How to Fix Your External Hard Drive Being “Read Only” on Mac

Andy Betts Updated 14-12-2019

Sometimes when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, you’ll find that it’s set to read only. This happens because the drive is formatted with Microsoft’s NTFS filesystem, which macOS doesn’t support by default. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix so that your external hard drive is no longer read only.


There are a number of ways to unlock an external hard drive on a Mac, from reformatting the drive to installing software that allows you to write to NTFS volumes. For more advanced users, there are also riskier, more experimental solutions. Let’s get started.

1. If Your Drive Is Blank

If your drive is blank, you’re in luck. You can easily format it to whatever you need and move on.

To begin, mount the disk on your Mac, then open Disk Utility. Now select the drive in the sidebar and click Erase.

format read only drive mac

The format option you should choose depends on how you intend to use the drive:


2. If You Need a One-Time Fix

Warning! The following describes a method of enabling the experimental NTFS support in macOS. There is a very real chance that something could go wrong, resulting in a loss of data on the target drive. We recommend you do not rely on this method for writing to important volumes or as a long-term solution.

Sometimes you may need to write some files to a locked drive only once, and you can do this with built-in Mac tools. But while macOS can read NTFS drives by default, its write capability hides behind a Terminal hack. You need to follow these instructions for each drive you want to write to.

Open Terminal and type:

nano etc/fstab

Then copy this line into the file, replacing DRIVENAME with the actual name of the drive you want to access:

LABEL=DRIVENAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Hit Ctrl + O to save the file, then Ctrl + X to quit Nano. Now disconnect and reconnect your drive. Once it has remounted, it will be available in /Volumes.

You can only get there in Finder; click Go in the menu bar and select Go to Folder. Enter /Volumes and click Go. You’ll see your drive listed here, and you can now copy files onto it.

mount ntfs drive mac

3. A Free Open-Source Solution

Even if you’re okay using Terminal, no one wants to edit a preference file every time they deal with a new drive. If you’re in IT and deal with Windows drives regularly, you may need a better option. One of the most popular solutions is an open-source product: FUSE for macOS.


Download FUSE to get started. The program is a handler; it does not contain anything to mount and read the files themselves. You’ll need a couple of extra tools to complete the job, available in a Homebrew package called NTFS-3G.

First install Homebrew by pasting this line into the Terminal:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Once you run the commands to install Homebrew, and you get confirmation in Terminal, you need to install the NTFS-3G package. That is another single command:

brew install ntfs-3g

Sometimes Terminal doesn’t recognize that you have already installed the FUSE package. If that happens, run this command as well:

brew cask install osxfuse

You’ll then be prompted to reboot your Mac. Once you’ve done that, try re-running the NTFS-3G command.

Write to an NTFS Drive With NTFS-3G

NTFS-3G enables your Mac to write to NTFS drives, but it is not automatic. You need to run a few extra commands to get it working.

First, find the address of your mounted read-only drive. You can get this in the Terminal using the command:

diskutil list

You need to run the following commands each time that you want to mount a drive with write permissions. Replace /dev/disk1s1 with the drive address that you found above:

sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS

sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk1s1 /Volumes/NTFS -olocal -oallow_other

If you don’t want to run these commands each time, there’s a fix. You can boot your Mac into single-user mode, and replace the built-in Mac NTFS tools with NTFS-3G. There are some warnings about security on the project site; you can check out the steps to enable it on the developer’s GitHub page.

The devs make it clear that this opens up your Mac to potential exploitation, so this step is not for the faint of heart.

4. A Simple, Paid Option

The solutions we’ve described above are pretty technical. If you’d rather just click your mouse a few times to get this working, you can use a paid third-party app to simplify the entire process.

There are some different choices, but the longtime favorite is Paragon Software’s NTFS for Mac. It is $19.95 per Mac license, though you get a discount for buying three or five licenses at a time. You can test drive the software with a 10-day trial too.

paragon ntfs mac

It’s a simple install, which then provides a menu bar item that shows your NTFS drives. Better still, your NTFS drives now show up in Finder normally, and you can treat them like any other drive.

Tuxera NTFS for Mac is another program. It’s built on top of the open standard we used above, NTFS-3G. The licensing is a bit simpler, as you pay $25 to use it on all your Macs.

mount drive mac with tuxera

With a 15-day free trial, you can put the program through its paces before shelling out. Rather than a menu bar item, Tuxera installs as a preference pane. You can format drives from here, but not much else. Like Paragon, you can use Finder to work with the drive.

