What Filesystem should I use for an external USB harddrive (500GB), with possibility to share with a Mac and Windows systems, for example at the office. Now it is NTFS but back in the day the NTFS support was not stable under Linux and I think it is not supported on a Mac.

I would just use FAT32, but it has 4GB file size limitation, do I overlooked any other option?

I looked here: filesystem types for partitions but a Mac is not mentioned.

edit Windows is the least important, I am not sure if I need Windows support at all. So what would I use just for Linux and Mac?

edit I am not so happy with the performance, I don't know if the problem lie in NTFS USB or whatever, but the process mount.ntfs has a high CPU usage while copying. I just get <10MByte/s writing


2 Answers 2


Usually i just go with NTFS. It's way better than FAT32, and it's relatively easy to install NTFS-compatibility on both Mac and Linux (compared to installing filesystems on Windows).

For Mac you need either the free NTFS-3g or the commercial version of the same, Tuxera NTFS. These are only needed if you want to be able to write to the disk. OSX can read NTFS.

For Linux, it's also NTFS-3g. To install it on Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install ntfs-3g.

  • I second Fraekkert, but I think that switching to a network drive would save you from these problems.
    – motumboe
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 9:47
  • 3
    Ubuntu 10.10 (and i think 10.04 also does...) comes with ntfs-3g already, like OSX it can out-of-the-box read NTFS yet you need ntfs-config from USC to write to the NTFS disk Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 9:49
  • I also second Fraekkert. Both Ubuntu and OSX comes with ntfs-3g support so NTFS is the best choice. If Windows was able to read other filesystems the situation would be different ;)
    – me4oslav
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 11:19
  • @Uri you can read and write ntfs out of the box in ubuntu lucid as well as maverick.
    – Lincity
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 12:53
  • ah, true, it's just that i had to install ntfs-config to actually, write to the NTFS disk Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 18:44

Just saw this in passing. I know its old thread but hey.

What about ExFat? It's OSX/Linux/Windows compatible, but please do check which versions of those its compatible with.

According to Wikipedia it is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT

Supported by: Windows XP and above OSX 10.6.5 and above Linux (don't know how far back support goes)

  • 3
    From the Wikipedia link: "[exFAT support] cannot become an official part of Linux due to the patent encumbered status of the exFAT filesystem". I definitely won't use it.
    – phunehehe
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 16:42
  • 6
    exFAT is not jounaled. It means that you have a high chance of damaging your filesystem whenever you disconnect your disk improperly. read: you gonna have to spend time repairing your drive more often than you expect Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 20:37

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