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One of the frustrations of the split Mac and Windows world Computing Harmony: Seamlessly Blend Windows and OS X Computing Harmony: Seamlessly Blend Windows and OS X If you know the right tricks – most of which are simple and free – you can easily manage both the Windows and Mac OS X under the same roof. Read More  we live in is that the two giants both use different file systems From FAT To NTFS To ZFS: File Systems Demystified [MakeUseOf Explains] From FAT To NTFS To ZFS: File Systems Demystified [MakeUseOf Explains] Do you really know what your hard drive does whenever you read a file from it or write one to it? Our hard drives can now store massive amounts of data, and that massive space... Read More . Microsoft prefers their own proprietary NTFS system on Windows, while Apple deploys its HFS+ on OS X.

The problem is that, out of the box, the two systems cannot “talk” to each other. While Macs can read files on NTFS drives, OS X cannot write to them by default. If you plug a NTFS-formatted drive into your Mac you’ll see your mouse cursor turning into an error sign if you try and drag a file onto it.

This can obviously lead to issues with regard to sharing files and file management, so the solution is to give your Mac the ability to write to NTFS.

Sadly, some of the most common methods broke with the recent release of El Capitan, so how can you fix them? MakeUseOf investigates…

The Paid Options

There have always been premium options available to users who want NTFS drivers on their machines. Two of the most popular are Paragon NTFS and Tuxera – however, they come with drawbacks.


For example, older versions of Paragon recently stopped working on El Capitan, forcing users to pay for an upgrade and lumbering them with a time-consuming reinstallation process. Who knows what problems they might encounter with future OS X releases? When will Paragon decide that, once again, users need to pay an upgrade fee to access their data?


You also have to pay for each license you require. So while Paragon charge $19.95 USD and Tuxera charge $31 USD for a single download, the cost can quickly start racking up if you need the drivers on multiple machines in your home or office.

Why not avoid the hassle and the cost by doing it for free?

Free Method 1: Use the Terminal

It is a little-known fact that Macs actually do support writing to NTFS drives, but the feature is disabled by default. Granted, this method is not as fast or as straightforward as the second method which we will come to shortly, but it doesn’t require third-party tools – a fact that will no doubt appeal to some users.

This method requires that you enable access on a per-volume basis – so if you have multiple NTFS drives you will need to repeat this process multiple times. The process works by editing the system’s hidden fstab file, thus adjusting how your machine handles NTFS volumes after they are plugged in.

Firstly, ensure that your external NTFS-formatted hard drive has a short and easy to replicate name – you’re going to need to use it a lot and want to keep things simple.

Next, navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities and launch Terminal. You can also use Spotlight for this 7 Good Habits Every Mac User Should Get Used To 7 Good Habits Every Mac User Should Get Used To Today we're going to share our favourite good Mac habits, while desperately trying to forget the bad ones. Read More by hitting cmd+spacebar, typing “Terminal” then hitting enter.

Once open, type sudo nano /etc/fstab and enter your password when prompted. You will be presented with an editor window for the fstab file.


Type LABEL=NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse (making sure that you replace NAME with the name of your external drive) and press enter. Then press ctrl+o to save the file followed by ctrl+x to exit the editor window.

Next, eject your drive and then reconnect it. The drive will no longer show in Finder, but can be accessed by returning to Terminal and entering open /Volumes.


In the window that opens, you will be able view your drive, as well as copy, edit, and drag files onto it. If you will be using the drive regularly, you can ensure faster access by dragging it to the sidebar or making an alias How to Define Command Line Aliases on Any Operating System How to Define Command Line Aliases on Any Operating System We've talked about, and recommended getting to grips with your computer's command line terminal numerous times in the past. Tina wrote a good primer for Windows users with A Beginner's Guide To The Windows Command... Read More .

Free Method 2: Use Third-Party Tools

For this method you’ll need FUSE for OS X, NTFS-3G, and fuse-wait; and you’ll need to action a couple of terminal commands in Recovery Mode.

The trick to making the process work on El Capitan is disabling the System Integrity Protection What Mac Users Need To Know About El Capitan Security What Mac Users Need To Know About El Capitan Security Security is the biggest change to OS X 10.11 El Capitan. OS X is now so locked down even root users can't modify the operating system – let's go over what that means, shall we? Read More prior to installation. Failure to do this will make NTFS-3G fail.

To do that, restart your system and hold down cmd+r while it reboots – it will start the device in Recovery Mode.

Next, click on Utilities, open the Terminal, type csrutil disable, press Enter, and reboot the system.


You can now install the software. Start with FUSE for OS X – it is a necessary program for any Mac driver that deals with third-party file systems. During the installation, make sure you select the MacFUSE Compatibility Layer. If you don’t install this layer, the next part of the process will not work.


The next tool to install is NTFS-3G. This is the main component of the process and the software that will actually provide your Mac with the NTFS drivers.

When given the choice, make sure you select No caching rather than UBLIO caching.


Once the installation is complete, reboot your computer. You might find you get a lot of on-screen warnings when your desktop loads back onto the screen, but you can safely ignore them – they are caused by the fact the NTFS-3G software has not been updated by its developers in a long time.

Finally, you need to install fuse-wait. This is the part of the process that will remove those annoying pop-up error messages.

Once this is all done, you’ll need to re-enable the System Integrity Protection. Boot your Mac into recovery mode, fire up the terminal, and type csrutil enable.

Reboot your machine one last time, and voila, you now have NTFS write capabilities on El Capitan.


Be aware that all three methods listed above are unsupported by Apple, and as such might have adverse effects on your system. You might discover limitations, stumble across unknown “side-effects”, or even damage your volumes.

As always, make sure all your data is backed-up Schedule & Browse Time Machine Backups With These Powerful Tools Schedule & Browse Time Machine Backups With These Powerful Tools From custom backup times to finding out where those 2 GB of new files are, the right apps can give you power and knowledge Apple's own tools just don't provide. Read More and secure before you attempt any of the changes listed.

Did it Work for You?

What method did you choose? Did you manage to follow our instructions? Was it a success?

Leave a comment below with any problems you encountered. Either ourselves or your fellow readers might be able to help you!

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