Share exfat external drive on Mac with PC

Hewlett-packard / Cq5300y
November 8, 2017 at 17:17:56
Specs: MacOS Sierra 10.12.6, Intel Core i7/16GB
I have an external drive that was formatted as an exFAT drive on Windows 7. It used to be connected to the Windows PC on my home network and I was able to access (read & write) to it from the Macbook Pro mid-2014 retina (Sierra).

It's now connected directly to the Mac. The MBP can still read & write to it, but I want to share it with the Windows 7 PC. How do I do that? I don't want to erase the drive, partition it or reformat it, because it's loaded with data, but that seems to be the only choices Disk Utility gives me.

Thanks in advance for your help!

- Susan

See More: Share exfat external drive on Mac with PC

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November 8, 2017 at 19:19:34
Your missing some info here. If it was formatted on a Windows system with an exFAT partition, then returning it to a Windows system shouldn't be a problem.

Why do you think you need to erase the drive?

message edited by THX 1138

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November 9, 2017 at 02:49:15
Just to clarify your situation...

You have a home lan (network) and it has a winows system and a Macbook on it. The external drive, how "was" it connected to the windows PC - presumably via usb? And now it's connected (via usb) to the Mac?

How did you access the drive when it was attached to the windows PC?

Were you able to access the PC from the Mac, and if so then how? Did you create an account on the PC to enable/allow you loginto it from. the Mac?

Incidentally, I would hope that the data onthe external drive is safely duplicated elsewhere, in-case of that drive failing...?

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November 9, 2017 at 15:38:47
Thanks, guys, for the replies. I've tried a few different configurations in trying to get this to work, so I'll clarify what I've done since posting here.

I thought maybe the problem was that the USB drive had been initially formatted as exFAT on the Windows 7 machine, so I grabbed a new Thunderbolt 2.0 external, plugged it into the Macbook Pro, and formatted it for exFAT on the Mac. Next, I copied all the files from the USB drive onto the Thunderbolt drive. Then I turned on file sharing for that drive, Read & Write, under my main admin user account for the Mac.

The Windows 7 PC can see the Macbook Pro on the network... but when I try to connect to it and access the shared external drive using my Mac admin user account credentials, it says "unknown username or password" -- even though I know I'm using the right ones.

I'm starting to think this is more a networking issue than anything else. I've been a PC person for years, and only recently moved to Mac as my primary machine. Does Mac not allow us to use the main admin account when connecting from another machine on a network? Do I need to create a different user account, and share the external drive from that account?

Thanks again for your help!

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November 10, 2017 at 06:22:36
Rather than go through very truncated/brief how to here, have a look at these how to...

Incidentally... if the drive is ntfs and plugged directly into a Mac system then to read 'n write you need something like Paragon ntfs reader. There is free "read-only" version too. I have the full version and can highly recommend it.

I would however suggest that either you get yourself an external drive which has built-in network option - i.e. comes with an an on-board ethernet connection; and then simply add it to your network. Either Pc or Mac can then access it as the file format of the drive is abstracted (removed) from the equation; meaning that over a network file format compatibility disappears to a large extent, although file permissions may remain in force in terms of access and what is allowed...

Likewise you can by an external case with ethernet opton and put a drive into that...

Equally, and in my view a better/safer route, get a simple NAS - a twin drive configured as a Raid-0/mirrored system. and use the current usb drive as a backup for that NAS. One ought always to ensure a server has s stand alone backup...

A mirrored NAS will safeguard data more completely; allow all computers to access its contents - as long as they have an authorised account to log into it.

I have an QNAPS ts210 - quite an olde one by current standards; mirrored system and it works very reliably. I had to replace an original hard drive when when that failed after quite sometime of continuous running. I actually replaced the good drive too as I wanted a better more hard wearing drive rather than the one it came with. There are three grades of drives from Western Digital; and for servers one goes for the higher spec'd - which don't cost that much more. The standard/lower spec is not designed for longer/continuous running - which is of course what they will endure in a server. The standard dries are usually found in laptops/desktops etc...

QNAP's tech support were top notch when I needed a little assistance - due to my lack of knowledge both NAS and also the Linux OS, which they use (as do just about all NAS and many satellite PVR boxes too)!

I have no affiliation with QNAPS just found them to be excellent; having taken advice for one my IT colleagues where I used to work at the time I was considering getting an NAS. He recommended them highly in preference to WD etc....

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November 10, 2017 at 15:46:25
Thanks for the recommendations, Trvlr.

