I'm at crossroads and would love some insight across the Mac/PC spectrum on this:

Currently I work in a PC environment, however I am preparing to invest in a Macbook within the near future - to run PT and be portable for being at the stage and so forth. The PC remains my primary work station, the Macbook to be a secondary, mobile workstation, but still retaining all necessary capabilities such as plugins and FX library. The PC has MacDrive 9 Pro installed. A major reason for having this Macbook as a secondary system is that it gives my internal workflow ecosystem the full spectrum of Mac-PC interoperability.

So, I'm preparing to migrate my FX library to a new 3 TB external (to future-proof it as far as disk space, ruggedness, and USB 3.0 ability are concerned). I currently have a copy of it on a 2TB drive formatted as NTFS (this will become a backup, to incrementally updated).

The crossroads I'm at are, do I format this new 3TB as NTFS or HFS+ (Journaled)? And subsequently, if I go with NTFS, how reliable and robust is Paragon NTFS? As in, can you actually trust Paragon with your data or has there been situations which have left you permanently calling into question how secure/reliable it is at not taking your drive partition down or something. Or one step further, would it be even better that my main FX drive ben HFSJ, and the primary backup be NTFS, just so there's some level of redundancy? In the vain of how you never want to buy HDs of the same "batch" for a RAID since they're all likely to fail at the same time.

Unfrtunately, I have had the reliability of MacDrive called into question - a few months ago, a bug which was discovered to be leaving the partition header/catalog open to system access during read/write leaft the entire drive vulnerable and caused I/O instability. Thus, when it would become too unstable during a transfer, and the system would BSOD mid-transfer, the drive would be dead on re-boot (not physically dead, but the partition wiped out). Diskwarrior on a colleague's system couldn't even repair it it had been so corrupted. After a very intense discussion with Mediafour and many dump logs later, it appears the bug was isolated and resolved. In hindsight I had realized that the HFS drive which went down was not actually Journaled, since I had long-ago formatted it with MacDrive (versus on OSX) and never knew that MacDrive formatting never supported Juornaling. So to some degree, this drive was a sitting duck, and I am partially culpable for what had occurred.

However, even though this has been fixed and having since transferred TB's of data to and from HFS drives without a single reliability problem, this ONE situation has left me permanently on-edge and extremely apprehensive of setting this main FX drive as HFSJ. However I also want this drive to be easily usable (or native in an HFSJ-sense) on the Macbook in a future-proof sense, but alas I have no track record with Paragon NTFS for the demands of post production.

I'd love some thoughts on this, especially from those who have used Paragon NTFS. My head is spinning a little bit - probably over thinking it. You might call me obsessive about it, but as I'm sure many of you know first-hand, your FX library is your "job security". Unfortunately thanks to the MacDrive snafu it has become more than an easy, no-questions-asked decision for me (run it as HFSJ) of how to maintain and future-proof this FX library "job security".

Note: I have zero interest in FAT and exFAT. I'm strictly speaking between NTFS and HFSJ

UPDATE: Thanks everybody for the input and insight, invaluable points of view and situations to consider. I'll be getting Mediafour on the horn to see what they have to say about the bug fix (whether it truly was the antidote - the voicemail they left for me last week wasn't reassuring, hence the consideration) or whether it still remains too risky for my liking. Definitely liking the mirrored-copy-in-different-filesystems idea to implement over the next few months as a primer to investing in the Mac. I handn't directly thought about having two "live" FX drives synced but tied to each individual system instead of the hassle of trying to share one "live" the whole way around. It makes perfect sense actually. Keep it simple. If anyone has further insight, by all means please feel welcome to share it! Thanks so far everyone, I appreciate the ideas.

4 Answers 4


I hate to bring bad news but I don't think you can have a single NTFS or HFS+J/HFSX filesystem that will work stable to read and write data across both Windows and OS X computers. In 15 years of fiddling with drives and all sorts of filesystems I haven't once found a software solution that would write in a reliable way to a non-native FS, especially long term. I've used Paragon HFS (no fun memory) and OSX Fuse (then MacFuse) I wouldn't trust either with writes, only reads.

Both NTFS and HFSJ are updated on a regular basis, behind closed doors, so there's no guarantee of trouble-free operation, with any software solution. A RAID-like box may abstract the filesystem away but is a hardware unit (slower and failures are very painful).

