Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ways to to Share an External Drive Between Mac and Windows PC

Looking to share an external hard drive between a Mac and PC? The best way to do it is with a drive formatted as FAT32. Though this format has some limitations, it enjoys nearly universal support from active platforms, including Mac and Windows operating systems, and many gaming and Linux OSs.

The chief drawbacks of FAT32 involve file and partition size limitations. FAT32 imposes a size limit of 4GB on single files. So if you work with bulky video clips, for example, adopting FAT32 may not be a good idea. When formatting partitions, Windows 7’s Disk Management utility won’t let you create one that’s larger than 32GB, whereas Mac OS X Lion can create partitions as large as 2TB using its Disk Utility application. Finally, Mac OS X’s Time Machine backup utility won’t work with FAT32.

Windows prefers to use NTFS (which stands for New Technology File System, though it has been around for nearly 20 years now). Macs running Snow Leopard or Lion can read from drives formatted as NTFS, but they can’t write to such drives unless you install a third-party driver or muck about in the Terminal. Conversely, Windows 7 can’t read and write to drives formatted as HFS+–also known as Mac OS Extended (journaled)–unless you install third-party software such as Paragon’s.

Formatting From a Mac

To format a drive as FAT32 from a Mac, follow these simple steps.

1. Set up your drive following the manufacturer’s instructions. Connect the power supply (if necessary), connect to the Mac via USB or FireWire, and turn on the drive. The drive should automatically mount on your Mac’s desktop (if the finder preferences are set to show external drives). If the drive is not formatted, you may get a message saying that the drive is unreadable by Mac OS X and asking you whether you want to format it via Disk Utility. We’re going to do this anyway, so open Disk Utility from the prompt or by navigating to /Applications/Utilities.


2. Mac OS X won’t let you create a FAT32 partition larger than 2TB; so if your drive is larger than that, you’ll need to divide the available drive capacity into multiple partitions. You can format the remaining space as a second FAT32 partition or as an HFS+ partition, or you can leave it as unallocated space. To create a new partition, click the drive in the list on the left side of the Disk Utility menu. Click the Partition button in Disk Utility’s main window. By default, Mac OS X will use the GUID partition table to format the drive. You can use this and still share FAT32 volumes with a PC, but if you’ll primarily be using the drive with Windows, and if the full capacity of the drive doesn’t exceed 2TB, the wiser course is to wipe the drive and then use Windows’ Master Boot Record (MBR) partition scheme.


3. Click the Partition Layout drop-down menu in Disk Utility, and select the number of partitions you want to create. By default, Disk Utility will divide the available space in half. You can resize the partitions by clicking the line between the partitions and dragging it up or down to increase or decrease the capacity of one or the other side.

4. Click on whichever partition segment you want to format as FAT32. Type a name for that partition in the Name field and choose the FAT32 option from the Format drop-down menu. Once everything is arranged as you want it, click apply. A progress bar will appear at the bottom right of the window as Disk Utility creates the requested partitions. Once it finishes creating them, you can move the drive between Macs and Windows PCs, and move files back and forth easily.

Formatting From a PC

Here’s how to create a FAT32 partition from a Windows 7 PC.

1. Open the Disk Management utility. To do so, select Start, Control Panel, System and Security, Create and format hard disk partitions. Alternatively, press the Start button and start typing partitions.

2. Find the drive you’d like to format; in my case, it was Disk 5. Click the disk number, and select Convert to MBR Disk (“MBR” stands for “Master Boot Record”). Right-click the unallocated segment in the next field over, select New Simple Volume, and click Next when the wizard launches. Change the value in the Simple Volume size field to32,768MB or less–it needs to be under 32GB, to satisfy the format’s file limit. Assign a drive letter, and click Next.


3. Choose the drive letter to be assigned and click Next. Select FAT32 from the File System drop down menu, label the volume however you like, check the box next to perform a quick format, and click Next. The resulting window tells you that you have successfully completed creating the volume. Click Finish and you’re ready to go.

That’s the way I want to share with you. How about yours? Just share yours on our site. Or you may also visit our site for more technical Mac posts with ease.

Why We Need to Backup the iTunes Audiobooks

I have long been a strong supporter of cloud storage, highlighting the many different ways to use Dropbox, for example. Combine that with iCloud automatically backing up most of our digital purchases and the documents we create in tons of popular apps now, and cloud syncing suddenly just works. We can just sit back and forget about all the complexity — that is, until we need to restore something.

That’s still usually not too much of a problem, since iCloud has all of our purchased music, apps, and movies ready for redownload. But it’ll come as a shock, however, to realize that iTunes does not fully meet this expectation at the moment. Audiobooks purchased through iTunes allow a one-time download at the point of purchase, but you can’t then download to other devices or even the same deviceonce erased. You can re-synchronize them from your PC or Mac library back to your device, but it is the cloud functionality that is not behaving as expected here.

We thought it best to give you a general advisory about this, and to briefly show you how to prevent the loss of your important digital media purchases with a short backup tutorial.

What’s the Issue?

iCloud is a reliable central source for copies of all of your purchased apps, even older apps that you can no longer purchase from the App Store. It will save and restore all of your eBooks from iBooks, look after music purchased through iTunes or uploaded via iTunes Match, and even store and protect your movie downloads. But, for one reason or another, audiobooks are not included in iCloud.

I am investigating further the reason for this, but if you have any idea of the underlying issue, do drop a note in the comments below. I’m guessing it has something to do with content rights, and I do hope it gets resolved soon.

Protected Rights — For You

In the meantime, lets take a look at protecting what you already have. If you have purchased an audiobook from iTunes, it is most likely that it has been downloaded into your iTunes library as a file with digital rights protection. If you still have the audiobook on your device, but not in your iTunes library on your PC or Mac, then go ahead and get those two in sync straight away, ensuring your audiobook is transferred into your iTunes library using the Transfer Purchases option of iTunes.

The next step is to create a Playlist that lists all of your audiobooks that are likely to be affected. You should not need to include in this any titles that are not protected by digital rights. For these, you can already copy or convert to other formats without issue, and you probably have already realised that these are not normally copied to iCloud due to being incompatible with Apple’s implementation of file syncing in iTtunes.


When creating your Smart Playlist, the key aspect to filter on is Kind. Set this to be equal to “Protected AAC”. Go ahead and open up iTunes, and select to create a new Playlist from the File menu. Check the criteria in the screen above to ensure you get a match. Press OK, and you should be presented with a list of your audiobooks purchased through iTunes.

For non-protected files, we would have the option of writing to disc media, or perhaps converting to a standard AAC for uploading to the cloud via iTunes match. These options are not available to us here, because of the protected nature of the files.


Instead, simply select the list of audiobooks shown, and drag and drop them from iTunes to a safe place on your local hard drive, or perhaps to a USB storage device. And remember the age-old rule of 3 regarding safe storage: Take 3 copies of your data onto 2 different types of media and keep 1 copy off-site. It’s as easy as 3,2,1…

Another good idea is to copy these files into another storage folder that is synchronised with a cloud backup service, such as Dropbox or Skydrive. I’ve not tried playing these direct from this cloud source, but I would imagine there would be a media player capable of doing so. Perhaps you can advise us in the comments box if you find something that works well for you.

I have raised the issue with Apple support, and I hope that over time they will follow the example of Audible to allow full backup and restore from iCloud, but for now I hope this has been of some help to you.

For more helps about your Mac, you can view more technical posts on our site whenever you want.