So, you’ve put an external hard drive. Or USB flash drive or pen drive on your Mac.
And you can’t work out why you can’t copy your files from your MacBook Pro. Or other Mac to the external drive.
Perhaps there are even files on there you put on with a PC using Windows Explorer. Or File Explorer.
And you were able to copy those files from the drive, onto your Mac just fine.
But copying files back and your Mac says no.
Read on further to find out why.
Unable To Copy Files From Mac To External Hard Drive The Reasons Why
The most common reason you’re unable to copy files from your Mac to an external hard drive is. The external hard drive is NTFS formatted.
Your Mac can read a Microsoft NTFS drive. But a Mac can’t save files to the external hard drive.
Other reasons are: No permissions to copy files to the drive. Because of permission settings, or security software protecting access to the drive.
Solutions To Fix Unable To Copy Mac Files To External Hard Drive
First check the format of your drive. With the external storage device plugged into your Mac. Right click on your drive’s icon.
You’ll see a pop up window. Check what it says for the format.
In the above picture it says Windows NT File System (NTFS). This confirms this drive is in a NTFS format. And means your Mac is unable to copy files to this external hard drive.
Read on to check out the solutions. So you can fix your unable to transfer files from Mac to external hard drive issue.
1. Install NTFS Driver Software On Your Mac.
When you’ve used your external drive quite happily on a Windows PC. But you just can’t copy from your Mac to the drive. It’s a strong clue that the drive is an NTFS external hard drive.
The NTFS file system is a file system a Windows computer uses.
When you’ve already files on the drive and you don’t want to change anything on there. You just need to put some files on the drive from your Mac.
Then running driver software on your Mac computer, allows you to copy files to your external drive.
You’ll need to download and install the software on your Mac. Driver software lets your Mac copy files to the external hard drive.
Some drive manufacturers provide NTFS driver software for free. So, it’s always worth checking the maker’s site for software you can download.
Otherwise, the two main suppliers of driver software. And companies with the best reputations are Paragon software and Tuxera.
Paragon sells NTFS software for Mac – you load this software onto your Mac. And it lets your Mac copy files to a Windows PC NTFS formatted drive. This software makes a NTFS formatted drive look just like a Mac drive to your Mac. You can check it out here.
Tuxera sells Tuxera NTFS for Mac – it’s software that you install on your Mac. And it lets your Mac read and write to a Windows PC NTFS formatted external hard drive. You can take a look at Tuxera here.
Just check that any driver software you buy works with the Mac OS x you’re running. And supports the external drive you’re using.
2. Use Disk Utility To Format The Drive.
This lets you change the file system format of your external drive to a format a Mac can save files to.
Using Disk Utility to change the file system format of your external hard drive is only an option when.
There are no files on the drive you want.
Or you can copy those files off somewhere safe first, while you format the drive. And then copy your files back on again.
Disk Utility will wipe all files on your external storage device. So, this is not an option if you need to keep everything on your NTFS disk drive as it is.
Wipe your drive without moving your files. And you’ll be seeking the services of a Data Recovery company praying they can recover files. With no guarantee it’ll work.
So be sure you’ve nothing on the drive first.
Formatting your drive is a good option when.
This is a new drive and you plan to either use the drive only for your Mac. Or it’s a new drive you plan to share between a Mac and a PC. So, you’re happy to set the drive up so it’s shareable.
Format your external drive to fix when you’re unable to save files from Mac to external hard drive.
3. Check Permissions And For Security When Unable To Copy Files From Mac
When you’re sure your external disk drive is in a format your Mac can copy files to. You could be experiencing file permission or security issues.
Check for file permission issues by right clicking on your external disk drive’s icon. Click on Get Info from the menu that comes up.
Scroll down to the Sharing and Permissions section of that menu.
And check who can read and write.
Does your current logged in Mac user name have permission to Read and Write to the drive? Or does everyone have Read and Write permission.
Click on the Privilege next to the entry you want to change. And pick Read and Write from the pop up menu.
You may need to click on the lock icon on that menu and enter the administration password to change the setting.
But more likely is the external USB drive is protected. Either by password or security software. Some drives like the SanDisk Extreme. Or Samsung T7 come with software enabling hardware encryption.
Without that software installed on your Mac and the password for the drive. You’ll be unable to paste files from Mac to external hard drive.
Overview Of Formatting So You Can Copy Files From Mac
1. Plug In Your Hard Drive Into Your Mac.
2. Open Disk Utility.
You’ll find the software inside the Applications folder. Inside there you’ll see the Utilities folder. Double click on the Utilities folder.
Then double click Disk Utility to start up the software.
3. Click Your Drive Under The External Heading.
Then Click Erase across the top of the pop up window.
4. Complete The Format Screen.
Format your external hard drive to APFS (Apple File System) or Mac OS Extended Journaled file system. Then click the Erase button.
If you want your hard disk drive only as a Mac hard drive. Then you’re done.
You can now use your Mac drive for copying files. Use to paste your Mac files to. Or you can use the external drive for a Mac Time Machine backup.
If you want your drive as a shareable drive between a Mac and a PC. Then step through the process again and this time pick the ExFAT file system format.
Both a Mac and a PC can read and write. Copy and paste files to and from a drive formatted with an ExFAT file system.
For more details and information. Take a look at this post here on the site. “How To Make External Hard Drive Compatible With Mac And PC.”
And now you know some reasons why you can’t copy your files from your Mac. Or MacBook Pro or Air to an external hard drive.
For the most part when you’re unable to move files from Mac to external hard drive. It’s because the drive isn’t a fully compatible Mac external hard drive.
While you’re here, please feel free to take a look the other articles around this subject on the site.
How To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive Without Formatting
(Which To Pick?) Best Format For Mac External Hard Drive
[How To] Format External Hard Drive For Mac? Easy Steps
What’s the Best External Hard Drive for Mac. Find a Great One Fast
About Paul Gregory
I’ve been a system administrator for various corporates for 15 years. And as admin I’ve helped many with their Mac’s and there many Apple devices.
I’m excited by watching users, armed with a little knowledge take control of their Mac’s and their files. And why not?
When I’m not at work or working on the site I like to chill with few beers. And watch a bit of car racing. From Formula 1 to stock car racing. The competition is my thing.