Forum Question: HFS+ or Apple Partition Map

When formatting an external hard drive for use with both Windows and Mac. computers, what format should I use. The literature with the external hard drive states that it is formatted HFS+. What is the difference between (HFS+) and (Apple Partition Map)or(GUID) and (NTFS)? I tried to google the question but with little results. I hope that you can help me.
Don Swearingin

Comments: 2 Responses to “HFS+ or Apple Partition Map”

    12/23/10 @ 9:05 am

    HFS is better known as Mac OS Extended. Don’t know why the docs that came with your drive used HFS instead. If you leave the drive this format, it is optimal for Macs, but it won’t work at all on your Windows computer. You can buy and install special software that will allow you to access the drive on your Windows machine if you really want to.
    NTFS is a Windows format that won’t work on your Mac (read, not write, for the most part).
    Apple Partition Map and GUID are the old and new ways to partition the drives. Don’t worry about that. Use GUID — but you never really have a choice when using Disk Utility to reformat a drive.
    The best way to make a drive usable by both Mac and Windows is to format it as FAT32. This works well, though you can’t have files larger than 4GB. You can try the new ExFAT format, which just became available in Mac OS X 10.6.5. This removes the 4GB limit. But you need 10.6.5 on the Mac, and Windows 7 (maybe Vista works too) on the other side.

    Mike D
    12/27/10 @ 12:36 am

    Hey Don, I actually have a drive that I use back and forth between windows and Mac and what I found to be the best option is to download a free application called NTFS-3G, you can download it at and then once you have that installed you can format the drive as NTFS in Disk Utility and now you can read and write to it on your Mac, and you won’t have the 4GB limitation that you get from FAT32, hope this helps

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