Solve Other Mac External Drive Problems

Both paid options offer a painless way to mount a read-only drive on your Mac and make it writable. The open source and Terminal options are more work, and you shouldn’t rely on experimental support full-time. You can also write as much data as you need to and from your drives while trialing both paid options.

But having a read-only drive is not the only external disk problem you can face on a Mac. Sometimes you can mount an external drive and it isn’t even recognized. Take a look at our guide on how to get your external drive to show up on a Mac External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac? Here's How to Fix It External hard drive not showing up on your Mac? Here's a troubleshooting guide to help get your external hard drive or flash drive working again. Read More for tips on how to solve that issue. Also, acquaint yourself with the worst MacBook problems Apple's Worst MacBook Problems (And How to Fix Them) While Apple has a solid track record, the company messes up at times. Here are Apple's biggest Mac failures and how to fix them. Read More that are a possibility.

Related topics: Drive Format, File System, Hard Drive, Mac Tips, NTFS, Troubleshooting.

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  1. set tv
    April 10, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    such as you wrote the e-book in it or something.

  2. Pravin Ramana
    July 1, 2017 at 5:26 am

    Why isn't Psiphon 3 here? It can tunnel through anything in seconds! It's for free on Android, Windows, and...Oh right...

  3. Jonathan
    January 16, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you, Justin. Doing the Paragon trial. Process could not have been easier. From my wife saying "Hey, what the hell is going on with my external drive?" to "Sweetheart, it's fixed, you can write to it now" was about 10 minutes.

  4. Rick
    October 26, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Fired up an Ubuntu VM

  5. Empot
    August 18, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Hello, Just wanted to check if the above will work as well for OS X Mavericks? Thank you

  6. DragonStargazer
    August 17, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Thank you so much for your post, it saved my life! I was trying to back up my files to an external drive previously used on a Windows computer, and it was read-only and I freaked out! Thanks to you, I was able to backup all my important files and make the drive compatible so I could upgrade from Snow Leopard to Lion!

  7. Mac
    August 3, 2016 at 3:33 am

    This is BS. So the whole world uses NTFS and my stupid MAC needs to be taught a trick. Thanks but I prefer Windows. SO much easier.

  8. Hebah
    April 25, 2016 at 4:46 am

    This link saved my life: when I updated to El Capitan on my OSX my Seagate external hard drive became read-only. I installed this driver and not only did I not have to format (wipe) my hard drive, it solved the incompatibility issue in 1 minute. I backed up my hard drive just out of paranoid precaution beforehand, but looks like I didn't need to.

    • Christina
      May 18, 2016 at 2:26 am

      hEY this posting save my life lol. i was so panicked because my Seagate external also became read-only once i updated to El Capitan. but it's solved beautifully done now. THANKS.

    • Anonymous
      June 28, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      hey thank you so much for the above mentioned link :) it really helped!

    • Anonymous
      August 12, 2016 at 4:17 am

      Hello Hebah,

      Thanks for posting the link- I had the same problem, now solved!

      My third attempt to post a comment.

    • Luna
      August 12, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Thanks to this info, my problem is solved in a minute with just a driver installation and a reboot. I am using a Samsung external hard drive. I downloaded the driver at:

    • Marie
      August 13, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Thaaaank you so much! I just got my laptop back from the genius bar at Apple. Tthey installed a new hard drive - something went wrong while I tried updating the OS earlier this year (Perhaps my 2011 hard drive couldn't handle the update?). Anyway, I saved most of my files on my seagate external hard drive before everything went down hill. Ran into the same problem and was literally seconds away from wiping it clean, luckily, I saw this comment! Solved the issue in no time.

    • Chandrashekar Paladugula
      July 2, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Many thanks!
      You saved my day...
      Can't say appreciation in words. Thank you, again!

    • Chandra Pal
      July 2, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks a lot.
      Really appreciate for sharing the link and you saved my day(s)!!

  9. james
    January 29, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Well I edited fstab per guidance and in deed my drives disappeared from Finder. Creating a short cut on the desktop to hidden drives and doing this for any NTFS USB or other drives is not acceptable. It means that I cannot use native Mac and need windows on fusion.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      I haven't looked into this method in the rootless age, and honestly this article could use an update in any case. I believe someone is one it.

  10. Shubham
    December 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Is NTFS 3G finally working for El Captain or not?

    • Justin Pot
      December 8, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Only if you disable rootless, which is not usually advised. I highly recommend going with one of the other options.

