Unable to Copy Files from Mac to External Hard Drive (2021)

You are here: Home / Mac / Unable to Copy Files from Mac to External Hard Drive

By David Leave a Comment

Because of limited SSD storage in most Mac computers, most people tend to use a hard drive for extra usable space. However, because of the Mac OS and SSD storage, you cannot use NTFS for writing data. While your Mac can read data from NTFS, it cannot write into it.

To fix this, you can either change your external hard drive disk’s type to an ExFat file system or adopt a bit more technical method if you are unable to format your hard drive because of data loss issues. Another method would be to artificially create NTFS support, but that is a somewhat costly method, because of the paid application.

Unable to Copy Files from Mac to External Hard Drive

Unable to Copy Files from Mac to External Hard Drive

Here are the ways to copy files and overcome the hurdle of NTFS support in copying files from your Mac to the external drive:

  • Force support for NTFS using third party paid apps

The first process you could try is to install apps (usually paid) to create support for copying data through integrated processes. Search for “NTFS for Mac” on the Mac App Store. You can check the listings, and “Paragon NTFS For Mac” will do a great job in making your Mac support writing on the external hard drive too. This software may also come free with some external hard drive vendors. After installing and setting up this application, your Mac should be able to show your external hard disk in the Finder like any normal attachment.

  • Formatting external hard disk into an ExFat file system

You should consider this option only if you have multiple hard drives to move all of your data into another one. Since this method relies on completely formatting your hard drive into an ExFat file system, you are going to lose ALL data. Backing up your hard drive before formatting is quintessential to this process. The process doesn’t take long at all, and you can simply connect your hard drive to the Mac and be done with formatting with a few clicks:

    • Open your hard disk by going to the Finder on your Mac.
    • In the left tab section of your External hard disk window, which also works as a formatting option. Here a drop-down list will open and choose the “Format” bar as “ExFAT” and then click on “ERASE”. You’re all done and your hard drive is compatible with both reading and writing on your Mac.
  • Using backend processes to force your Mac to copy

For people aware of Mac terminals and would like to take the risk of changing system protocols, this method still remains risky. Although the code should work, follow it at your own risk:

    • After connecting your hard drive to your Mac, open the Terminal window by searching for it in the Spotlight. Like with any process, to edit your Mac permissions protocol we first need to open the external hard disk drive location from the terminal using this exact code: diskutil info /Volumes/x | grep UUID. Here x has to be the exact name of your hard drive to be able to go to the location from your terminal.
    • The previous command will fetch the UUID for your hard disk which is the file folder identifier for the system to index it. Copy the exact UUID from the previous command and paste it into the brackets after the “=” sign in the following command: sudo echo “UUID= none ntfsrw,auto,nobrowse” >> /etc/fstab. This command enables the read and write support for your Mac into the hard disk.
    • Now you should be able to read and write into your external hard drive disk from your Mac.


While Mac OS does have all these restrictions in place to ensure better security, some can become a hindrance to everyday life. Taking steps like the third should be at your own risk, although it is simple code to edit file permissions in the backend, and is exactly what third party apps might do as well. Be sure to have a backup of your hard drive before changing any permissions before undertaking any processes to manipulate the hard drive as it can lead to data loss.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *