The Trials of Fat Formating

I just got myself a beautiful new Lacie USB2 external drive bay, with a 250GB Maxtor hard drive. The drive came pre-formatted in FAT32 that could be read on both Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.3.9 perfectly.

But that wasn’t good enough… oh no… I decided that I wanted better support for my Mac files, like iMovie projects etc, that have characters in the file names that can’t be stored on FAT32.

I decided that if I had a large FAT32 partition and an even larger HFS partition on the one drive, I could have the best of both worlds (Mac filename support with HFS, and Windows/Linux compatibility with FAT32).

What a mess…

YMMV, but my experiences are summarised below:

What didn’t work

Using Mac OS X Disk Utility

  1. Connect the external drive to your Mac
  2. Open /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app
  3. Select the external drive from the left column (not the partition displayed under the drive)
  4. Select the Partition tab
  5. Select 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme dropdown
  6. Set both to be formatted as Mas OS Extended (Journaled) and give each a Name
  7. Click the Partition button at the bottom of the window
  8. Once this is complete, open the Terminal /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app
  9. At the prompt, type: sudo diskutil eraseVolume MS-DOS NewName /Volumes/OldName/
    where NewName is the name you will give to the new FAT32 partition, and OldName is
    the name you gave the partition in step 6. above

Once that is complete, I now had 2 extra drives mounted on my Mac Desktop, a HFS drive and a FAT32 drive.

The problem here is that when the drive is connected to my Windows XP machine, it wouldn’t mount either of the partitions.

I’m not sure why this failed.

What did work

Using Windows XP Disk Management in conjuction with Mac OS X Disk Utility

  1. Connect the external drive to your Windows computer
  2. Right-click on My Computer, select Manage
  3. Click on Disk Management within Storage
  4. Right-click on the disk area and select “New Partition”
  5. Follow this procedure through twice, once for each partition. Format the first one as FAT32 (it will need to be smaller thatn 32GB), and leave the other partition unformatted. Assign drive letters to both.
  6. Once finished, Safely Remove the drive, using the icon in the system tray
  7. Connect the external drive to your Mac
  8. Open /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app
  9. Select the Partition tab
  10. Click on the open lock next to the FAT32 partition, to stop further changes to it. (The lock icon for this partition should now be closed)
  11. Click on the second partition, then select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) from the Format selection
  12. Click Partition

Once that process completed I had a FAT32 partition and a Journaled HFS+ partition. The FAT32 partition now mounts on both Mac and Windows.

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