The external drive is formatted exFAT - not NTFS - so both machines should be able to read & write to it.

I honestly think this is a networking flaw on the part of Windows 7 Home Premium, more than anything else. In a previous situation, before my current setup, I was using a USB external connected to the PC. Both machines were able to read and write to it... the Mac, because... well, because it's a much smarter machine (and seems to play nicely with others) and the PC, because the external drive was connected to it directly. Now that I'm trying to get the PC to play nicely with a drive connected elsewhere, I'm having trouble.

Thanks so much for the suggestion about NAS, too. I've considered such an approach before, but I'm hesitant to switch to a "cloud" approach. I travel often, but not always to places with Internet access. With a portable external drive, I just pack it in my kit along with the laptops and plug it in when I need to work.

I just don't understand why the PC can't connect to the MAC at all (not just to the external drive) when both machines are on the same home network and all the necessary "file sharing" options are turned on. ARGGG!

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November 10, 2017 at 16:43:39
An NAS is a local hardware setup. Essentially a Lnux based computer with two (or more) drives installed and both ethernet and usb conne tion - the latter options vary across makes and models.

I have an elderly Acer Aspire with xp-pro on it. When last I checked it happily connected to my Mac Mini (el capitan) Macbook Pro (also - I think - el capitan). I don't use my Macbook unless travelling. Both Macs were able to access the Acer and visa-versa... If I get time I'll power up the Acer and check how I set the Macs to allow it in. My best recollection is one creates an account for the Acer on the Macs - much as in winodws to windows etc...

Like you I often take an external drive with when travellng; and I ensure that anything I think L'll need is on that drive as well as the NAS. With Qnaps one can remote into one's NAS for free. WD, and possibly others too, used to require one to go via WD etc. and charged for that remote in service. That was another reason I opted for Qnaps whch did not have that money spinnng approach...

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November 11, 2017 at 12:32:51
Thanks, again, Trvlr.

In the meantime, while I ponder the NAS option, I'll need to figure out why I'm having this trouble.

I still can't fathom why the PC can see the Mac on the network but not connect to it. It must be a flaw somewhere in the networking of Windows Home Premium.

As crazy as this idea sounds, I may just test the thing with an old Vista laptop I have... to see whether I can connect from there. That might add some validation to the theory that it's something in Win 7 Home Premium.

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November 11, 2017 at 13:05:52
Have you actually "shared" something on the Mac - such as the documents folder?

Double checking Mac Mini to Macbook networking and not being able to connect to either (even though both were on the lan) I forgot I had to "share" something on each Mac...

Since last I had set it up I had changed my router and also re-assignend ip addresses on my home lan. I reserve a specific address for each device (on my home lan).

I prefer that approach - especially for printer/scanners etc...

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November 11, 2017 at 13:16:30
Yes, I'm actually sharing folders on the external drive that's connected to the Mac.

Here's the interesting thing I just discovered...

Although tempted, I did not test my new theory on the Vista laptop. I did, however, test it from another PC on the home network. The results were...

The PC running Windows 7 Professional can connect to the Mac, and its external hard drive, just fine.

The PC running Windows 7 Home Premium cannot.

So, the question do I make a Windows 7 Home Premium PC connect to the Mac? Through a Google search, I found the following:

Registry editing for LAN manager authentication level (in Home edition this can be configured through registry)

How to do it:
1 . Open registry editor ( Start search - regedit)
2 . Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa
3. Create a new DWORD value with the following properties: NAME: LmCompatibilityLevel

I tried this, but it did not work. Short of upgrading this PC to a different version of Windows (Win 7 Pro or Win 10?), can you think of anything else to try?

Thanks again for all your help, Trvlr!

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November 11, 2017 at 13:46:00
That difference between win-7 Home and Pro does ring a bell; in that I recall there being comments that Home was really quite basic and limited in some areas - much as was XP Home compared to XP Pro.

I'm researching this as are you and found this M$-land article... Scroll down aways to the windows-7 section and perhaps that may help?

Although I think it may not be quite the info required just now... but worth a look-see at least?

message edited by trvlr

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November 11, 2017 at 13:59:34
The external drive is formatted exFAT - not NTFS - so both machines should be able to read & write to it

Can you confirm that the Mac system can/does access/read etc the external drive OK?

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November 11, 2017 at 14:07:19
Came across this older discussion from Tom's Hardware and if you scroll down a little it seems that if the Mac system formatted the external drive as exfat32 then windows won't like it. But presumably if windows formats etc then Mac i OK about it?

