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Several time recently I've seen UDF suggested as the solution to a cross platform format for a drive used on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows XP and above.

I've searched here and not found the same suggestion (most are suggesting ntfs-3g which seems to cost money and isn't preinstalled on a Mac).

So my question is: how is this done right, and has anyone done this? Have you then filled up the drive and deleted some files to make space finding that everything works like a real r/w format even though it seems to have been primarily a write once format?

Call me crazy but I'd really like it if the UDF system would also automount and be writable by the logged in user. What I've tried so far (udftools formatting as mentioned by kicsyromy) doesn't address this wish.

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One clarification: ntfs-3g is free. Its source code is gratis (i.e., available at no cost). It is also free as in freedom. ntfs-3g is the NTFS driver in Ubuntu! It's slightly technical to manually build/install it on OS X, and Tuxera (its developer) offers a proprietary payware version that is essentially the free ntfs-3g driver built and packaged for easy installation and use on OS X. Without an add-on driver, OS X will only read (not write) NTFS volumes, so you're right to consider another filesystem. –  Eliah Kagan Jul 11 '13 at 23:44
@EliahKagan So if ntfs-3g is "free", then why hasn't Apple included it to allow r/w support for NTFS? –  user29020 Apr 18 at 20:49
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

EDIT: I just tested this out in a VM. It seems that you need to (re)create your partition in Windows assign it a drive letter but don't format it to any filesystem. After that boot into Ubuntu and just follow the directions and it should work for read/write.

Remember to backup all your data!

First off install UDF tools:

sudo apt-get install udftools

Replace the first block with nothing on the partition you wish to format to UDF(*):

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdxN bs=512 count=1

And finally format to UDF(*):

sudo mkudffs --media-type=hd --blocksize=512 /dev/sdxN
  • x is a placeholder for the letter curently assigned to your hardisk

  • N is a placeholder for the partition number

Best of luck and let me know if it worked out for you. Cheers, Calota Romeo

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Thanks this answers the how; I would still be interested in finding out if it works well enough with the above scenario. –  dlamblin Feb 25 '11 at 0:17
This worked perfectly for me. The only issue is that I have to manually mount the partition in Windows using Disk Manager. Other than that, I can confirm that it works with multiple partitions on the hard-disk as well (I'm using 1udf+2ext4) –  Capt.Nemo Sep 3 '12 at 0:47
The key here seems to be to actually create a partition and then create a UDF file system in there. If you don't create any partition, it'll work in Linux, but it won't in Windows (7). That's my experience. –  DanMan Nov 3 '12 at 23:57
@DanMan Dan seems to have found someone who solved that issue and provides a script for formatting a whole disk with UDF for Linux, Mac and Windows 7, as well as read-only in Win XP. –  dlamblin Jul 10 '13 at 16:10
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Someone did some research into how to format a flash drive with udf so it can be used on as many operating systems as possible. His findings are at http://sipa.ulyssis.org/2010/02/filesystems-for-portable-disks/ and there's a script to format the disk properly at http://sipa.ulyssis.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/udfhd.pl_.txt

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Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the links for reference. –  Eliah Kagan Jul 11 '13 at 23:45
@EliahKagan Thanks for the suggestion. I'll do that next time. –  Dan Jul 13 '13 at 4:48
I tried some variations on the instructions I linked to above and couldn't get a disk that worked on different versions of OS X. –  Dan Jul 13 '13 at 4:49
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