How To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive Without Formatting Title Image

Your external hard drive connected to your Mac, MacBook Pro. Or MacBook Air won’t allow you to transfer files to it.

You realize it’s because it’s in a Windows computer PC format. So, your Mac won’t write to it.

You’ve files on it, so you don’t want to format. And anyway, you mainly use this drive on your Windows computer anyway.

You’re asking yourself. How do I transfer files from my Mac to this external hard drive. And without having to format it?

This article will tell you how.

How To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive Without Formatting

To transfer files from a Mac to a NTFS external hard drive without formatting the drive. You’ll need NTFS driver software installed on your Mac.

Or you’ll need an external hard drive formatted for Mac. And that means a drive formatted in HFS+, APFS or ExFAT.

Read on to find out more.

NTFS Driver Software To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

NTFS driver software is software you install onto your Mac computer.

The software allows your Mac to transfer or copy your files onto a NTFS external hard drive. And allows your Mac to use the NTFS formatted drive like a native Mac drive.

The software translates the instructions from your Mac. So, your Mac is able to write onto the external drive.

NTFS is a file system made for a Windows PC. Macs can already read Windows PC NTFS hard drives. So, you can copy files from an external hard drive formatted as NTFS onto your Mac.

But you can’t copy, or transfer any file back onto the drive. Because that means writing to an NTFS drive.

And you can’t do that without using NTFS driver software when you don’t want to format.

The NTFS driver software sits alongside the disk management software that’s already part of your Mac OS x.

Think of it like an interpreter translating another language. The software interprets the NTFS drive so your Mac understands it and can use your drive.

To Use Driver To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive Without Formatting.

1. Install the NTFS driver software onto your Mac.

Check the driver software works with your Mac OS x and with the external hard drive you have.

2. Plug in Your Hard Drive.

If your drive icon doesn’t appear on your Mac’s desktop. Then check your Finder Settings (Mac OS Ventura). It’s Finder Preferences in earlier Mac releases.  Check it’s set to show eternal drives on the desktop.

Finder Settings
Finder Settings Show External Disks

3. Double Click on Your External Hard Drive’s disk Icon.

This opens up a Finder window onto your external drive.

4. Browse to the Files you want to Transfer or Copy To the Drive.

5. Select the Files.

6. Right Click to copy.

7. Move To the Finder window on your NTFS Drive. Right click Paste.

8. Your Mac will show you a progress Bar on your Transfer.

When the bar disappears your file transfer to your drive is complete.

An External Hard Drive Your Mac Doesn’t Have To Format To Transfer Files

Your other alternative is to buy. And put onto your Mac an external hard drive already formatted for your Mac. And that means you can transfer your files from your Mac to that external hard drive. Without formatting required.

When you buy an external hard drive they come from the maker already formatted.

And some manufacturers make their hard drives ready to work out of the box on a Mac.

If you want to buy a Mac hard drive. You’ll need to look for a drive already formatted as HFS+ (also known as Mac OS Extended Journaled file system).

Or APFS (the Apple File System).

Your Mac can fully use a HFS+ – Mac OS Extended Journaled drive. And that means you can transfer files, copy files to the drive. Or use drives formatted with these file systems for a Time Machine backup.

Your Mac can also transfer files. Or copy files to an external drive formatted with an ExFAT file system. And more and more makers of external drives are shipping their drive in an ExFAT format.

Because both Macs and Windows PCs can understand and transfer files to those hard drives. No formatting is needed.

Your Mac can also transfer files to an external hard drive with a FAT32 file system on.

But. FAT32 is a very old hard drive file system from back in the early days of Windows. It has security issues, file name restrictions and large file size limitations. It’s not used much anymore. And isn’t a file system to transfer your files to on a modern Mac. Only if you have to.

Finger Point Icon

Finding Free Driver Software For Your Mac To Transfer Files

When you have an NTFS disk drive to transfer files to from your Mac. And you don’t want to format. The first thing to check is if the maker of your drive provides the NTFS driver software for free.

A search on the external hard drive itself. Because some manufacturer’s ship the software already on the drive. Ready for you to install on your Mac.

Or a search on your hard disk’s manufacturer site. And you may find some free driver software to make your drive work with your Mac. Without formatting.

For example, Seagate supplies free NTFS driver software from Paragon for the Mac computer. You can find it on their support downloads page.

Western Digital provides a Paragon NTFS driver for their My Passport wireless drives. You can find the link here.

Always check the software is compatible for the Mac OS X you’re running. And the model of external drive you’re using.

No Free Driver Software For Your Mac’s External Hard Drive For Transfer

When you’ve got to transfer your files from your Mac to a NTFS format drive. And the hard disk manufacturer doesn’t supply the software. Then you’ll need to buy a copy.

The two main suppliers of driver software. And companies with the best reputations are:

Paragon software and Tuxera

Paragon NTFS Software

You can buy:

NTFS software for Mac – you load this software onto your Mac. And it lets your Mac transfer files to a Windows PC NTFS formatted drive. This software makes a NTFS formatted drive look just like a Mac drive to your Mac.

Tuxera Software

Tuxera NTFS for Mac – Is software that you install on your Mac. It lets your Mac read and write to a Windows PC NTFS formatted external hard drive.

Just check that the software you buy works with the Mac OS x you’re running.

Disk Drive Icon

NTFS Driver Software Alternative For An External Hard Drive Without Formatting

So, what do you do if you decide you don’t want to use driver software. But you have files already on your drive. And want to transfer files to the drive.

You can consider copying those files somewhere else. Maybe onto cloud storage if you have access. Or another external disk drive.

Then you can to use Disk Utility on a Mac.

Disk Utility, is disk management software built into Mac OS X. With Disk Utility you can format your NTFS external drive on your Mac.

But Disk Utility wipes any file on the drive.

So, unless you copy those files off first. You’ll be looking for the services of a data recovery company. With data recovery software to recover data.

But if you’d like to look at this option when check out this article on the site. Format Your External Hard Drive For Mac And Use Any Drive.

In Closing

And now you know how to go about transferring. Or copying files to your external hard drive from your Mac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air without formatting.

And why your NTFS disk is read only on your Mac and what to do about it.

While you’re here why not check out our other external hard drive related posts?

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