How to Write to NTFS Drives on a Mac

By Chris Hoffman on December 14th, 2015

External hard drive connected to laptop

Mac OS X can read from NTFS drives, but it can’t write to them unless you use one of the below tricks. We highly recommend paying for a third-party NTFS driver if you need to do this as the other solutions don’t work as well and are more work to set up.

This could be useful if you want to write to a Boot Camp partition on your Mac, as Windows system partitions must use the NTFS file system. However, for external drives, you should probably use exFAT instead. OS X can natively read and write to exFAT drives, just like Windows can.

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Three Options

There are several options for this, and you’ll need to choose one:

  • Paid Third-Party Drivers: There are third-party NTFS drivers for Mac that you can install, and they’ll work quite well. These are paid solutions, but they’re easy to install and reportedly offer better performance than the free solutions below.
  • Free Third-Party Drivers: There are also free and open-source NTFS drivers you can install on a Mac to enable write support. Unfortunately, these take a bit of extra work to install, especially on OS X 10.11 El Capitan with the new System Integrity Protection feature. They may also not work as well as paid solutions, and may be slower.
  • Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Write Support: Mac OS X includes experimental support for writing to NTFS drives. However, it’s off by default and requires some messing around in the terminal to enable it. It isn’t guaranteed to work properly and could potentially cause problems with your NTFS file system — we really don’t recommend using this.

Paid Third-Party Drivers – The Easiest, But It’ll Cost You

Paragon NTFS for Mac costs $19.95 and offers a ten-day free trial. It’ll install cleanly and easily on OS X 10.11 El Capitan and “just work”, so it’s a good option if you’re willing to pay some money for this feature.

Note: Paragon is what we use here at How-To Geek, and if you need to frequently mount and write to NTFS drives on your Mac without worrying about corrupting files, it’s worth the money.

If you have a Seagate drive you want to write to, be aware that Seagate offers a free download of Paragon NTFS for Mac so you won’t have to purchase anything extra. You could also purchase Tuxera NTFS for Mac, which costs $31 and offers a fourteen-day free trial.

Free Third-Party Drivers – It’s Free, But Takes Some Extra Work

This method is free, but it requires a good bit of work. To do this, you’ll have to disable System Integrity Protection and then re-enable if after you’re done.

First, download osxfuse and install it.

Second, download and install homebrew if you haven’t already installed it on your Mac. Homebrew is a “package manager” for Mac OS X

You’ll need the command-line tools installed to continue. If you haven’t installed them yet, you can open a Terminal window from Applications > Utilities and run the following command to do so:

xcode-select –install

Once you have, run the following command in a Terminal window to install ntfs-3g from Homebrew:

brew install homebrew/fuse/ntfs-3g

Next, you’ll need to disable System Integrity Protection. Reboot your Mac and hold Command+R while it’s booting. It’ll boot into a special recovery mode environment.

Launch a terminal from the Utilities menu in recovery mode and run the following command:

csrutil disable

Once you have, reboot your Mac normally.

From the Mac desktop, open a Terminal window again and run the following commands to make ntfs-3g function:

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

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

Lastly, re-enable System Integrity Protection. Reboot your Mac and hold Command+R while it’s booting to enter recovery mode. Launch a terminal in recovery mode and run the following command:

csrutil enable

Once you have, reboot your Mac. NTFS-write support should be functioning now.

To undo your changes and uninstall everything, you’ll need to first disable System Integrity Protection. After you do, run the following commands:

sudo rm /sbin/mount_ntfs

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

brew uninstall ntfs-3g

You can then uninstall FUSE for OS X from its panel in the System Preferences window and re-enable System Integrity Protection

Apple’s Experimental NTFS-Writing Support – The Least Stable, Don’t Do This

We don’t recommend the below method because it’s the least tested. This might not work properly — don’t blame us or Apple if you experience problems.

First, be sure that your drive has a convenient single-word label. If it doesn’t, change its label. This will make this process easier.

You’ll first need to launch a terminal. Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal or press Command+Space, type Terminal, and press Enter.

Type the following command into the terminal to open the /etc/fstab for editing in the nano text editor:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Add the following line to nano, replacing “NAME” with the label of your NTFS drive:

LABEL=NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Press Ctrl+O to save the file after you’re done, and then press Ctrl+X to close nano.

(If you have multiple NTFS drives you want to write to, add a different line for each.)

Connect the drive to the computer  — unplug it and reconnect it if it’s already connected — and you’ll see it under the “/Volumes” directory. In a Finder window, you can click Go > Go to Folder and type “/Volumes” into the box to access it. It won’t pop up automatically and appear on your desktop like drives normally do.

To undo this change later, just repeat the above process to open the /etc/fstab file in nano. Delete the line you added to the file and save your changes.

Most Mac users will be better off formatting external drives with exFAT, ensuring they work well on both Windows and Mac OS X without any extra work. if you must write to an NTFS drive, one of the paid, third-party drivers will be the best-performing, least-effort option.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/14/15
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