Monday, December 3, 2012

Mount,read,write NTFS on Macs and do the same with HFS on Windows.

The title of this blog is very long, "Mount,read,write NTFS drives on Macs and do the same with HFS drives on Windows."

If you want to share and mount drives between Macs and PCs you can either use FAT32 or exFAT formatted drives.

exFAT works on OSX versions 10.6.8 and higher and is preferred over FAT32 for support of files larger than 4GB. I actually like exFAT because it is the fastest middle-road solution when you take account Linux usage.

For most purposes, exFAT works great. However, there are times you want to have access to the 'other' OS preferred filesystem such as NTFS on Windows and HFS + on OSX.

I have a few large RAID drives that I would like to occasionally see from either side of the fence.

Hence, I decided to fork out the cash and buy commercial drivers from Paragon system to mount, read and write NTFS volumes on Macs and do the same for HFS+ volumes on Windows.

I've tried other products including various free ones but performance was lacking. I was pleasantly surprised with both piece of software from Paragon.

So today, I will do a dual review on both products as a single end-user.

Here is a HFS Plus volume under Windows 7.

A NTFS volume under MacOSX.

HFS + for Windows
NTFS for Mac OSX10

Pretty much install and reboot. There is nothing to configure on Windows as I can tell. On the Mac, you have a System Preference pane.

First of all, I did not notice any significant speed handicaps. The drive access seemed as fast as native on both Mac and PC.  I've used other filesystem drivers such as NTFS-3G on Mac, Fuse on Linux and they all seemed very, very slow. Here, it is blazing fast. 7GB files took about a minute to copy and copy reliably.

Benchmarks on both pc and mac seem to indicate no performance penalty but the real test was real-world copies which appeared normal to me.

Both screenshots below are benchmarks of drives that were 60% full with operating systems on them.

USB 3, eSATA and Thunderbolt are both supported. Thunderbolt was not disclosed in their marketing but as you can see from the Windows screenshot above, a Samsung 830 SSD via a Seagate Thunderbolt adapter on a Gigabyte motherboard does indeed work. I was also able to connect a HFS formatted Drobo 5D via USB 3.0. All the USB 3.0 sticks and external drives I have in my possession work on both.

I run 64 bit on both OS so it is safe to say it works otherwise this review would not exist. I am running the latest Mountain Lion 10.8.2 and no problems to report.

Next, I tested them both by making and copying large encrypted Truecrypt container files.  TrueCrypt (for my mac readers) is an encrypted file container like an encrypted DMG that works cross platforms on Windows, Mac, Linux. Think of it as open source, open platform DMG that is encrypted.

I made my truecrypt containers 7GB to see if there was any corruption. I then copied a clone disk image of a fresh Mountain Lion install.  I made the container on my Windows system NTFS drive on the Mac and copied the DMG into the container. I then booted into Windows , mounted and copy the container to various HFS and NTFS drives. I was able to mount and copy, restore the clone image reliably.

It is safe to say, mounting TrueCrypted volumes on either platform works. For example, a HFS truecrypt container created on a mac will mount on the Windows side.

Next, in Windows, you can toggle hidden directories in the explorer. It was very nice. No more ._files or .DS_Store files.

See below. The first image is with the default Explorer view. Clean and tidy. The second image is after I enabled hidden file view in the Explorer preference.

The cons are:
Neither will see software raids created by the opposing OS. For example, I plugged my Thunderbolt LaCie into Windows (which works via Thunderbolt) and I can see the drives in the Device Manager but not the RAID volume.

Neither will see encrypted file systems created by the other.
For example, you can't see a FileVault HFS+ on Windows. To me, this is considered to be a good thing because I keep my work on encrypted volumes.

There are other issues as well. For example, symlinks, permissions, and extended attributes are not preserved on the Windows side when dealing with HFS drives. Certain mac files still use resource forks (which contain extended meta-data) and labels. If you copy them on Windows using HFS+ (copy HFS to HFS), they will not be preserved.

Below is an example. The script folder is highlighted in red label on OSX. Those attributes get stripped when you copy under Windows. Same with the broken link icon on files that have resource forks.

The meta-data, resource forks , symlinks are preserved on the mac side when working with NTFS drives. Meaning, if you copy specials files on OSX onto NTFS drives, you will be fine.
You just can't do that on the Windows side.

Apparently you can set an NTFS as a startup disk on OSX. I did no test this.

This is a minor inconvenience but it is something to know.  It is also disclosed in the manual.
You wont be able to use Windows cloning software to clone a Mac Drive. If you need anything that maintains permissions or meta-data, copy the files in the native operating system. The resource forks and labels are relics from the classic Mac past. I love my colored labels but this is not a show stopper.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised. Both app drivers are $20 and you have the option of getting multi computer home licenses.

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