  11. Anonymous
    November 10, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I read that program (NTFS) corrupts data. I had no problem with my hard drives being written to until I switched to Capitan! What do I do?

    • Justin Pot
      November 10, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      It seems like I'm going to have to re-do this tutorial for El Capitan, because the instructions don't work right now and I've no idea how to make them work.

  12. Anonymous
    October 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm


    Recently moved to OS X El Capitan and have an external drive that I am unable to write to, but can read perfectly. It worked perfectly using Paragon NTFS before updating the software. Tried the solution as detailed by you above, but the NTFS-3G program won't install. I get an error message saying that it's incompatible with this software version of the Mac.

    Could you please help ?

    • Justin Pot
      October 22, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      It looks like there's a new version of Paragon that works with El Capitan:

      • Anonymous
        October 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        Just tried that out. It works like a charm. Thank you so much !

        • Justin Pot
          October 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

          I'm glad it's working again!

      • techyman
        December 27, 2015 at 10:46 am

        The link has been hacked and goes to avangate software. Type the link manually gets to the correct place!

  13. Anonymous
    October 10, 2015 at 1:22 am

    Hi, I have Yosemite and I did NTSF-3G and Fix for Mountain Lion and it worked! However, theres a message that popped up saying the mount wasn't completely done, and I had two options either force or abort. I chose force, and everything was fine, but I'm worried if it might delete files in the future? I tried plugging in another external hard drive and the message didn't appear again. Thanks!

    • Justin Pot
      October 22, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for the update, I actually haven't tried repeating these steps with El Capitan yet so this is really helpful. I'm sure there will be more comments.

  14. Anonymous
    September 24, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I installed NTFS-3G and now I am not able to even open my external hardisk on MAC... every time I try to connect the external hd it gives me an error below:

    NTFS-3G could not mount /dev/disk2s1
    at /Volumes/Live Forever because the following problem occurred:

    dyld: Library not loaded: /usr/local/lib/libfuse.2.dylib
    Referenced from: /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g
    Reason: image not found

    Please help me fix this issue or let me know how to uninstall this. So I could get access to my files.

    • Justin Pot
      September 24, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Did you follow the last section of the article, "Fixing NTFS-3G for Mountain Lion"? Because the messages implies you didn't (though I could be wrong).

  15. Anonymous
    September 13, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    NTFS-3G worked as mentioned. Thank you. :)

    • Justin Pot
      September 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      I'm glad it's working for you!

  16. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Thank you so much¡ The NTFS3G option worked for me

    • Justin Pot
      September 13, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for letting me know.

  17. Anonymous
    August 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Hi Justin,

    I've just converted from an iMac to a Macbook 2015. My external hard drive works on the iMac, but is read only on the Macbook. Do you know why this is and how I can fix it?


    • Justin Pot
      September 13, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Just seeing this now for some reason, sorry about that. Did you get everything working? It might be a permissions error but it's hard to troubleshoot without being able to actually test things out.

  18. Anonymous
    August 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    This works for me too. Thank's !

  19. Anonymous
    July 12, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Dear Justin Pot,
    I'm personally amazed with your detailed solution here. Tons of gratitude would not be enough to say. Thank you very much, it works on my Macbook with OS Yosemite. Keep going on with any other solution Sir.

    • Justin Pot
      July 12, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and reading the article! It means a lot to us, check out again sometime.

  20. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 11:27 am

    This is one real super nice blog to fix the related problems... I did the NTFS-3G: The Free Alternative... This help me a lot... Thank you so much...

    • Justin Pot
      June 13, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      I'm really glad this is still useful! Feels good to know it's helping people.

  21. Tiago Santos
    May 26, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Very clear documentation, thank you. I used the NTFS-3G free solution and it worked just fine.

  22. Rushina Shah
    May 26, 2015 at 1:14 am

    This worked beautifully. I use Yosemite OS X 10.10, and followed your steps for NTFS-3G and the Mountain Lion fix. Did NOT want to reformat my hard drive, and this installation took maybe 10 mins. Thank you!

    • Justin Pot
      June 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Glad to hear it's still working for Yosemite, I haven't tested this in a while. Thanks for leaving a comment!

  23. Milk
    May 16, 2015 at 11:33 am

    You the real MVP. I installed the NTFS-3G with the companion fix update programs and it's working great. Thanks for the article

  24. Lieke
    May 16, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Bless you. This helps A LOT!

  25. Glenn Jensen
    May 11, 2015 at 12:22 am

    If you already have a working filesystem, and you get the read only situation (i.e. the -50 error), double check the SATA cable going to your drive. I had all my user directories on the second drive (first partition) and my workspace on the same drive (in a second partition) - both were showing as read only (huge hint).

