Tip: Enabling ‘native’ NTFS read and write support on Snow Leopard, at your own risk

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If you’re use both Mac and Windows workstations, then you’d probably also have a bunch of removable hard disks that’s formatted as NTFS laying around. And you’d also obviously know that OS X does read from an NTFS partition. The trouble is, you don’t get NTFS write by default.

In Snow Leopard, both read and write capability is apparently available natively. The reason why it’s not officially available, it seems, is due to licensing issues rather than technical capability.

However do read on to see my experience with accessing an NTFS volume on my MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard with the latest updates.

But before that, here’s how you enable read and write permissions on your mounted NTFS volume.

Firstly, fire up Terminal. For the OS X newbies like me, you can find the Terminal app in Applications -> Utilities. Alternatively, you can also press <command> + <space> key to activate the Spotlight search and type in Terminal.

Once terminal loads and you can see the command prompt, run the following command to determine the Volume’s UUID.

diskutil info /Volume/<volume_name>

Obviously, you need to replace <volume_name> with the name of your NTFS disk. The easy way is to just press the tab key after “Volume/” and the available volume names would be autofilled in the command. Just keep pressing the tab to cycle through all the available volume names.

Once you get the result, just copy out the UUID part of the volume. You’d need this value later.

Next, you need to create the fstab file to contain the configurations that would override the default volume mount configurations. To do so, you can use the nano text editor to quickly create the new file.

sudo nano /etc/fstab

You should see nothing on the nano editor as the fstab file should not already exist. In the editor, just key in the following configuration.

UUID=<Volume_UUID> none ntfs rw

Just replace <Volume_UUID> with the UUID value that you gotten earlier. That’s it. Now, save the file and you’d be done. For those of you who are unfamiliar with nano, you just need to press Control+X to quit nano. It should prompt you if you want to save the document. Press Y and then Enter to confirm the file name and location.

Now, restart you machine and you’re done!

But read on! In my experience with my MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard (10.6.4 Build 10F569), enabling both read and write for my NTFS removable drive has made it very unstable at random times when the external media, a Seagate FreeAgent Go USB disk, is mounted. In fact, it hung my MacBook Pro so bad that I had to hold the power button to force power down it, not just once but 5 times over the past 2 days!

So, although it’s now much easier to use an NTFS volume, it seems that you’d be better off using NTFS-3G drivers or just stick to HFS.

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