And if you read through the assorted comments it seems to explain why when Mac formats the drive it doesn't work - initially; and appears to suggest a solution? Issue is GUID versus MBR...

message edited by trvlr

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November 11, 2017 at 14:22:35
And this is general discussion all about sharing a usb drive between Mac/Windows. I think it gets lost in the bushes in part... But way down there are some interesting comments re' an NAS and how to use it - especially having a usb drive attached to it for an NAS backup...

You'll note that QNAPS get a decent mention; as does Synergy. As I commented earlier, I went for QNAPS and have found their tech support "top notch".

Incidentally I use ntfs on all my drives other than the resident/installed drive in my Mac systems. As the drives are either networked - or shared from a given computer (the drive being a usb connection to a given computer) over a network - the ntfs file system is removed from the equation when they are accessed by a system that doesn't natively fully support ntfs.

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November 11, 2017 at 14:22:42
Wow! Great info!

Yes, the Mac can read and access the exFAT external drive just fine. And the Windows 7 Professional PC can read and access it as well. However, I DID format it on the Mac... so maybe that's the reason Windows 7 Home Premium can't.

I think I'll try the suggestion and format it on the PC. I'll post back to let you know how it goes!

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November 11, 2017 at 14:38:01
Oh, shoot. I forgot. I can't format the drive from the PC, because it's a thunderbolt external.

I might have to upgrade Windows 7 Home Premium. It's probably not a bad idea in general.

Another issue I may have with taking the NAS approach is... I have no available ethernet ports on my Comcast Xfinity router. I will check out the link you provided, though, because I do want to learn more about NAS.

Thanks again!

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November 11, 2017 at 14:46:07
Which exact model router do you have; and do you have a separate modem and a router; or is it an al-in-one?

How many ethernet ports are there on the router you have?

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November 11, 2017 at 14:57:44
Does not the external drive have a usb option as well? I ask as a quick browse of those devices seems to suggest that many offer both usb and thunderbolt connection.

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November 11, 2017 at 15:03:59
Further browsing doth seem to confirm that you can go Thunderbolt (TB) to usb but not the other way round.. There are adapters for TB to USB etc. but not usb to TB. Thus your TB external drive requires a TB port, unless it does have a usb port as well?

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November 11, 2017 at 15:33:27
The router is a "voice and data modem" - Cisco DPC3941T. It can support four devices via ethernet, and there are currently four devices connected to it.

The external drive DOES have a USB port as well as Thunderbolt. I'm using it on the Mac via Thunderbolt because it's faster. Plus, the Mac is much faster than the PC.

This is probably a dumb question, but...

If I connect it to the PC via USB, and format it for exFAT on the PC, will I then be able to connect and use it as a Thunderbolt drive on the Mac?

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November 11, 2017 at 15:54:55
No question asked is ever dumb - only the one not asked is...

Not having ever knowingly us exfat32 I can only guess that i will work as you suggest. That guess being based on the info just above re' the issue of Mac formatted exfat32 beng "unfriendly" to windows OS; but not when done the other way round?

If that doesn't work then go wih ntfs and at least get the freebie version of Paragon ntfs reader for ? The full version isn't too expensive and useful to have around?

Equally an ntfs extenal drive attached to the wndows system ought to accessble via the PC over the lan. If the ntfs drve is attached to the Mac via usb then you will need the ntfs reader software on the Ma to allow windows to get to it via the Mac on the lan.

What is using up all your router ports?

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November 11, 2017 at 15:58:51
To have additional ethernet ports you can use an extra pice of kit - a switch which connects to a port on the router...

This article explains in more detail:

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November 11, 2017 at 16:01:45
It's my bedtime... (I'm currently in the UK), so will be back here in few hours or so...

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November 12, 2017 at 10:26:01
Thanks, Trvlr.

So I tried the suggestion you found in a Tom's Hardware forum about formatting the drive to exFAT on the PC and THEN connecting it to the Mac for sharing. The Mac has no trouble reading/writing to the drive. (The Mac also has no trouble reading/writing to the PC's shared folders.) The Windows 7 Home Premium PC, however, STILL cannot connect to the exFAT external drive on the Mac. Very strange!

Given the fact that the Windows 7 Professional PC on the network CAN connect, I think I'll just have to upgrade the OS. It seems at this point, that would be the quickest, easiest solution.

