ntfs hard drive on Snow Leopard

Note: this post proposes a trick at your own risks!

I’m willing to backup-up 1.5Tb of data I have on my office computer, and use them on my Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) computer at home. By default, Mac OS X can format, read and write Fat32 (MS-DOS) to share an hard drive with a Windows PC. Unfortunately, MS-DOS format is a bit outdated, and would not support partition larger than 1Gb, which would force me to make two partitions on my drive, while I would prefer only one.

Although it is not visible by default, Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) support NTFS. To activate the support, you must declare your new drive in /etc/fstab (the file used by Unix/Linux systems to mount devices).

You must first get some infos: plug in your hard drive. In my case, the drive mounts with the name “Elements”.

open a terminal and type the following command:

diskutil info /Volumes/Elements

you’ll see more information about the drive, check it is NTFS formatted.

By default, file /etc/fstab is not created on Mac OS X. If it already exists, make a copy

sudo cp /etc/fstab /etc/fstab_org

sudo command will prompt for the administrator password (to run the copy command in directory /etc where you should not have rights to write as a normal user).

edit it (you can use nano to edit the file, or any other plain text editor):

sudo nano /etc/fstab

and add the line

LABEL=Elements none ntfs rw

(replace Elements with the label name of your hard drive).

Reboot the computer to force reading /etc/fstab and mounting your drive as a read/write NTFS drive.

Job done!

For perfectionists: if your drive shows a UUID when you enter command diskutil info /Volumes/Elements, then you can edit your /etc/fstab with

UUID=XXXXXXX none ntfs rw

where XXXXXXX is the UUID number shown by diskutil. This should allow recognizing the drive even if you change its label name.

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