How to make NTFS-formatted disks writable on Mac

Let’s set aside data security and privacy for a while and discuss a little about productivity. In this article, we will be talking about how you can make NTFS-formatted disks writable on MacOS systems.

MacOS, regardless of the version, by default mounts NTFS file systems as read-only. MacOS Catalina is Apple’s newest operating system. New Technology File System (NTFS), on the other hand, is the file system that Windows OS uses.

When you are working in mixed computing environment, i.e., switching between Windows and Mac, it can be a pain to having to deal with issues moving/writing files.

To resolve this issue, we have come up with three ways to make NTFS-formatted disks writable in the Mac. Here are as follows:

The Long Way method

This method can be tricky to setup as it requires you to install third-party tools, and also involves modifying some configuration files in the system.

Time needed: 20 minutes.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Install Mac OS X Fuse on your computer

    Download and install the latest Mac OS X Fuse here.

  2. Install MacOS command line tools

    Installing command line tools is required for some of the third-party drivers to work. It is also required for installing and compiling NTFS-3G. To do this, open Terminal and enter the code below:

    sudo xcode-select --install

  3. Install NTFS-3G

    The easiest way to install NTFS-3G is by using HomeBrew, a command-line package installer for the Mac. Install HomeBrew as described on their website https://brew.sh or, enter (copy & paste) the code below:

    /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/HomeBrew/install/master/install"

    Once HomeBrew is installed, enter the following code:

    brew install ntfs-3g

  4. Disable MacOS System Protection Temporarily

    We do this so that we can modify MacOS system files, especially, the mount_ntfs config file. This would make our changes permanent. So you won’t have to do it all over again when restarting the computer.

    To disable system protection, restart the computer recovery mode. To start recovery mode, turn on the computer, then press & hold the keys (CMD + R) immediately after the boot chime. Release until you see the Apple startup logo.

    Once started, open Terminal and enter the code below:

    csrutil disable

    Then, restart the computer normally.

  5. Replace Mac’s default mount_ntfs config file with NTFS-3G mount_ntfs file

    Make a backup first incase you want to revert to the default config later.

    sudo mv /sbin/mount_ntfs /sbin/mount_ntfs.orig

    Create a symbolic link of the NTFS-3G mount_ntfs file

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

  6. Restart the Mac to apply all the changes

    Restart the Mac and connect your NTFS-formatted disk. You should now be able to write on it!

  7. Re-enable System Integrity Protection

    Make sure to re-enable system integrity protection to avoid accidentally overwriting other system files!

    csrutil enable

The Shorter Method

Although this works, you’ll have to manually configure the config files every time you connect a new drive or if the name of your external device has changed. Otherwise, you don’t need to repeat the steps below.

One caveat though, the external drive won’t be visible on your desktop nor on the left pane side of the Finder window.

Mount the drive and take note of its name. For example, YOURDRIVENAME. Open Terminal and enter the following command:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Append the following code in the configuration file below:

LABEL=YOURDRIVENAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Close and save the config file by pressing Ctrl + O to save, then Ctrl + X to exit.

Unmount the NTFS drive and plug it again. Then, from the Finder menu, click Go > Go to Folder, then enter /Volumes.

You should then be able to see the NTFS volume (YOURDRIVENAME) on the list.

The Short Way

If you don’t want hassle, we recommend that you simply install Microsoft NTFS for Mac for only $19.95.

Stay productive!

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