFS: I've had all kinds of problems with NTFS-3G, going back and forth between Windows, Mac, and Linux. File corruption, lost data, etc. This was a few years ago, maybe it's better now - but it was "sold" as solid then and it wasn't.
  3. FAT32: In my experience, this is the only truly "cross-platform" file system that can bridge Mac, Linux, and Windows. (And cameras, and TVs, and...) There is a per-file 4GB size limit and 2TiB total volume size limit. You can in theory overcome the 32GB FAT32 limitation, with Fat32Formatter, but I don't know how compatible it is across systems. In theory, FAT+ allows for 256GiB files and using a higher block size
  4. A virtual machine sharing its native filesystem to the host OS via CIFS: This is hands-down the best solution for most of my use cases.

Years ago when I got fed up with the data corruption using NTFS-3G, I started using a small VM running Windows 2000, and shared an NTFS volume "natively" to the host OS via CIFS. Performance can't compare to directly attached storage, but I finally got to say goodbye to data corruption and the distrust and headaches it caused. NTFS formatted from Windows 2000, worked flawlessly and interchangeably with more modern versions of Windows, including switching back and forth between Windows 2000 in a VM, and Windows Vista (at the time).

But still, NTFS just wasn't robust enough for reliably storing massive amounts of data over long periods of time, even if in a mirrored configuration (and especially in a RAID5 configuration). Mainly due to bitrot and lack of checksumming. Granted, it was the best thing around for a long time, but not any more.

Now, the only "cross-platform" file system I use is ZFS, presented via CIFS by Linux running in a VM. (I'm also increasingly using BTRFS which recently seems to have crossed some threshold of stability for my use cases. For a long time I only used it experimentally and it often let me down.)

I don't use ZFS for Mac OS, only ZFS on Linux. (I used to use an OpenSolaris VM to host ZFS for the sake of purity and support for the most up-to-date ZFS features, until Oracle messed it up.)

I tried ZFS for Mac a while back and it was too unstable and outdated. Maybe it's fine now, but my VM solution is flawless. And like I said, I'm increasingly using BTRFS anyway, which is a better match in many ways for my requirements (the first and foremost of which is rock-solid reliability - which ZFS has always provided).

I triple-boot my Macs, and when I'm not running Linux natively, I run the same native Linux installation in a VM. Linux is perfectly happy alternating between running in a VM with guest additions, and natively. I'm almost always running a Linux VM for "native" ZFS or BTRFS volume access via CIFS, when not running it natively.

I've seamlessly adjusted most of my workflows to accommodate the slower CIFS access to large "cross-platform" reliable storage. For example, if I need fast access to lots of working data, it's usually in an application that is unique to that particular host OS, and it doesn't need to be accessible across platforms. So I just use whatever fast local SSD storage the OS is available natively, and make regular copies to the slower "cross-platform" storage - or only when the project is done, depending on the specific use case.

Tip: If you do go the VM route, you'll be tempted to share the VM file system via a bridged adapter. The advantage to that is that the VM will have its own IP address on the same subnet, and the storage will be accessible even by other computers on that subnet. However, the drawbacks to a bridged adapter are 1) It is tied to a specific physical adapter and if you switch from, say, wired to wireless, you may lose internet connectivity from within the VM [which is only a problem if you are also using the VM as your productivity OS, as I usually do]. And 2) Bridged adapters can be finicky. Sometimes it "just works", but if you have problems, troubleshooting can be pretty messy. A better solution is to configure the VM with two adapters: A) NAT [for internet access from the VM which will work no matter what physical adapter is providing it], and B) Host-only, configured with a static IP address, no DNS or gateway, virtio adapter, and with promiscuous mode. Only your local machine will be able to access the VM's CIFS shares. It's not trivial to get this solution set up, but once you do it's basically magic.

Good luck!

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Your first First choice would be to use cloud storage like dropbox if money is not an object and based on your hierarchically ordered needs: 1-Stability (No data loss) 2-Great File Size support 3-Journaling 4-Speed

Update: Or you could attach a network attached storage(NAS) to your local network similar to cloud yourself. NAS systems are networked appliances which contain one or more hard drives, often arranged into logical, redundant storage containers or RAID.

NAS devices began gaining popularity as a convenient method of sharing files among multiple computers. Potential benefits of dedicated network-attached storage, compared to general-purpose servers also serving files, include faster data access, easier administration, and simple configuration.

They typically provide access to files using network file sharing protocols such as NFS, SMB/CIFS, or AFP.

Your next would be FAT32, it is the only one that supports all the 3 OS's and also ps3 and xbox without any other utilities. You need to find a way for larger files than 4 gigs you might have.

And your last choice would be exFAT.

UPDATE 2: Or you can use a WD network hd connected directly to your computer's ethernet port and access it from all the 3 OS's:

The Western Digital units mentioned below use a proprietary file system and cannot be reformatted as FAT32, NTFS, or a Mac File System. The file system on WD My Book Live, WD My Book Live Duo, WD ShareSpace, WD ShareSpace, WD My Book World Edition hard drives support access from Windows, Mac and most Linux based computer systems through a SAMBA network sharing connection.

  • 1
    Well... a cloud storage is not a solution for me, because my internet speed is not too good, NAS neither since i need to use the drive of my laptop, and FAT32 neither cause the 4 Gb file size limit... so thanks Allan. – Jonathan Solorzano Feb 4 '15 at 23:55
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ExFAT is your way.

Haven't the 4/32GB limited!

I also using this format on my 120GB USB 2.0 HDD very long. It work very well for me at least.

  • I've already tried ExFAT, and it's very unstable!, won't try it again already lost data for that. Also too much data loss, don't know how did it work for u. – Jonathan Solorzano Feb 6 '15 at 3:50
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Better you don't go for ExFAT. It caused corruption in my HDD. Transfer speeds are not great though, I got around 30-50MBps max write speed but on the same drive, formatting it to NTFS, I get around 150 MBps write speed from my External HDD on Mac And Windows as well. For Mac I use Paragon for NTFS. So far, the best software and cheaper than Tuxera.

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Years ago I had problems with FAT32, so I switched to NTFS. I had an external HD back in the day and one day the cable connection was interrupted by accident and I lost most of my files. So I switched to HFS+ with MacDrive. Same problem with the cable but I managed to restore everything.

After a while there was rumour that Apple was going to support ZFS and indeed there was a driver in one of the Snow Leopard Server editions, but Apple quickly dismissed the idea and a bunch of developers made an open-source ZFS driver for Mac. I still have discs in ZFS. They are reliable, but external discs on Mac are unstable. I can't, for example, eject the disc twice, so I'm forced to shut down the machine. Then there is the problem of the frequent OS updates from Apple and the pain to reinstall the drivers.

Because of that, I'd stick to HFS+. As a drawback you have to spend a bunch of money on MacDrive, but it's easier to maintain and safer. I never noticed any speed issues.

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