As I said in my MacBook Pro review, my now 3mth old MacBook Pro is my first Mac computer EVER. Up until I bought my MacBook Pro in December all my HDDs were formatted with NTFS. That worked fine for me, as I never had to connect them to Macs. The problem is NTFS can only be read by Mac OS X, not written to, which presents a problem when I want to connect one of my existing HDDs to my MBP and transfer data to it. Please excuse the incredibly crude diagram above
To solve that problem I bought a new 250GB drive and stuck it in a Firewire case. 250GB HDDs are really cheap these days so it wasn’t really an issue to get it, but I still would like to be able to transfer stuff to my NTFS drives once in a while.
The other day I had a rather round-about way that just might let me connect my NTFS HDD to my MacBook Pro and have full read and write access. For this little trick you will need Parallels with Windows XP installed. Windows 2000 or Windows Vista should work fine too I should think, but I have not personally tried them. Windows 2000 may actually be a better choice as it is less resource hungry than Windows XP. Note that this will only work with USB HDDs and not Firewire ones. Don’t expect great speeds either. The important thing is it works! I would also highly recommend 2GB of RAM, as Windows XP likes a fair bit of RAM for itself. I have 512MB set for Windows XP and it works very well.
With Windows installed and setup, including installing the Parallels Tools, you are ready to get this going. Connect your HDD to your Mac, which should detect it and show it in your drives list. You will be able to read the files on the drive, but you won’t be able to transfer anything to it.
Start your Windows virtual machine. Once it has finished loading, go to “Devices”, “USB” and select your HDD, which should be called something like “Mass Storage Device”. Your Mac will lose the drive (and probably display a warning that it was not disconnected correctly) and Windows will do its thing and install the HDD like a normal Windows PC does.
The USB HDD will appear in your My Computer like a regular HDD. Go to “Devices”, “Network Adaptor”, and select “Shared Networking”. Go back into your Windows VM, right click your HDD in My Computer, and select “Sharing and Security”. You will likely have to click the “understand this risk” warning before you can access the settings. Tick “Share this folder on the network” and give it a simple but meaningful name. I called mine “NTFSHDD”, as this name is what will be displayed back in Mac. Make sure you tick “Allow network users to change my files”. After all, that’s exactly what we are trying to do
Now all that is left it to make the drive appear in Mac OS X. This is done by mapping the network drive that appears on your Windows VM. You will need both the network name of your Windows VM (I called mine MacBookXP) and the HDD sharing name you entered earlier (mines NTFSHDD). Go into Finder, click “Go” on the menu bar, and select “Connect to Server”. In the field enter “smb://macbookxp/NTFSHDD” (without quotes), using the computer name and share name you set earlier.
Click connect and after a few seconds a new network drive will appear in Finder with your NFTS drive, fully readable and writable.
Don’t expect it to be a speed demon however. Using my NTFS formatted 2.5” 4200RPM 100GB HDD I got write speeds of about 3MB/second, which considering how odd the setup is doesn’t seem all that bad. I would have hoped for better, but it is enough for transferring files to an NTFS HDD when necessary. It’s pretty easy to setup, only taking about a minute, so it’s not like your wasting a major amount of time just to get 3MB/sec for the occasional transfer. I’d say the speed is due to limitations in Parallels, but it is definitely better than nothing.
If anyone else has an easier, faster, or easier AND faster way of doing this, I would LOVE to know, but for now this is working pretty well for me.