How often do you "kick the drive from the workstation then head to the stage?". At the cost of hard drives these days I think a mirror drive of the other filesystem kind would be mandatory.

I like Macs so I like HFSJ more than NTFS, but they are both robust and mature filesystems. If your main workstation is a PC then go with NTFS and simply sync to an HFSJ volume once a week.

If I'm not wrong, OSX has native read support for NTFS drives (Windows can't read HFS ones). That should be enough for your Mac system to 1) synchronise to a HFS+ volume, and 2) access the NTFS volume in case of failure with the HFS+ one.

One thing you probably won't want to do is split your big drive into smaller partitions. It becomes a pain in the long term.

  • Thanks! I agree, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to have 1 drive in each filesystem. Don't have a budget set aside at this very moment to pickup a second one, so it's a baby-steps kind of situation. In which case maybe the more sensinle thing to do is keep this one as NTFS - then a month or two from now, mirror it to an identical 3TB drive as HFSJ and just keep each drive labeled appropriately. Good ideas ou pointed out. At the moment, not at the stage often, but I need to be prepared at a moments-notice to some degree. Commented May 20, 2013 at 15:39

I've met no problems with Paragon software, but neither have with Tuxera NTFS-3G.

If your main computer runs Windows, then it's probably easier to have the drive use NTFS and have the Mac access it (NTFS drives can be read, but not written to out-of-the-box. Write-support comes with those 3rd party software.).

  • Thanks for the feedback! Yes, any drive I create will always need to be read/write on both systems, in which case being native for one and accessible via third party software for the other. Commented May 20, 2013 at 6:37

I've got to say, this is fraught territory. At work I'm shuffling video files between a Mac, a PC and five FAT32 hard disk recorders. The Mac plays well with the FAT32 drives, but two of our NTFS drives have become munted whilst transferring with Paragon NTFS, and they are currently at the data recovery shop being scanned for salvageable material. Working with NTFS drives has been the nadir of my professional workflow.

I'm not really sure what the solution is, though, as I haven't come across it yet. I think either funnelling transfers through Ethernet or transferring to a drive split into NTFS/HFSJ partitions and then transferring between them could have something to it, but to be honest, who can be bothered going through the stress? At least with audio files you're looking at tens of Gb rather than hundreds, though!

  • 1
    Excellent points, this is what has me starting to lean toward going HFSJ for the FX library - it seems that HFSJ plays nicer on Windows overall (with the right tools of course) than what you have described for NTFS not playing so nice on OSX (even with equal but opposite tools). The intention is to be simple. Kick the drive from the workstation, head to the stage, fire up the Mac and connect the drive - ready to go with the same library 1:1 at my fingertips. Commented May 20, 2013 at 8:03

I suggest you eliminate from the single-point-of-failure of one external hard drive to something more robust. The question is not whether your hard drive will fail, but when. Messing around with filesystems will never rule out physical failures or an OS writing corrupt data.

Option 1 - the external drives don't cost a lot, so why not buy two? There will be some increased overhead in handling the synchronicity between the drives, but that can be automated and done at night.

Option 2 - invest in a Network-attached RAID system: across the network, there are no issues with filesystems as that's taken care of by the NAS, you can do backups and synchronization across multiple computers, and even make your data available over the internet (only to you, of course). Synology and Qnap make systems that are robust and easy to configure. You can keep your usb-drive for portable gigs of course.

Regarding the filesystem: The portable drive is mainly for use on the road, with your mac, right? So I would treat it as a mac-accessory and format it as hfs+ (journaled). You can exchange data between mac and pc over ethernet, and perhaps keep a small ntfs partition on the portable drive just for quick transfers (temporary, not used as storage). Give the pc its own storage, and keep it synchronized.

  • Thanks for the feedback! Trust me, I totally want to go RAID 5 as soon as possible :). At the moment though it's a budget thing, and the fact that the library size hasn't quite crossed the threshold yet where a RAID is outright necessary (e.g. Still conveniently fits on a single, albeit large, drive). So I go with the multi backup method for now and it has served me well. Looking to just future-proof it in my workflow just a tad bit longer before RAID is inevitable. The first option sounds similar to @georgi, and I'm really liking this idea you both present Commented May 20, 2013 at 16:36

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