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almighty_spork

NTFS Read/Write on Mac

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In doing various research I found that the Linux guys had this thing called NTFS 3g which allowed Linux users to read and write to NTFS dives with almost 100 percent success. I then waited with bated breath for a Mac OS version. Apparently Apple wanted this to happen as much as I did since they donated money to the project, and thanks to the developers Mac OS X can now read and write to NTFS volumes, after a series of unmac-like intallations and hoops it works.

 

I'm going to try and brake this down into 2 steps providing links and background info as I go. I am trying to write this as a full tutorial for the seasoned and raw mac user alike so I can cover everyone. After I go over the install procedure I'll do a quck review of the strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures of NTFS 3g Mac edition.

 

The first step is made possible by Google. They created a program called MacFUSE which allows for (oversimplification warning) new file systems to be accessed by a user-space app rather than loading a kernel extension. What you need to do is get MacFUSE from Google Code here. There are many FUSE modules out there for various types of file systems, there are far too may to enumerate and I don't know how many are available on OS X.

 

Now you need to install the NTFS 3g module into your new FUSE implementation. Next you need to download and install two pieces of software. These are from the same site so I will consider it one step. The first thing to download is MacFUSE Tools: 0.2.5 and make sure you install this FIRST! That is very important. After that install you may now install NTFS-3G: 1.417-r4 the actual NTFS 3g driver for the Mac. These links were acquired from this site so if you want to check for new versions or if the links beome broken you can go right to the source.

 

Once all of those are installed you should be all set. I highly recommend reading the readme as it tells how to set certain volumes as ignored by NTFS 3g and default back to Apple's shipping driver for NTFS that allows only read and not write. There are also many other valuable pieces of knowledge in the readme files, so read them.

 

On to my review. My first reaction was astonishment and awe as I copied a movie file over to my Win XP boot camp partition. And it copied. I then restarted in XP (more on that later) and sure enough, there was the file, all ready for Windows to use it without any issues. While there are a few known issues with NTFS 3g, but most are very small. I'll leave it to you to do the research. The biggest issue I had is that I can no longer select my Windows partition as a startup volume in the startup disk preference panel. The easy as pie work around is to simply hold option at startup and select your drive from there. This is pretty minor, and as long as you're comfortable using the latter option to select your Windows partition to boot from, then you, like me, won't be bothered at all. Overall I'm extremely pleased with the results and I have been using this for a few months now, writing to my NTFS volume without any hitches. I would like to issue a warning. Even though NTFS 3g is at version 1, it is not without bugs. I would not use this on any NTFS volume that I either cannot live without or one that I do not back up regularly, just incase. Having said that, if you do back up your NTFS volumes regularly, or simply use Windows for the odd game like I do, go for it, you'll love the ability to write to that other dive mounted on your desktop.

 

-Tom

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Thanks for that review, Tom. I'm sure, eventually, a lot of Intel Mac users are going to use this method of accessing their Windows partition directly, to exchange data between Mac and Windows partitions with Finder.

 

However, from a security standpoint, doesn't this create opportunities for black hat hackers to infect Windows via Mac downloads? Downloading bad stuff in Windows can be prevented by using protection software, but if you download a file containing malware with Mac OS X and transfer it to the Windows partition, the Windows protection software isn't able to block it. If that would happen, clicking on the file under Windows could install malware and take over the Windows part of your Mac, effectively converting it into a Zombie Mac.

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Good reason to get protection software with realtime monitoring, and especially to know what your downloading.

 

For the NTFS 3g, Not sure about stability though, When I last tried this, I got kernel panics almost every other time I rebooted, it worked once it came up and I dont think I got any kernel panics once booted (maybe one) but still, more annoying then it was worth to me.

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I've never had my machine kernel panic and I've been running NTFS 3g for a long while. Maybe you could try getting a newer version. As for a Mac download infecting a Windows partition, while possible it is very remote. First the difficulty in getting a malicious piece of software to run on a mac is tough enough, now making one that targets windows through mac, why not just write one that infects windows? I don't know of anyone who would think it a good idea to make a task more difficult simply to target an mac, that is an intel mac, that is running windows via boot camp, and has NTFS 3g installed, a small percentage of a small percentage of a small percentage of a small percentage. So, while this could happen, it's not going to. If someone wants to infect windows, thy will write a program to infect windows. As always Macs are not immune to malware attacks, being a small percentage of the market with a more secure operating system gives us security. Everyone should always be cautious when downloading things from strange web sites, or typing your admin password to give permission to something that you did not explicitly run. I have been known to run windows with no antivirus without issue simply by being extra careful, don't get careless just because you think your Mac is magical and immune to infection. Just because there isn't anything out there now doesn't mean there never will be.

 

-Tom

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