How to Read/Write on external HDD with NTFS partition on macOS

Adesh Gautam
Jul 5, 2018 · 4 min read

This is a how-to for using NTFS formatted external HDD on MacOS using free tools available.

MacOS doesn’t provide write permissions on NTFS format as default. So to mount external drives as Read/Write follow the given steps below:

Step 1

Download FUSE for macOS from here

Step 2

Then we have to install xcode command line tools. For this open terminal and copy paste this.

xcode-select --install

Then click install when the dialogue appears. Click Agree when the License Agreement appears. Once that’s done proceed to step 3.

Step 3

Now we have to install Homebrew which is a package manager for macOS. Copy and paste the following in the terminal.

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Step 4

Paste the following in terminal to install ntfs-3g for mac:

brew install ntfs-3g

Step 5

Now connect your external HDD system and follow the below steps:

a) diskutil list

diskutil list

This will list all the connected drives to your device. There will be the names such as disk2s1, disk2s1 etc. These are the partitions of your external HDD.

Note the names of the External HDD drives.

b) sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS1

We have to create a folder for giving a mount point to the disks. This command will create NTFS1 folder for mounting. If you are trying to mount 2 partitions of your HDD then make another folder using:

sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS2

The number of folders will depend on the number of drives you want to mount.

c) sudo umount /dev/disk2s1

This command will unmount the disks already mounted by the macOS system as we will again mount them by ntfs-3g in RW mode. Again if there are 2 partitions mounted then use:

sudo umount /dev/disk2s2

disk2s1 and disk2s2 are the names of the disks.

d) Run the below in terminal to mount the disk named as disk2s1 to the pre created folder NTFS1 in RW mode.

sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk2s1 /Volumes/NTFS1 -olocal -oallow_other

Congratulations you are done !

So lets say you have 2 partitions on your HDD formatted as NTFS, then you will be using the following commands in sequence on terminal.

  1. diskutil list
  2. sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS1
  3. sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS2
  4. sudo umount /dev/disk2s1
  5. sudo umount /dev/disk2s2
  6. sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk2s1 /Volumes/NTFS1 -olocal -oallow_other
  7. sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk2s2 /Volumes/NTFS2 -olocal -oallow_other

After this the two drives will be mounted in RW mode on your system.

This is a manual process which needs to be done every time when you’ll connect your external HDD to the system.

Auto mount the NTFS volumes in RW mode

This is not recommended as this will involve the replacement of the Apple’s NTFS mount tool /sbin/mount_ntfs. This will present a security risk for the system.

For replacing the ntfs-3g tool with the Apple’s NTFS mount tool execute the following commands in the terminal. The following commands needs to be executed in the recovery mode. To go into the recovery mode press command+R when the system boots. When in recovery mode go to Utilities and then click on Terminal and enter the following:

sudo mv "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/sbin/mount_ntfs" "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/sbin/mount_ntfs.orig"

sudo ln -s /usr/local/sbin/mount_ntfs "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/sbin/mount_ntfs"

Uninstallation

To uninstall ntfs-3g execute following in terminal:

brew uninstall ntfs-3g

And to restore the Apple’s NTFS mount tool again go to recovery and enter following in the terminal:

sudo mv "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/sbin/mount_ntfs.orig" "/Volumes/Macintosh HD/sbin/mount_ntfs"

This was quite a long process but it involves free tools,but if you want to use a straightforward method then use the Paragon NTFS software which costs $19.95.

The list of commands is provided in the repository here.

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Adesh Gautam

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Machine/Deep Learning, Amateur Photographer

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