    I read this, tried it, and guess what.... it was a bum cable (or one that worked it's way lose with vibration). I spent a few bucks and got a replacement cable with a metal latch - problem solved, hours of reinstallation / reconfiguration averted.

    Reminding you that you still need to backup invaluable data (or at least have it on or dropbox)

    • Justin Pot
      May 11, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      I'm sorry my article wasn't the help you were looking for, but I'm glad you figured it out! We take cables for granted, it's often the last thing we'll think of.

  26. Glen
    April 26, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Bought Paragon, installed, finally read users manual that admitted that Paragon does not work with Yosemite. Learned that too late to save $20.

  27. Stuart
    April 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Good explanation but the part where you need to open a terminal window and type 'open /Volumes' in order to access your external drive is not ideal. One way around it is to create a symbolic link (or a shortcut) on your Desktop

    Open a terminal window:

    cd /Users//Desktop

    ln -s /Volumes/

    A shortcut should now appear on your desktop for more convenient access to your write enabled external drive.

    • Justin Pot
      April 8, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      The terminal wasn't mentioned once in this article, so I'm not sure what this is referring to.

    • Stuart
      April 9, 2015 at 9:18 am

      You're right Justin. My mistake. I had a few tutorials open and posted to wrong one. Feel free to delete my entry.

    • Stuart
      April 9, 2015 at 9:19 am

      You're right Justin. I had a few tutorials open and I posted to the wrong one. Feel free to delete my post.

  28. vol24
    March 3, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks I followed your instruction on:
    1) NTFS-3G: The Free Alternative
    2)Fixing NTFS-3G for Mountain Lion. (Mine is OS X Mavericks v10.9.3)
    And it works wonderfully for me! Thanks so much!

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      I'm glad it worked for you! I'll have to check and see if it works for Yosemite or not at some point...

  29. Vidya
    January 20, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Well written and easy to follow. Thank you!

    • Justin Pot
      January 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Glad I could help!

  30. Xavier
    December 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Although I still get the warnings when mounting, installing the ntfs-3g plus its 3 dependencies did the trick on mavericks.
    Thanks very much!

  31. kerim
    November 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    helped me a lot! thanks

  32. Anonymous
    October 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    I clicked to install NTFS-3G but a box appeared: “Install NTFS-3G” can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.

    What do I do?

    • Justin P
      October 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Open your Mac's System Preferences, then click Security. Under "Allow Apps Downloaded From", click "Anywhere". Good luck!

  33. Yujie
    October 12, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Thank you so much for the help! Now I can freely write into my 1TB external drive!

    However, I have a small problem. Though I can freely read and write on my external hard drive, I can't make other changes to it, such as renaming it. When I click on "Get Info" of the hard drive, it shows that I have custom access. Is there a way that I can change my status to administrator so that I can rename my hard drive?

    Thank you so much!

    • Justin P
      October 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      I have to say: I've no idea. Are there other changes you're trying to make, or is it just the name thing?

    • Yujie
      October 13, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      It's just the naming :) So far I haven't encountered any other problems with that custom access. :) Thank you anyways :D

    • Justin P
      October 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Thinking about this more, I suppose you could try disabling all the tweaks you made, then changing the name, then re-enabling them. If you want.

  34. Extra
    September 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Likewise, it was upsetting me so much, as I used PC and am now stepping up on Mac in addition, and I was guessing there were incompatibilities. Thanks so much for taking the time to help by posting, it makes a difference.

  35. Anonymous
    September 25, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Used the suggested workaround for the Mountain Lion. worked perfectly.

  36. Jojo
    September 9, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Awesome :) The NTFS-3G worked like a charm! I was hoping to find a quick fix and this was it!

    • Justin P
      September 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      It works, but can be a pain to set up on newer Macs. Glad your happy in any case. :)

    • Justin P
      September 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      It works, but can be a pain to set up on newer Macs. Glad your happy in any case. :)

  37. Max
    September 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Oh great! It works! :)
    Thanks Justin! :)

  38. Bud
    June 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Good article, easy to read and understand ! Thanks !

  39. Chanel @ La Viajera Morena
    June 20, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Thank you for this, easy to follow and understand :D

    • Justin Pot
      June 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      You've no idea how much of a compliment that is. Thanks for taking the time to leave it.

