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It is relatively easy to make a hard drive work between Mac and PC with no file limits. Formatting drives sounds very scary and difficult, but it is very simple and can take only a couple of minutes on a fresh drive. A very basic rundown of the format types available are –

– NTFS (Works on Windows Only)
– HFS+ (Works on Mac Only)
– FAT32 (Works on Mac and PC with 4gb file size limit)
– exFAT (Works on Mac and PC with better file size restrictions)

The top two are going to be the ones used on your Mac and Windows machines by default. But they are far from ideal for using on external drives and devices.

If you have ever tried to work from both a Mac and PC then you have likely experienced the nightmare that is getting external drives to work on both machines properly. Maybe you have a Mac at work and Windows laptop at home or vice versa and you want to take some work from one machine to another. This often is not a problem so long as your usb pen has been formatted to work on both a Mac and a PC, usually in a FAT32 format. You will likely not even care about what format it is using so long as it works.

If you can’t get past this bit then your hard drive is formatted as NTFS or HFS+. You will want to change that to either the FAT32 or exFAT format. Read below to find out which one is right for you.

USB pens and external hard drives are in a way being replaced by cloud services like Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. This reduces a lot of the hassle currently created by having to carry hardware around with you. Unfortunately for anybody who uses large files on a daily basis, this is not an option. The transfer rates are far too slow and drastically reduce your productivity.

When working with large files like video and transferring to your usb pen or hard drive you may notice that certain files cannot be transferred on to it. This will likely be because your drive is formatted as FAT32 and the largest file size you can transfer is 4gb. This is a real pain when working in video, because you don’t want to let that dictate how long you shoot your video clips for. You also don’t want to have to edit them before transferring the raw files, just to get them down to size. Formatting your drive to exFAT is a great solution to your workflow.

exFAT works on both Mac and Windows machines, so you can seamlessly transfer between the two. exFAT also allows for larger file transfers, TBs worth in fact. The only drawback of exFAT is that it may not be compatible with some older machines. It is a Microsoft file system introduced in 2006 that was designed for flash drives. It is now a common format for larger SDXC cards used in cameras. This is also the case for some modern SSD drives and Compact Flash cards.

Each format type does have its own pros and cons, like having faster transfer speeds, better compatibility etc, but for external drives transferring large files across multiple devices, exFAT is the best option. Otherwise go with FAT32 for the extra compatibility with older devices.

On a Mac the formatting options for drives can be found under ‘Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility’. From there simply select the drive you want to format in the lefthand side. Then you will need to use the ‘erase’ feature to format the drive in the format type you wish to use and rename it to what you want to call it.

Please Note: If you are going to try to format your hard drive, then remember to backup the whole drive as all data will be lost. Make sure to back it up somewhere safe while you format the drive.