How to Mount NTFS Drives on Mac OS X with Read/Write Access

Elliot, this post is for you.

A couple of weeks ago, I got really irritated with the whole Mac/Windows thing.  I had purchased a USB hard drive with the intention of using it as a backup drive for both Mac & Windows machines.

Unfortunately, I discovered that Mac OS X cannot write to NTFS volumes – it can only read from them.  I then discovered that Windows XP has lost the ability to read or write to HFS+ drives (Windows 2000 had it).

Well, I am here to say that there is a pretty cool solution for mounting NTFS volumes on Mac OS X.  Interestingly, it comes from Google.

The MacFuse project on the Google Code site is a BSD-license open-source project that lets you use any FUSE-compatible file system on Mac OS X.  FUSE (File-system in USErspace) originated on Linux, but apparently the port to Mac OS X has been live for a while.

NTFS-3G is the open source project that implements NTFS support for FUSE.

This lovely site has packaged together DMG installer versions of each for easy installation on Mac OS X.  (Please note: only do this if you are running Mac OS 10.4 or later, and are somewhat technically savvy)

Amazing.  It just works.  In fact, I’ve only hit one glitch.  If you fail to put away your NTFS volume properly on Windows (using the Safely Remove Hardware command), NTFS can get itself all locked up, and unable to mount properly.

Now, let me give due credit to this blog post for helping me find this solution.

Also, it’s worth noting that the write performance isn’t speedy right now.   The teams contributing seem to know this, and are working the issues.  As a result, I wouldn’t use this solution to make NTFS your default volume format for files.  However, if you need simple read/write to the occassional NTFS volume, this looks like a good answer.

Why Apple can’t ship decent NTFS support for Mac OS X is beyond me.  And why Microsoft can’t support HFS+ is also beyond me.  Given that there are tens of millions of machines out there who create and use each of these volume formats, I would say that it clears the bar of “important enough” to support.

Update (6/3/2007):  A brief warning.  Apple just released a security update that is currently not fully compatible with the ntfs-3g files.  My PowerMac was unable to read UDF (video DVDs) until I removed these files.   I’m sure a fix will be out soon, but be careful.  This thread on Apple Discussions captures the solution.

17 thoughts on “How to Mount NTFS Drives on Mac OS X with Read/Write Access

  1. Ha! Not bad. Although using an existing Linux solution could be considered “cheating” .. 🙂

    Anyway, you’re unlikely to see NTFS supported on the Mac any time soon. Microsoft has always treated NTFS as a largely proprietary product — if only because that gives them freedom to change it more freely and add new features.

    For example, back when I worked on windows 2000, we were building a symbolic link on steroids type deal called a “parse point” that I’m guessing your FUSE module doesn’t support (for that matter, I don’t think it shipped with Win 2K either, but it seems to work now on XP).

    There’s also the issue of the security descriptor/context. NTFS uses security descriptors on all files (to support user-level access rights) and I’m guessng your FUSE module doesn’t really do that effectively since it doesn’t have all the metadata on who is using the system and what other users are available. This would be a potential problem for corporate/multi-user systems.

    However, I realize these are all edge cases for you 🙂

  2. It appears that a newer version of Macfuse was uploaded a few hours ago. (To fix the Apple security update peob?) I’m hoping you’ll try it out and report what happens! 😛

  3. I’m not sure… I haven’t been able to find a readme yet that says definitively “we fixed the Mac OS X issue with UDF”. Still looking. If you have a pointer, I’m happy to try it out.


  4. Thanks for the wonderful post. This is a very common problem and it is very surprising that Apple hasn’t provided support for NTFS (to write). What I’ve done right now is shared my folders on Parallels to access it from Win XP and then write on the external hard drive from XP. Thats the only time I need to boot XP. Now hopefully (& thankfully) I won’t need to do that.

    I will try MacFUSE & ntfs-3g and post how it goes. Thanks once again for your help.

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  6. thanks for the details. but, there is mentioned works for only 10.4 . but i have 10.3 does anyone tried in 10.3 panter????

  7. MY NTFS backup USB drive mounts and the Apple see the files, but a group migration likely requires the FUSE pose you mentioned. However, this is only the first step as I have MANY backkups ont he NTFS, prepared by both the Seagate utility that comes with the drive and the IBM rescue/recovery that runs from bios-like software in thinkpads. Both of these are updated from time to time and I discover that they are unable to read past backups! Worse, there is no file management, so a newly backed up file is just a duplicate of the same thing earlier with a date change on the backup envelop.
    What I’m seeking is a real file manager to do a full file read and compare and then present a decision choice for which versions to retain, which to discard. For over 100,000 files in .doc alone, this is an automated tool requirement. Any source for such a program in the MAC world?
    Following a major XP meltdown with registry grown to over 100meg, migration to VISTA not an option on thinkpad, the MAC became thw way to do. I am not willing to run a VM that allows the microsoft operating systems onto the MAC hardware. Running office 2008 MAC or some other utility I believe is the far safer way to keep the MAC.

  8. ” Amazing. It just works. In fact, I’ve only hit one glitch. If you fail to put away your NTFS volume properly on Windows (using the Safely Remove Hardware command), NTFS can get itself all locked up, and unable to mount properly. ”

    What is the solution to this?

    I think I may have unsafely removed an NTFS drive from XP, and now all I get is “Access denied” when I try to double click the drive letter. It seems the partition is just GONE.

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  10. Hi TallDave

    Back in the days when i used to use Ubuntu i had the same problem but it had an easy fix by mounting the drive with the unconditional force option. hope that would be helpfull….

  11. I found a simple solution to this
    Use the Terminal to do:
    First umount the automounted volume
    # diskutil umount /dev/disk2s2
    # mkdir /backup
    # /sbin/mount_ntfs -o rw /dev/disk2/s2 /backup

    Now you can use it for backup and stuff.

  12. I want to triple boot ubuntu, win7 and osx 10.6.5 on one hard drive but I also want a fourth partition of 250gb on ntfs. Will I still be able to access it with Macfuse? Thanks

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  14. Hi Guys! Good idea to do this way, but a bit complex and slow… I prefer using reliable solutions and bought Paragon NTFS for Mac (cause it was it is much cheaper than Tuxera, $20 vs $31). All works fine, so it’s not bad solution if you are not an IT-expert. 🙂

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