There has been a format war raging since the dawn of the personal computer, between Microsoft and Apple, for the best disk storage file system. Microsoft began with the FAT (File Allocation Table) which eventually evolved into NTFS (New Technology File System) in the early 2000s. Apple, on the other hand, has always stuck with the Unix-friendly Hierarchical File System (HFS)—barring the short-lived Macintosh File System from the early 1980s. This never seemed to be much of a problem until the late 2000s, when Apple’s growing market share made it increasingly apparent that there needed to be a way to bridge the gap between the two—especially since Windows XP could now run natively on Apple hardware. Open-source implementations of HFS-FAT had existed for some time now, but XP was an NTFS-based system. There needed to be a way to enable NTFS support in OSX.
Finnish outfit Tuxera was the foremost professional developer in the world of *Nix-Windows crossovers (Unix/Linux), having developed the best and most prolific open source tools to enable native FAT support in Linux. This led them to develop and publish NTFS-3G, a free and open source implementation of the native NTFS driver for Linux and OSX. Tuxera finally killed off official support for NTFS-3G in 2012, but the source code for the driver is still maintained on Sourceforge by volunteers.
Personally, I don’t recommend this method to enable NTFS support in OSX as it is extremely buggy now, you have to compile the driver yourself (which is always a pain in the ass), there is no support to speak of, it has paltry read/write speeds, and there are just better ways of doing it now.
It’s still free, and it’s still buggy, and it’s still tedious, but starting in OSX Tiger, Apple tucked away a developer option to allow write support via the Terminal. It’s an experimental feature, and not officially supported by the Coop, so I still don’t recommend it as your primary option. If you need to occasionally enable NTFS support in OSX or MacOS, you might go for it, but I use NTFS drives far too often to rely on this method.
First, connect the NTFS drive to the Mac, then get the UUID for the drive by invoking the following command in Terminal:
diskutil info /Volumes/DRIVENAME | grep UUID
Now, you’ll need to append the drive’s UUID to the NTFS read/write support list in /etc/fstab:
sudo echo “UUID=ENTER_UUID_HERE none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse” >> /etc/fstab
You’ll now be able to access the drive’s directory in Finder by invoking the following command:
You can also create an alias for the drive on the desktop by invoking:
sudo ln -s /Volumes/DRIVENAME ~/Desktop/DRIVENAME
Commercial (Paid) Option
Disclosure: this review is unbiased insofar as I have not received any compensation from either of these companies to review their products. I have used all the options in this article at one time or another, and I presently use a paid copy of Paragon’s NTFS for Mac.
Tuxera abandoned their free version of the NTFS driver in favor of a paid option, which is very popular, and comes with a Disk Manager utility for easy drive maintenance actions such as format, check, and repair. The software is $30, but is available for a trial period. Upgrades are free for existing customers.
Paragon Software also has a commercial NTFS driver, priced at only $20, but does not come with the disk management utility. Personally, I use this one as it will natively enable NTFS support in OSX utilities such as the stock Disk Utility app, eliminating the need for an extra application.
Both drivers enable NTFS support for OSX and MacOS at read/write speeds comparable to native HFS+ speeds, and offer full support in multiple languages. Both offer a two-week trial period and free upgrades for life.
As much as a fan of FOSS as I am, sometimes you do need to put a little money down for a proper utility—especially one that has had years of active development. My biggest argument for a commercial solution here is one of stability: The commercial drivers natively mount NTFS partitions and allow manipulation just like any other drive, and have been used and tested against data loss and corruption. If you have the coin, drop it on one of the commercial options. You’ll be glad you did!