Can macOS read NTFS?

For many years there has been a healthy competition between Macs and PCs, with many people favoring one over the other. However, because Windows computers are more widely used, especially by businesses. Because of this, you will find that many external hard drives and USB sticks will have been formatted to NTFS.

NTFS was created with Windows in mind. The NTFS format enables windows users to plug and play with their drives without the need for fiddling around with formatting. In order for Macs to reap the benefits of this, Apple would have to buy a special license, which at the time of writing, they have not done.

This being said, NTFS drives are still compatible with macOS in a way: you are able to open and view whatever you have stored on your external hard drive or USB, but you aren’t able to alter them or copy additional files to the drive.

Because of this, we will now give you a simple step-by-step guide to circumnavigate the problem.

Option 1 – Format to FAT32

Format to FAT32

First things first: assuming you already have an NTFS drive, you will be able to use your macOS’ Disk Utility in order to reformat it to FAT32. By reformatting the NTFS drive to FAT32, you will be able to use the drive to be read and written on your Mac, as well as a PC, but it should be noted that FAT32 only supports file sizes up to 4GB.

Start off by connecting the drive to your Mac and clicking on the Spotlight icon. Then, go to ‘Disk’ and launch the Disk Utility. You should now be able to see your disk drive. Click and highlight the disk on the left side of the window, and press erase. Once this has finished, select the MS-DOS FAT format under ‘Format’ and rename the drive to a name of your choosing.

Note: When you proceed to erase, your drive will be wiped. If you have any files on it you wish to keep, move them across to a safe location until we’re done.

Option Two – Use A Third-Party App

WinInstall App

There are a number of third-party apps that you will be able to use to write to NTFS. Unfortunately, none of these are free. This being said, Paragon offers a great option and even provides a ten-day trial so you can be sure that you like the product before you buy it.

This app, like the others on the market, will mount your Windows drives and allow you to read and write as much as you desire.

Option Three – Enable NTFS Write Support In Terminal


If you do not wish to reformat (or can’t) for any reason, you will be able to use macOS terminal to write support for specific Windows disks. Like the erase step from the previous step, this can lead to data loss and it is highly recommended to back up any data you wish to keep before proceeding.

Terminal is super easy to use, so let’s get started. First, click the Spotlight icon and then Terminal. Once you’ve connected your hard drive or USB, enter the following command:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

If you’ve entered the command correctly, you should now see a list of all drives recognized by macOS. Scroll right to the very end of this list and enter the following:

                              LABEL=NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Please note: you should delete NAME and replace it with the name of your drive. You can check what the name of the drive is in Disk Utility. Once done, you can then press Ctrl+O to save, then Ctrl+X to close.

Now we can connect the Windows drive to the Mac. You’ll then need to go to Finder, then Go to Folder, then type the following: /Volumes/NAME (again, where NAME is, replace with the name of your NTFS drive). Once this is done, click on Go to open the Windows disk and find you can now edit and copy new and existing files.

Option Four: Use Bootcamp


Another option is Bootcamp. Bootcamp is macOS’s built-in utility that can be used to install Microsoft Windows on your Mac. By doing this, you will be able to boot your Mac in either operating system. If booting in Windows, you will be able to use your NTFS drives without needing to format them for macOS.

To do this, you will need an internet connection, a valid Windows 10 DVD, and a USB with a minimum of 8GB of space free. There are full comprehensive guides on the internet if you are interested in looking into this further.

Bootcamp is fast, simple, and convenient. The only issue is it does come at a cost. You will get a ninety-day free period when you first use Bootcamp, but if you wish to continue using it after that you will have to pay a fee.

Option 5 – Move to Cloud

Cloud Settings

Is there a simpler way of accessing your NTFS files than the Cloud? Probably not. With services such as iCloud Drive offering up to 5GB of free storage, on top of the ability to edit, sync, and share your files with minimal effort, it’s a no-brainer.

If you wish to use the iCloud, you can access it by opening your Windows Drive in the Finder, then simply copy/paste the files to the location ‘iCloud Drive’.

If you find you are unable to see this location, you can find it manually by going to the System Preferences and then to iCloud. From here you can see if you’re signed in properly and if the service is currently enabled.

Once you’ve done this, your files will be in the cloud and can be accessed and shared via any Mac or PC.

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About S. Santos

I am a tech columnist and blogger by trade, but I'm also an avid tennis player. In my spare time, I enjoy reviewing gadgets and gizmos from the world of tech.

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