A Mac/PC Compatible External Drive: Meet exFAT

A Mac/PC Compatible External Drive: Meet exFAT

It’s been an issue for years: you have an external drive, but it’s formatted for a Mac, and you need to read it on a PC. Or it’s reversed: a PC drive that you need to write to from a Mac.

Sure, you could format it as FAT32 – but there’s a 4GB file-size limit, which means you’re screwed if you’re moving pro media files. And the software options aren’t always viable, especially if it’s a client delivery (they don’t like being told they have to buy software to watch their content).

What to do?


exFAT is a filesystem developed by Microsoft for flash drives. It works in most version of Windows starting with XP, as well as OS X starting at 10.6.5. Either OS can read, write, repair, and format the exFAT filesystem. Unfortunately there’s no built-in Linux support – since it’s a proprietary and patent-pending filesystem, it can’t be included in the official releases. But it can be added in, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Most external drives don’t come formatted as exFAT, so you’ll have to do that yourself. If you’re wondering, the default allocation size on exFAT is 128KB. This is larger than NTFS, which means that files smaller than 128KB will be stored more inefficiently. Does that matter? Probably not, especially when dealing with media files.

So there you go – if you run into this issue frequently, give exFAT a shot.