  40. Rahul N
    June 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Tried a few options but Tuxera NTFS works perfectly on my MBP Retina Pro SSD..
    Sadly Apple file sys is not supported by my TV and other usb readers.

    • Justin Pot
      June 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Yeah, there's not much you can do to get devices like that to read your Apple products...

  41. Robert J
    June 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    If you own a Seagate GoFlex or Backup Plus drive you can download their free version of Paragon's NTFS Driver for Mac OS on their downloads page.

    • Justin Pot
      June 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      That's good to know! Thanks.

      • Robert J
        June 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        Also, check the deals Paragon has going on frequently.

        I not only saved $$ on the Mac software but they also included the software that lets me read/write HFS+ in Windows AND a free upgrade to the next version that came out several weeks later.

    • Max
      September 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Oh I didn't know that. However this post helped me a lot. Maybe I will install this driver in some other Mac. Thanks.

    • Liv
      September 26, 2013 at 11:41 am

      This is not working on my Mac, it used to, but now I have to turn paragon off to access my seagate hard drive, and even then it's only read only.

    • Justin P
      September 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      You installed the Seagate copy of Paragon and it's not working, Liv?

    • Antipodes
      November 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      Thank you - this was the solution that finally worked for me.

    • Mohamad
      November 18, 2013 at 4:07 am

      I spent hours and installed more than 2 GB, and then saw this.

    • Evans
      January 1, 2015 at 2:49 am

      I have a SeaGate drive - thanks so much for this tip/reminder that they provide this driver for Macs for free!

    • Fang
      January 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Awesome, thanks for the seagate drive notice. Almost bought it when I could have it for free.

    • Yasmin
      January 24, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Thank you very much. This solved the problem for me.

  42. Doc
    June 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Some things to be aware of:

    Most USB drives come pre-formatted with FAT32.

    Windows XP and up will not allow you to format a partition larger than 32GB as FAT32 for "stability reasons."

    Most Windows XP systems will not be able to read/write ExFAT without adding in a driver (free from Microsoft); I'm not sure if ExFAT was added in a Service Pack or optional update, although my copy (I'm using an XP machine) has it.

    • Justin Pot
      June 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      All great points. Thanks for adding them.

  43. Kimo
    June 16, 2013 at 5:14 am

    People still use Macs?

    • macwitty
      June 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Yes we do

    • macwitty
      June 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      The Paragon NTFS I got as a reward work very well. So well I forget it is insalled

  44. Austin Beatty
    June 16, 2013 at 1:45 am

    FAT32 is such a crappy filesystem and it's a shame there's no filesystem with full default support by the main 3 OSes. Linux distros usually come with NTFS-3G by default now, but Mac OS doesn't. Then there's exFAT which is more geared towards Flash drives as opposed to spinning Hard Drives, but you need to install an extra package in most Linux distros to get it to work. I only use FAT32 if I need to (like I want to use it on a PS3 or in a phone that requires it) or if it's a drive under 4 GB. (FAT32 has a 4 GB file limit, which is annoying on large drives).

    • Doc
      June 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      FAT32 has a 4GB file limit, but how many files (other than ISOs) will be more than 4GB?

      • Austin Beatty
        June 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        High res or long videos. I often record videos on my capture card that are 1-2 hours long, and they can be over 4 GB, and I need to transfer them to my Desktop. It doesn't come up all the time, but it's definetely annoying when it does, and I'd rather not have to deal with it.

  45. KISH
    June 15, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Nice article and helpful one . Was looking for easier option and i think the first option of formation USB drive to FAT will give easier solution as most of the time i need to transfer data from windows to Mac

  46. KISH
    June 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks Justin probably easiest i feel is first option to format USB drive to FAT will do the work

  47. dan anik
    June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    i think it's important that people also know about exFAT, as this is a file system that allows for reading and writing in windows and OS X. but a major downside to it is that there isn't write support in linux.

    • PG
      December 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Hey. Could you please expand on that part (exFAT) and how to do it?
      I am a noob in Macs and I just bought this new hard drive and unable to turn it to write . :(
      Please help

    • Dan Anik
      December 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Probably the easiest way is to use the Erase option in Disk Utility.

      Open Disk Utility from Applications/Utilities. With your hard drive plugged in, select it on the left column. Then click the Erase tab. Choose ExFAT from the drop down and name it what you want (limited to 11 characters). Then click the Erase button.

      Then you should be good to go!