How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac

An incompatible file system, wrong permission settings, and unexpected formatting error can potentially cause the external hard drive to appear as “read onlyOn a Mac. Fortunately, there are solutions to these problems, either by formatting the drive, changing the settings, or repairing it.

Sometimes when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, you will find that it is set up as read-only. This happens because the drive is formatted with Microsoft’s NTFS file system, which macOS doesn’t support by default. Fortunately, this error is so easy to fix that your external hard drive becomes not read-only.

There are several ways to unlock an external hard drive on a Mac, from reformatting it to installing an application that lets you write to NTFS volumes. For advanced users, there are also more serious and experimental solutions. Let’s get started.

How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac - Mac

1. If the drive is empty

If the drive is empty, you are in luck. You can easily reformat it to what you need and move on.

To get started, connect the drive to your Mac, then open Disk Utility. Now select the drive in the sidebar and click to survey.

How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac - Mac

Which configuration option you should choose depends on how you use the drive:

  • Save Backups from Time Machine: If you plan to use the drive to back up your Mac with Time Machine, you will need to format the drive to HFS +. In Disk Utility, this option appears as Mac OS Extended.
  • flash driveIf you are looking to create a flash drive to use with your Mac and other operating systems like Windows, choose exFAT. If you only work with Macs, you can format your drive so that it is either HFS With the option of Mac OS Extended or with a file system APFS the most recent.
  • Work with older devices: This is rare, but if you are going to use the drive on an old device that does not support exFAT , you may have to choose an option Fat the oldest. In most cases, you should not use this option because it restricts you to using a drive with a size of less than 32 GB.

2. If you need a one-time repair

Warning! Below is a description of how to enable experimental NTFS support on Mac. There is a very high chance of something going wrong, causing data loss on the target drive. We recommend that you do not rely on this method of writing to important folders or as a long-term solution.

Sometimes you may need to write some files to a locked drive that is read only once, and you can do that using the built-in Mac tools. But while macOS can read NTFS drives by default, the write capability hides behind some Terminal command tricks. You need to follow these instructions for each drive you want to write to.

Open Terminal and type:

nano etc/fstab

Then copy this line to the file, replacing DRIVENAME With the actual name of the drive you want to access:

LABEL=DRIVENAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Click on Ctrl + O To save the file, then press Ctrl + X To finish Nano. Now unplug and reconnect the drive. Once re-uploaded, it will be available in /Volumes.

You can only get there through the Finder; Click “transitionin the menu bar and selectGo to folder. Enter /Volumes and click go. You will see the drive listed here, and you can now copy files to it.

How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac - Mac

3. Free open source solution

Even if you don’t agree to use Terminal, no one wants to modify file preferences every time they deal with a new drive. If you work in IT and deal with Windows drives regularly, you may need a better option. One of the most popular solutions is an open source product: FUSE for macOS.

Download FUSE to get started. The app is simple as it doesn’t have anything to install and it reads the files themselves. You will need several additional tools to complete the task, and they are available in a Homebrew package called NTFS-3G.

First, install Homebrew by pasting this line into Terminal:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Once you run the commands to install Homebrew, and get confirmation in Terminal, you need to install the NTFS-3G package. You have to write this command:

brew install ntfs-3g

Sometimes Terminal does not recognize that you have already installed a FUSE package. If it does, run this command as well:

brew cask install osxfuse

You will then be asked to restart your Mac. Once this is done, try restarting the NTFS-3G command.

Writing to an NTFS drive using NTFS-3G

NTFS-3G enables your Mac to write to NTFS drives, but it is not automatically. You need to run some additional commands to activate it.

First, find the address of the drive that is set up as read-only. You can get it through Terminal with the command:

diskutil list

You need to run the following commands every time you want to mount a drive with write permissions. Replace /dev/disk1s1 with the address of the drive you found above:

sudo mkdir /Volumes/NTFS
sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g /dev/disk1s1 /Volumes/NTFS -olocal -oallow_other

If you don’t want to run these commands every time, there is a workaround. You can boot your Mac into single user mode, and replace the included NTFS Mac utilities with NTFS-3G. There are some security caveats on the project site; You can check out the steps to enable it on the developer’s GitHub page.

The developers explain that this opens up your Mac to potential exploitation, so this step is not for the faint of heart.

4. Simple, Paid Option

The solutions we described above are beautiful techniques. If you prefer to just click your mouse a few times to get a solution to this, you can use a third party app to simplify the whole process.

There are a few different options, but a long-time favorite is Paragon Software’s NTFS for Mac. It costs $19.95 per Mac license, although you get a discount when you buy three or five licenses at a time. You can test drive with this app for a trial period of 10 days as well.

How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac - Mac

The installation process is simple, the application then provides an item in the menu bar that displays your NTFS drives. Even better, your NTFS drives now appear in the Finder normally, and you can treat them like any other drive.

Tuxera NTFS For Mac is another app. It was developed based on the open source standard we used above, NTFS-3G. The license is slightly less expensive, as you pay $25 to use it on all Macs.

How to fix an external drive set up as read-only on Mac - Mac

With a free 15-day trial, you can put the app to the test. Instead of a menu bar item, Tuxera is installed as part of Preferences. You can format the drives from here. Like Paragon, you can use Finder to work with your external drive.

Solve other external drive problems on Mac

Both paid options provide a painless way to use a drive that is set up read-only on your Mac and make it writable. The open source and terminal options need a bit more work, and you shouldn’t rely on full-time beta support. You can also write the data you need to and from the drives while trying both paid options.

But having a read-only drive isn’t the only problem that drives have on a Mac. Sometimes you can connect an external drive but it is not recognized. Take a look at our guide on how to make your external drive appear on your Mac for tips on how to fix this problem. Also, learn about the worst possible MacBook issues.

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