Why can’t I access files on my external hard drive now that I use a Mac?
Question by Vicki /

I recently changed from a PC to a Mac. Now I can’t edit or save any files to my external hard drive, which I used with my PC. How do I gain permission to edit and save files with my Mac using the same hard drive?

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Answers (33)
  • Jon Igoe

    Hi,

    Just looking for some advice on my external hard-drive. Just recently it began acting up, were files disappered or became inaccessable, the file type shows as “File” consisting of a plain white icon that will not open and also shows the file name as “USBC¿ÈÑä.”. I recently ran the drive through an antivirus scan (AVG) which detected as dangerous threat which was repaired. However, this seemed to make no difference the the problem. the file consisted of jpegs, mpegs wma mp3s and some others and the disk space remained the same even though some file have visually disappered. I would extremely thankfull if you could supply an answer to this problem. Thanks :))

    • Mike

      AntiVirus software does not really “repair” threats but remove the infected part(s).

      If the malware simply added itself to the jpegs, mpegs, etc. there is a (very) small chance the files are still usable.

      In your case however it seems the malware has overwritten some parts of the files. Now after removal the files are simply incomplete and corrupt – nothing you can really do about.

    • Bruce Epper

      There are several types of malware that rename your files as well and this could be what happened here since Windows ignores magic numbers and simply uses the file’s extension to determine file type. You can download the file utility from the GnuWin32 project and install it on your computer. It is a command-line utility taken from Unix that checks the file header in order to identify the file type. If it identifies a known file type (doesn’t simply return a value of ‘data’), you can rename the file with the proper extension. You can then try to open the file with the appropriate program and give it a better name than the current random mix of characters.

  • Takeo

    Hi, my problem is that I can’t see any device NTFS on Disk Utility.
    I have 1Tb HDD SATA2 for data only that is NTFS and a Seagate 1Tb FreeAgent GoFlex Externa Drive also formated as NTFS. Both can’t be recognized in Disk Utility.

    After formatting External HDD as ExFAT, it was recognized on Lion and Windows, but NTFS HDD still not be recognized, and I don’t want to format it as ExFAT.

    Why can’t I see NTFS devices for read only ? I know about mcfuse, but first, device should be detected in Disk Utility.

    • Susendeep Dutta

      I think that your external HDD is not getting mounted by Mac 10.7.One user of Apple support communities found a solution for this –

      https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3191198?start=0&tstart=0

      ” nik pel : – Try deleting /System/Library/filesystems/ufsd.fs and install your Paragon/MAfuse/Tuxera implementation

      Worked for me. ”

      If your disk ever gets detected by disk utility by chance,then try to repair it using Repair Disk command.This will make sure that the bad sectors will get fixed and will be readable in Windows/Mac computers.

  • Lisa Rauter

    thats great can some one help me with the same situation

  • Robert Pearson

    I currently have seven external HD’s connected to my Windows based PC. I am on the verge of buying a Mac PC and would like to know if the externals drives will work on the Mac. These drives mostly contain .m4p and m4v files. One drive however contains only standard stuff like .doc, .jpg, etc. If there’s a program out there that will fix any potential roadblocks let me know. I really like the idea of getting the mac but have too much invested in the contents of the seven external HD’s.

  • JTACK

    I have a Toshiba Laptop and a Toshiba external hard drive…  I plug the external hard drive into my MAC BOOK PRO and it never recognizes it.  I plug it into my husband’s Mac Book Pro and it instantly recognizes it…  Any suggestions?

  • anurag singhal

    I recently moved to a new company but before leaving my last one I copied over some Files and Folders from my work laptop to an external Hard drive but when I try to access those files on a different laptop, I am getting “you don’t have access or privelege” or “Your document could be read only or encrypted”. Please help how to overcome this issue as I have last 4yrs of data that I need to access :( I am tried to override the permission and stuff but still no luck. I can see all the data on my external harddrive though at least that is one good thing.

    • Bruce Epper

      You most likely don’t have permissions to override permissions on the files.  You need to take ownership of them instead.  Haven’t had to do this with XP in so long that I can’t remember the exact steps to do it.  A quick check on the properties of the files/folders should give you a Security tab where you can take ownership of these files and folders.

  • robotsvictorious

    Hello, I’m having a similar problem.  My issue is that my old PC is no longer recognizing the hard drive.  It tells me that it will need to be formatted. 

    So basically, I have an external hard drive formatted in NTFS that is read-only on my Mac and just…blank…on my PC.

    Anyone have any ideas on how to get my files off this hard drive so I can reformat it?  

    • Anne Reilly

      HI FIDELIS,
      I DID AS PER YOUR INSTRUCTION TILL THE PART I HAVE TO ERASE.  FROM HERE I WAS LOST!
       
