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How to enable NTFS write support on Mac?

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Posted August 26, 2019

Apple’s Mac operating system can always read the Microsoft Windows NTFS-formatted drives but cannot write to them. Your files stored on the NTFS drives will appear read-only or locked when you open them, and you will not be able to edit, rename, or delete the existing files nor save any files to the NTFS drives on a Mac.

Free image via Pixabay

Therefore, using an NTFS drive for moving files between Windows and macOS actually is not a good choice. Many people will choose to format NTFS to a FAT file system (FAT, FAT32 or exFAT) to make the disk compatible both with Windows and macOS. However, it is hard for users to completely give up NTFS file system because of its excellent performance.

What are the advantages of NTFS file system?

NTFS, acronym for New Technology File System, is a file system developed by Microsoft. It has been the default file system on Windows, since it replaced FAT file system from Windows NT 3.1.

Compared with FAT file system, NTFS (currently NTFS 3.1) has some obvious advantages. For example,

  • NTFS file system is optimized to have better security by allowing separate permissions to the files.
  • Compression is available to increase free storage space on a drive.
  • It has encryption feature to better protect the data from unauthorized access.
  • It supports larger than 4 GB individual files and larger partitions very successfully and corruption rate doesn’t rise because the disk size rises.
  • NTFS has journaling, which means it keeps track of the files deleted, created, and modified on a drive. It can be very helpful when you need to restore files from the drive.

Even though NTFS file system has so many merits in Windows platforms, but it is not fully compatible with macOS. Is there a way to bridge this gap without reformatting NTFS drives? The answer is positive. Enabling NTFS write support on Mac can solve the incompatibility problem.

Enable NTFS write support on Mac

There are three commonly agreed approaches to enable you to have full read-write access to NTFS drives on Mac.

  • Free NTFS drivers – open-source NTFS drivers are complicated to install. It needs you to be very familiar with command lines in Terminal window.
  • Paid NTFS drivers – commercial NTFS drivers are easy to install and use. You won’t need any experience of command lines.
  • Apple’s experimental NTFS write support – this disabled-by-default NTFS write support is an experimental feature in macOS. It is unstable and might cause damages to the NTFS drives, so it should not be a reliable method to enable NTFS write support in macOS.

Use a free third-party NTFS driver to enable NTFS write support

There is no doubt that FUSE for macOS is the best free NTFS drivers for Mac. It is maintained consistently and compatible with the latest macOS 10.14.

The following instructions are very technical and assume that you know how to use Terminal. Be sure to follow the guide carefully to avoid damages to your operating system.

Step 1: Download and install Xcode.

Xcode is the official integrated development environment for macOS, IOS, watchOS, and tvOS. You can use it to build and edit applications.

1. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

2. Run the command line: xcode-select –install.

3. Click “install” when asked to install command line developer tools.

Step 2: Download and install Homebrew.

Homebrew is a free software package management system that simplifies the installation of software on Mac operating system.

1. Go to Terminal window.

2. Type in the command line:

/usr/bin/ruby -e “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)”

3. Hit Enter to install it (provide password when prompted).

Step 3: Download and install FUSE for macOS.

Go to https://osxfuse.github.io/ to download and install latest FUSE for macOS. You will need at lease version 3.0 and use the default options when installing.

Step 4: Install NTFS-3G.

NTFS-3G is another independent open-source project, you will need it to make NTFS writable on Mac.

1. Go to Terminal prompt and type in the following command line:

brew install ntfs-3g

2. Hit Enter.

Step 5: disable SIP (System Integrity Protection).

SIP exists to protect the operating system from unauthorized changes. Disabling SIP will allow attacks to the most vulnerable parts of your operating system, resulting corrupted startup disk. But if you want your NTFS drives to be automatically mounted in read-write mode, you will need to disable SIP.

Note: You won’t be able to follow the steps when you are disabling SIP, so you had better print out the instruction or open this article on another device.

1. Restart your Mac and hold down Command + R immediately until you see the Apple logo.

2. Open Terminal from the Utilities menu.

3. Type in the command line: csrutil disable.

4. Hit Enter.

5. Reboot the Mac.

Step 6: Read and write to NTFS on Mac.

1. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

2. Type in the following command line:

sudo mv /sbin/mount_ntfs /sbin/mount_ntfs.original

sudo ln -s /usr/local/sbin/mount_ntfs /sbin/mount_ntfs

3. Hit Enter.

Note: It is recommended that you enable SIP after you finish using NTFS drives on Mac to better protect your Mac. To enable SIP, you just need to follow the Step 5 and run command line csrutil enable in Terminal window, hit Enter and restart the Mac.

If you are worried about the risks of disabling the SIP, you can also manually mount NTFS drives with full read-write access using extra command lines without disabling SIP.

All the steps below happen after you have installed Xcode, Homebrew, FUSE for macOS and NTFS-3G.

Step 1: Open Terminal window, run the following command to create a mount point:

 Sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS

Step 2: Connect an NTFS drives to Mac and run the following command to list NTFS partitions:

Diskutil list

Step 3: Find the names of NTFS partitions in the IDENTIFIER column.

Step 4: Run the command: sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk3s1 /Volumes/NTFS -olocal -oallow_other (remember to replace disk3s1 with the identifier of your NTFS partition).

Use a paid NTFS driver to write to NTFS drives on Mac

Commercial NTFS for Mac software is much more reliable and safer to use. They won’t ask for root permission for installation by disabling SIP so that there is no potential of hurting Mac operating system. The write speed and file transferring speed of paid NTFS mounters is faster than free ones as well. NTFS write support seems to exist natively on Mac because users won’t feel any noticeable delay when sharing files between NTFS drives and macOS.

Let’s take iBoysoft Drive Manager as an example.

iBoysoft Drive Manager is one of best paid NTFS for Mac drivers available along with Paragon and Tuxera. It can enable NTFS write support natively on Mac. Besides an NTFS mounter, it can manage multiple USB flash drives, SD cards, memory sticks, SSDs and HDDs altogether easily. Additionally, it supports adding network drives (FTP and SFTP) in the drive list by providing server address, user name and password. The network drives will be mapped as local drives for easier access and management.

The installation instructions are simple and the tool is easy to use:

Step 1: Download iBoysoft Drive Manager.

Step 2: Follow the wizard to install it.

Step 3: Connect an NTFS drive to the Mac.

After the notification pops up that the drive is mounted successfully, you will be able to read-write to the NTFS drive as you normally do to a drive with a Mac-compatible format.

Enable NTFS write support natively for macOS

Apple hasn’t officially supported full read-write access to NTFS drives on Mac yet, so its NTFS write support is still under testing. It is not recommended for users who would like to use the NTFS drives on Mac for daily work. It might cause disk corruption and data loss too.

Well, if you are curious about how to enable Mac’s native NTFS write support, the steps are also included here. You will need to use Terminal and type in command again, but the process is easier to follow.

Step 1: Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

Step 2: Type in sudo nano /etc/fstab and hit Enter to open the /etc/fstab file. (Provide password if asked and nothing will show up when you input the password).

Step 3: Type in LABLE=VOLUME_NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse (change the VOLUME_NAME to the name of your NTFS volume or drive) and press Ctrl + O to write. If you have multiple NTFS volumes to write to, input command line for each of them.

Step 4: Hit Enter to save and press Ctrl + X to exit.

Step 5: Reconnect the NTFS drive to the Mac.

Step 6: Click on Go at the top left menu bar at desktop and choose Go to Folder.

Step 7: Type in /Volume and click Go button.

Step 8: Find the NTFS volume and open it for write access.

If you want to undo the modification to the /etc/fstab file, simply follow the step 2 and delete all entries you created, save the change and exit.

The process is fast to implement, but you can only enable NTFS write support one by one by inputting different command lines. If you have multiple NTFS volumes or drives to mount in read-write mode, it will take extra mount of work.

Final thoughts

If you have multiple NTFS drives with tons of data, it is time-consuming to back up all important files, reformat the disks and restore the files. Therefore, enabling NTFS write support for macOS is a better option to make the NTFS drives writable on Mac.

Additionally, people who are using Boot Camp on their Mac may find they need the NTFS write access too. It is very likely that they need to transfer files to the Windows partition at some point or another.

Among all three approaches to enable NTFS write support on Mac, a paid third-party NTFS driver is the easiest and safest.

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