I have a desktop PC with a pretty small hard drive. I bought an external hard drive with 500GB of space and now use that for all of my pictures, music, etc. Its almost full.

I am now in the process of buying a laptop and I am considering an Apple laptop. The one issue I have is trying to figure out how I would access all of my content that I mentioned above.

  • How is the external drive formatted (FAT, NTFS, ...)? – nohillside Aug 9 '12 at 14:13

It depends on the file system used by your external hard drive. Most likely, the file system is FAT which allows both Mac and PC to read from and write to it, so you would be fine to just plug it into your Mac.

It could however be NTFS which is Microsoft file system that PCs can read and write to but Macs can only read. In this case, you'll still be able to read all of the files on the drive and copy them to your Mac, you just win't be able to add any more files or alter the files while they're still on the drive.

To tell what file system the drive is, just right-click it in Windows and select Properties, the file system should be shown in the General tab.

If the drive is NTFS you have a few options:

  1. You could format the drive to FAT32 or exFAT.
  2. You could install Paragon NTFS on your Mac which allows you to write to NTFS drives.
  3. You could share wirelessly from your Windows machine. You'll have to Google this yourself as it's different for each version of Windows and you haven't said which version you're using, but it's fairly easy.

Assuming your desktop PC runs Windows, you can share the drive from Windows and connect it it from your Mac.


Sharing it is easy, as mentioned above. Or if your drive is FAT32, and not NTFS, your Mac should be able to mount and read it without a problem. That is, if no files are wicked large (over 4GB).

  • The OP wouldn't have been able to put a file over 4 GB on a FAT-formatted disk, no matter what OS they were using at the time, so no problems there. – CajunLuke Aug 10 '12 at 0:56

If you are moving from a PC to a Mac just unplug your external hard drive from the PC and plug it into the Mac. Chances are your drive is FAT formatted which can be read just fine with your Mac.

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