      “Once reformatting is finished, make sure to check the info of the drive by selecting the new formatted drive and clicking theApple key + i keys together”

      WHERE DO I FIND THE APPLE KEY + I KEYS ??  MY EXTERNAL DRIVE IS NOW EMPTY AND FILES ARE SAVED ONTO MY APPLE MACBOOK AIR.  I TRIED TO COPY BACK TO THE EXTERNAL DRIVE BUT I STILL CANNOT EDIT AS IT ONLY ALLOWS READ ONLY.

      PLS HELP!  THANKS
      ANNE REILLY

    • AnneReilly

      I FOUND THE APPLE KEY (COMMAND KEY??) AND THE I KEY (WHICH IS LETTER i) AND IT SHOWED THAT IT HAS FORMAT TO MAC OS EXTENDED (JOURNALED) BUT I STILL CANNOT EDIT THE FILE.  IT IS READ ONLY
      PLS HELP

  • Anonymous

    How To Format A Large Hard Drive With Either FAT Or FAT32
    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/format-large-hard-drive-fat-fat32/

    • Annoyed!

      I have done this but now my Windows computer cannot detect the hard drive at all. Only the mac detects it! How do i transfer all my files on my windows to the mac via the hard drive?

    • ha14

      first lets try to make windows recognize hard drive:
      on windows
      go to device manager and look for yellow exclamation point beside a device, if it is there then right click on it and choose uninstall. Then reboot pc and plug in external hard drive.

      or

      1) Right-click on “My Computer” then Click on “Manage”
      2) Double-click “Disk Management” You will probably see external hard Disk
      3) Right-click in the left portion of that drive box External Disk
      4) Click “Initialize” and “OK” in the next dialog box. Wait few seconds and it should now say “Online” in the box.
      5) If there is no assigned drive letter, right click on the big space of your external hard drive then choose Assign drive letter or Change Driver Letter and Path

      or
      Start > Run “cmd”
      type–> diskpart
      type–> list volume
      type–> select volume #
      type–> attributes disk clear readonly
      type–> x:>attrib -r /s /d (X= External hard drive)

  • Kryptonite

    you went to the dark side and your hardware is punishing you, right your wrongs by ridding yourself of the evil you have allowed in your home and all will be well again

  • FIDELIS

    Hello, if you were using this external drive in windows, that means that it could be formatted in NTFS or FAT32.  From what you are saying, I gather that your drive is probably formatted with NTFS file system. 
    If the drive is formatted in NTFS, a MAC will only be able to read it, not write to it unless you have something like the following:

    http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/26288/ntfs-for-mac-os-x

    If the drive is formatted in FAT32, you would be able to access it in MAC with read and write functionality. 

    You have two options, make sure drive is formatted to FAT32 and access it with windows and mac, or format the drive to HFS+.  HFS+ is the format used in MAC computers.  I would only use HFS+ option if you are only going to be using it in MAC.  If you decide to format your drive to either choice, make sure to back up the contents of your drive and then do the formatting.  Once formatting is done, you can move the content back….if you do not do this, you will loose the content.

    • Vicki

      Hi, Thanks for your reply. Yes, the format for the external hard drive is NTFS. Could you show me how to reformat the hard drive?

      Thanks.

    • FIDELIS

      Hello, make sure to move the files in external hard drive to your computer before reformatting drive.  Once your reformat drive, all contents will be lost.  if you are using your mac to format the drive, this is what you do:

      — connect external drive to mac
      — click on applications
      — click on utilities
      — select Disk Utility
      — you should see all the partitions on the left
      — make sure to select your external drive from options shown in the left.  Check by name of drive or size
      make sure to select the right drive
      — once drive is selected, select erase at top of screen
      — make sure to select Mac OS extended (journaled) for volume format option
      — change name of drive if you like to make it easier for you to recognize
      — once all the information is entered, select erase at bottom of screen
      — click on erase
      — Once reformatting is finished, make sure to check the info of the drive by selecting the new formatted drive and clicking the Apple key + i keys together
      — if you backup the contents of files before, reformatting, copy/move contents back.

      Let me know how it goes.

    • Stephanie RiCharde

      It worked for me.  Thanks so much!

    • FIDELIS

      Hello, I am glad it worked for you

    • Bknitting

      This worked for me also and I want to thank you for the great advise!!

    • FIDELIS

      Hello, I am also glad it worked for you.

    • Cat

      I have done this but now my Windows computer cannot detect the hard drive at all. Only the mac detects it! How do i transfer all my files on my windows to the mac via the hard drive?

    • FIDELIS

       Hello, if you want both your mac and windows systems to recognize the drive, it has to be formatted with a format both systems understand.  I would say, format the drive with FAT32, that way both mac and windows can read it.

    • Mark Hall

      I know its a little late but, oh my gosh I love you xD haha just got a hard drive off the internet only to find it says only Windows 7 compatible! Thanks so much for the step by step, really helpful!