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NTFS vs. FAT and the Need for External Storage Support

It might sound strange to those who work with Windows that I mentioned NTFS as a limitation. From a Windows perspective, NTFS is typically the prime choice of disk format because it is a journaled format, supports file local file permissions, enables disk space compression, and makes it possible to seamlessly encrypt files so that only specific users can access them. All of them are very good things and in a Windows environment are preferable to the legacy FAT/FAT 32 format. However, NTFS partitions on an Intel Mac are read-only when booting into Mac OS X.

Unless you provide some external storage, users cannot transfer or access files between both Windows and Mac OS X on the same computer. That said, even using the FAT format doesn’t provide the best solution because in addition to being a weaker file system, the file access is still a one-way system. Users can access Windows files from Mac OS X, but not vice versa. Also, it means that users will have unrestricted access to the file system, which is never a good idea because they could inadvertently move, delete, or alter critical Windows files.

Another solution is to install a Mac disk utility for Windows as part of your installation. Tools such as MacOpener can make the Mac OS X partition available from Windows. But this is a one-way solution if you opt to use NTFS. And again, these tools generally allow access to the entire Mac OS file system.

The better solution is to provide external storage support for users. This not only provides users storage space regardless of which operating system they are using, it also offers security advantages. You can limit user access to the local file systems, and you can secure and ensure backup of the share points that users will use for their files.

Depending on the server platforms in your network, you might have any manner or methods for configuring network storage for this situation. Although the various options are beyond the scope of this article, I covered many of these issues (which are essentially the same for any cross-platform network) in an earlier article.

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