I'll definitely consider the NAS approach for backup purposes, though. It turns out I do have one available ethernet port on my router. However, I'm not sure it's the best solution for my immediate needs... partly for the traveling reason I mentioned earlier. Also because I use this external drive like one would an internal drive - opening files, making changes, saving, closing, reopening, etc. In other words, it's constantly active and used almost as the primary drive.

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November 12, 2017 at 13:00:04
mmm Does look like Home is somewhat hamstrung so as to force users to go to Pro...

I seem to recall comments about it being somewhat "denatured" as it were...

Re' your ethernet port situation. You can easily have more for "a few dollars (more.. - sounds familiar Clint Eastwood?).

All you need s switch which would plug into one of the router's four ports. The switch then will provide several more ports via that router port which serves that switch.

Typical switches can be found here; and also egghead to mention but two reliable sources.

An NAS can be used just like any hard drive...; open, edit etc., delete, create new files/folders and so on. All you have to do is practice dafe technique and regularly backup the MAS to a stand alone (usb connected) hard drive. That drive would normally not go on line either...

For travelling you can easily have another external drive with the stuff you want with you on that; even a duplicate backup of the server system? Most NAS also can be accessed remotely; but some vendors charge for that option. WD do; QNAPS doesn't - another reason I use the QNAP.

If you format your "problem" external drive as ntfs... then both Mac and PC can read it; if you stretch pennies for an ntfs reader app.on the Mac. Give the Mac the full read/write version and even better.. As I say earlier I have it and wouldn't consider never having it in the future...

Another reason for not having a solitary external drive with all one's "stuff" on it when travelling... Loss of the drive, physical damage etc.. and you're "up the creek"? A duplicate drive at least; and ideally the NAS too is safer.

Curt R, Wanderer, and one or two others here are very into switches, and remote login routines to NAS... My personal experience there is limited; although I know/understand the process. Their advice etc. on which switch to get would be useful to have. I'd opt for D-Link, Cisco-Linksys, Netgear; I'd avoid most of the rest... (unless the gurus here can/do recommend one as reliable and from their own experience).

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November 13, 2017 at 18:05:22
Thanks again, Trvlr, for all the great information.

Unfortunately, my theory proved incorrect. Windows 7 Home Premium appears not to have been the problem. I upgraded that PC this morning to Windows 7 Professional and I'm still not able to connect.

I'm going to post the issue under a different topic/title, because I don't think the problem has anything to do with the external drive. I'm getting an error trying to connect to ANYTHING on the Mac, and it may be related to SMB.

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November 14, 2017 at 01:25:43
mmm.... How odd....

What are you connecting to the Mac and how?

SMB is usually a network option, likewise AFP - if my understanding is correct.

See if this Apple-land article is of any help regardless?

And this may be of interest; even though it's a little datd it still applies to current Mac OSX and assorted windows...

message edited by trvlr

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November 14, 2017 at 11:03:13
Yes... extremely odd!

At this point, all I'm trying to do is connect to the Mac's shared folders. SMB appears to working just fine, because the other Win 7 Pro machine can connect to the Mac and vice versa.

It's gotta be something with this recently upgraded PC. I've ruled out a network adapter problem, because this PC can connect to the other Win 7 Pro machine on the network.

For the life of me, I just can't think of what else - what other settings, etc. - on this particular PC I should check as the possible cause of the problem.

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November 14, 2017 at 11:34:06
Can the Mac and PC each ping each other over lan?

Can you note and compare all settings on the PC which works with the Mac with those of the problem PC?

Any error messages at all?

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November 14, 2017 at 12:15:06
Yes. Both computers can see each other on the network. And the Mac can successfully access the PC's shared folders.

I thought about doing a comparison of settings between the two PCs, but other than checking to see if they're on the same network, I don't know which settings to check?

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November 14, 2017 at 14:15:00
The PC that’s ok - it has an account on the Mac? Does the problem PC have similar?

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November 14, 2017 at 16:16:54
Neither PC actually has an account on the Mac. The "okay" PC sees the Mac on the network and is able to connect to it when I enter the Mac's user credentials. The "problem" PC sees the Mac on the network, but cannot connect to it when entering the same Mac user credentials.

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November 15, 2017 at 03:53:21
Check the Apple-land "how to":

It may provide the missing resolution/info...?

Been so long since I set up sharing between my elderly Acer Aspire (XP-Pro vintage - 2005) and my two Macs that I'm a little rusty on what I needed to.

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November 15, 2017 at 10:35:47
Thanks, Trvlr!

I'll check it out. I think the problem is not Mac-related, though. Most likely something Windows-related with this one particular PC.

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