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The twiglet zone twixt Mac and Windows

October 26, 2009

So, B. bought a 500Gbyte disk to upgrade the 160Gb SATA drive in her fairly new laptop. Swapping the disk out was easy, and so was reinstalling the OS and applications, if a little boring.

But, what we ended up with was a spare 160Gb 2.5 inch disk and a USB case. Actually, we also had two other EIDE disks, a 40 Gb and another 160 Gb in similar cases.

So I says to B., “How do we want these formatted?”. She says,  “Any format that we can read from either a Mac or Windows.”

So I try NTFS – nope, Mac can’t write to it (but apparently can read it). Mac-OS extended – nope, Windows can’t handle it. FAT32, nope, Mac doesn’t understand it, then finally FAT16 – yippee, that works.

But wait, the ancestry of FAT16 goes back to 1984, with the IBM PC-AT (Wikipedia), when fixed disks came in small multiples of megabytes, not large multiples of gigabytes. That probably has to be the most archaic format possible, except perhaps whatever they used for punched cards.

I guess that Apple and Microsoft simply don’t want to coexist.

By the way, I had to use the Mac to partition the disks, because i) the Mac didn’t want to recognize any disk partitioned by a Windows machine, and ii) only the Mac knew about formatting with FAT16.

Score Windows 0, Mac 0

Categories: computery stuff
  1. S.
    November 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I discovered, purely accidentally, that FAT32 will indeed work with the Mac. How? I plugged the USB drive that B. uses with her Mac into one of the Windows machines. Hey Presto, I could read/write it. What was the format? FAT32.

    Aha. So how the heck do you format FAT32? The Format command only offers NTFS and exFAT (Vista and Server 2008).

    This link helped out.

    Except it didn’t. It would only format partitions less than 32 Gbyte. Long story short, it seems that the Mac formatted disks are indeed FAT32 (not FAT16, as I had alluded) and are not subject the 32 Gbyte limitation. Score Mac 1 Windows 0

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