What type of external hard drive ?

Wheatstone Bridge

Well-known member
Hi ,

I am looking for a portable external hard drive , one that can be used with both a Macbook pro laptop and a Dell laptop.

I would kindly appreciate your recommendations.

Thanks very much.

Chicago Dog

Well-known member
Unfortunately, PCs and Macs use different drive format structures. Swapping one drive between a PC and a Mac doesn't work.

This is my best analogy: a train and a monorail work in the same fashion, but you can't swap the two because the tracks they need to function are completely different.

I've been able to dump a file onto a NTFS formatted hard drive and open it on a Mac, but I haven't been able to get it to work the other way around. Even so, I've had to save the file locally on the Mac because the Mac can't write to the PC-formatted external drive.

I found some very roundabout ways of "forcing" it to work, but it's very risky and isn't recommended as a permanent solution. The suggestions begin a little more than halfway down the page.


Well-known member
If you format any external Hard Drive to FAT32, you can read and write on both PC and Mac. Unfortunately, because of FAT32's limitations, you won't be able to save files larger than 2GB.

I've had to go back and forth between a Mac and a PC before, and CD is right: It's a pain in the rear- especially when dealing with video files that are typically larger than 2GB.

Colin Kelly

Most drives come pre-formatted for either PC or Mac, so you will have to reformat any drive to FAT32, it's cross-platform.

Western Digital has a great series of portable external drives, Passports. They used to be all FAT32 and it was just a matter of connecting and transferring files. WD said they switched to NTFS because it's better. True. But FAT32 is what works cross platform, so that's what you've got to go with. I'm not sure what system you're on or your level of tech savvy, but a call into their tech support will get you through the reformatting to FAT32.

Many folks like the Lacie Rugged series, the ones with the orange rubber baby bumpers. I've heard mixed reviews, but haven't used them.

Wheatstone, you didn't say why you need the drives. If you're transferring video files to an NLE or other storage device, or if you're offloading digital video in the field, these portable drives will do nicely.

Chicago Dog

Well-known member
Most drives come pre-formatted for either PC or Mac, so you will have to reformat any drive to FAT32, it's cross-platform.
Are they stable? It seems like whenever I read about cross-platform drives, it points out that they're not to be used as a "regular fix," but more like a bandage.

I'm curious because my experience with cross-platform drives is pretty limited: I've worked for people that either have a PC-based system or a Mac-based system. Rarely have I had to cross over between two.

2 Hungry Dogs

Well-known member
KI work in cross platform all the time, and the fat32 works fine, but like Chugach3DGuy said you have a 2gb file size limit.

If you want to do cross platform get macdrive for your PCs and format the external as Mac OS.

Wheatstone - what are you trying to do with these drives, are they for permanent storage, temporary storage, transfer, editing, etc... It makes a difference.

WD passports are great for temp and transfers. I also like Pexagon tech drives you can get them for the same price with a custom logo on it. Great for handing to clients. If you want to edit off them I suggest something with firewire 800 or esata. Gtechs are pretty good for that, but a little more expensive.

Wheatstone Bridge

Well-known member
As a matter of fact I am glad that you guys asked the questions about the use of the drives and again in fact your questions have now made us realise that we are going to need more than one drive.

We need external drives for :

(a) Temporary and permanent storage .

(b) Editing .

Necktie Boy

Well-known member
For editing, I would go with esata if you can. Faster transfer. I found a cheap case that I could raid with two drives. Remember drive speed that you are looking is 7200 rpm. If you go firewire, Apple shares the firewire chipset(400/800).

Temp and storage, I would go USB, cheaper interface.

To move files between systems, I would look for a cheap gigabit router. Wired the computers for max transfers.