What’s the best way to format a drive for Windows and Mac compatiblity?

Sanjana Manaktala March 6, 2012
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I have a large amount of data (less than 4gb per file) that I need to transfer from my Mac for use on a Windows 7 laptop, and (only if possible without incredible complications) a Windows XP 32 bit PC.

What is the most stable way to partition or format my 500 GB external HD to achieve this? Will Windows recognize a FAT32 drive larger than 32GB? I know it’s unstable for large HD sizes, but is it a risk I can afford to take, specially if I have no other option?

Full ExFAT, losing compatibility with the XP 32-bit PC, seems to be the best option to me as of now, but I’m hoping for more advice.

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  1. VictorGeis
    August 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

    NTFS is probably the best choice. However, unless you get a NTFS driver you all of your data will be read-only on your Mac. But if you want just to transfer files, NTFS should be fine.

  2. Sanjana Manaktala
    March 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Okay, so I've decided to format the whole thing in ExFAT, because it's more stable than FAT32, and just in case FAT32 plays dirty with my larger files.

    I'm not going to be using the Mac anymore most likely, so I'll transfer everything to the laptop, format the drive in NTFS and keep it like that for long term storage.

    Thanks for your help! :)

  3. Anonymous
    March 6, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Fat32 should work nicely, the only draw back of Fat32 is the fact that it doesn't play nicely with files over 4 gb. I would recommend NTFS for the Windows machine and transfer any files via a jump drive in NTFS format. Any newer Mac will have no problem with NTFS. 

    Are you wanting to dual boot or just worried OS X will not play nicely with a NTFS formatted anything. I don't recommend dual booting anything, but there will be no problems. I have OS X and Windows XP / 7 and have no problems transferring files via network or jumpdrive. 

  4. Mike
    March 6, 2012 at 6:42 am

    either FAT32 and ExFAT should do fine

    I never had any problems using large FAT32 volumes with Windows XP SP3.
    There is also an official file system driver for Windows XP SP2 and later to support ExFat.