One of the drawbacks when switching from Windows to Mac is the lack of native NTFS support. You can read from NTFS volumes with no problems, but writing is another story. If your drives use an OS X-friendly filesystem like HFS+ or FAT then you won’t have a problem, but if you’ve got a rather chunky external drive formatted to NTFS (like I have) then you’re a bit stuck.
Luckily software like Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X exists to restore the missing link and make your NTFS volumes useful again. The software costs $19.95, has already been updated with full support for Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8).
The NTFS and Mac OS X Conundrum
New Technologies File System, or NTFS as it is commonly abbreviated to, was introduced by Microsoft in Windows NT 3.1 and slowly gained popularity with the release of Windows 2000 and XP. It has been favoured over FAT32 for a variety of reasons, with most users preferring it for its ability to store files over 4GB – a limitation on older file systems. NTFS is also a journaling filesystem which means it tracks changes before they happen, a feature that aids recovery should something go wrong.
Most external hard drives available for purchase today still come in FAT32 flavour to maintain compatibility between Mac and Windows machines, but many people reformat to either NTFS on Windows or HFS+ on Mac. We’ve even got an article discussing how and why you should ditch FAT32 and opt for NTFS. If you’ve spent a while saving gigabytes (or terabytes) of data to an external drive and would still like to move things around, delete and write new data to that drive on a Mac then you will need something like Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X. If you work with Windows and OS X then maintaining NTFS is useful, and this software lets you do that.
Anyone using Boot Camp – technology provided by Apple to facilitate the running of Windows on Mac hardware – will also find the software useful. If you’re in an OS X environment and would like to copy something into your Windows partition then you will need NTFS write access (assuming you have installed Windows to an NTFS-formatted partition). Don’t get ahead of yourself though, it won’t work both ways. Transferring back to a Mac partition requires software to enable HFS/HFS+ functionality in Microsoft’s OS.
How It Works
Thankfully Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X is very easy to get started with. So easy, in fact, that I’ve barely got anything to write here. Simply download, mount and double click the installer. You’ll see the same old interface you’re used to with just about every software installation on OS X, then you input a password, watch the installer and restart your computer. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be forgiven for saying “is that it” and scratching your head.
The software doesn’t install any applications whatsoever, instead it installs a driver which enables NTFS write support. On Mountain Lion the only trace on your system is a new preference pane within System Preferences, at the bottom of the list under the Other titled NTFS for Mac OS X. This is where your serial number and product key goes, with options for viewing the user manual and uninstalling the driver. On the General tab is a list of currently mounted partitions and two check boxes – Access Permissions (for enabling NTFS inherent ability to restrict access to certain groups and users for newly created files) and Disable Last Access Time which allegedly improves performance.
There is also a Set as startup button which, for Boot Camp users, sets the currently selected NTFS partition as the default startup partition. Aside from these few checkboxes and buttons, the software is a largely transparent affair, providing a powerful solution to manage NTFS drives and partitions without any bloat.
More Good News
According to Paragon, their NTFS driver achieves “unprecedented” speeds. I have not tested each and every NTFS driver solution for OS X, but I can say that the speed is great and transfers completed without a hitch. It’s nowhere near as fast as internal file transfers on my system, but that’s because my only NTFS volume is an external 7200rpm 1.5TB Samsung drive and I’m comparing it to a new MacBook Pro with SSD.
So I can write, move and delete to my heart’s content, but the driver also allows me to perform some more advanced tasks. These include the ability to use the native OS X Disk Utility tool to perform verification and repair procedures on my external drive, and (if I dare) format the partition to NTFS and start again. The ability to do this without the need for another application is ideal, instead using the driver and existing functionality provided with OS X. You can also do this from the command line if that’s your thing, with full instructions provided in the user manual.
The user manual itself explains just about everything you’d ever need to know about a driver that you don’t even notice is installed most of the time (i.e. not much, but I’m not complaining) and if you get stuck there’s always the ability to ask for help on Paragon’s website.
I was impressed with Paragon’s NTFS driver. It’s an easy and brief install procedure which provides much-needed support for writing to NTFS volumes from Mac OS X. There are a range of usage scenarios, from switchers to Boot Campers and those who need to share drives between Windows and OS X computers. If this sounds like software you need, check out Paragon’s web page.