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PC & MAC Networking and sharing external drive?


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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 12 2009 - 09:08 AM

I have talked my Union into buying an iMac
to replace their old PC.

They are very interested but have some
legitimate concerns that I told them I
would research and obtains answers through
this forum.

The first concern is networking. Is it easy
to network a PC and MAC so that they talk
to each other?

Second concerns sharing an external hard
drive.

I know that both Windows and Mac require
an external drive to be formatted to their
specs. For instance, Mac Journal vs. NTFCS
(if I remember the Windows format correctly).

So, can they both share an external drive
hooked to a network? And by what I mean
"share" is to read, write and save with either
computer so the other is able to retrieve and
do the same.

Really appreciate the help. It will be very
useful to convincing my Union to go MAC

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 12 2009 - 01:05 PM

Yep, what you want is a NAS solution, companies like Drobo, Buffalo, HP and Apple make them.  Apple's solution is called the Airport Extreme you are already familiar with, it is very limited but easy to administer.  The others are separate streamlined server boxes.

Sam


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#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 12 2009 - 01:53 PM

Sam,

Just to clarify here....

So, one cannot take an external drive and format so it
is accessable by both formats to write and exchange
information to and from?

Here is advice I received on another forum.  Perhaps you
want to put it into laymans terms?  Thanks


Quote:
1. Sharing is relatively easy. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2959
When Macs and PCs are on the same network and File Sharing is enabled on both platforms, they will either see each other or can be directly connected via their IP addresses. But beware, that sometimes due to incorrect configuration, connections might be not as easy to establish.
2. Mac OS X uses HFS+ (called Mac OS Extended in Disk Utility) as a file system, and can be read and written to only by Mac OSX or by Windows via MacDrive.
Windows uses NTFS (or sometimes FAT32, which can be read and written to by Windows and Mac OS X) as its file system, which can be read by Windows and Mac OS X and written to by Windows. Mac OS X need MacFuse + NTFS-3g to write to NTFS formatted volumes.

While in a network, file systems don't matter that much, as SMB is used as an abstraction layer and network protocol by both OSs to read an write to their counterpart's file systems.


 

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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 12 2009 - 03:49 PM

Right, you really don't want to take an external drive back and forth between OSX and Windows the way you might with say a Thumb Drive.  It can be done but its a hassle and not recommended.  The better solution is to have a mini file server like the  NAS boxes I described which sit directly on your network and can serve files to all comers:

http://www.buffalotech.com/products/network-storage/terastation/

http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/14/droboshare-drobo-nas-mini-review/

http://www.hp.com/united-states/campaigns/mediasmart-server/alt.html

http://www.oreillynet.com/mac/blog/2007/01/airport_disk_easy_network_stor.html


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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 13 2009 - 12:00 AM

Sam,

I am trying to convince the Union to buy a $1200 iMac when they 
can buy 2 PCs for that price.

I am looking for a FREE solution.

So, the bottom line answer is that there is no simple way to allow
a PC and a MAC to access and write to the same external drive?



 

Ronald J Epstein
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#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 13 2009 - 01:03 AM

Not that I'm aware of. I admire your enthusiasm in trying to get the union to go that way but my experience has been that you need to let people find the tools they need organically. If it's not a good fit then when things go wrong it's going to be your fault for pushing it. When businesses standardize on the mac things seem to go great but when there is 1 mac in with a million pcs that becomes the one machine that becomes a pain in the admin guys ass. Other than the qualities that make a mac great, why try to push the union into making this change? Horses for courses or so they say...

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#7 of 10 OFFLINE   nolesrule

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Posted November 13 2009 - 02:49 AM

As a computer tech / technology consultant for small businesses, I gotta agree with Sam on this. His reasoning is pretty sound.


#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted November 14 2009 - 10:21 PM

Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein 

So, the bottom line answer is that there is no simple way to allow
a PC and a MAC to access and write to the same external drive?
As mentioned in that stuff you quoted earlier, you can format that drive using "FAT32" and both Windows and Mac can write to it, when the drive is directly connected to either one. The main limitation of FAT32 is that files cannot be larger than 4GB. So video files, DVD images (video and software) and such won't fit. There are also total drive/volume size limits, although that can be tricky. USB thumb drives are usually formatted FAT32 from the factory.

But you initially asked about an "external drive hooked to a network", which is not the same situation. If the drive is "permanently" connected to either computer using its native NTFS or HFS+, and then the drive is made available over the network, then it's not much different than sharing internal drives. Using the native format is fine. It only becomes an issue if you want to move that external drive to the other computer, in which case my first paragraph applies; but that's not "hooked to a network".

You can take a drive and make it available over a network without using a "real" computer; that's NAS (Network Attached Storage) which Sam mentioned.

Maybe if you describe their current setup and workflow, and why/how they're using the external drive, (and why they want to replace their old PC) we can provide more specifics.


#9 of 10 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 16 2009 - 06:32 AM

You should ignore what I'm going to say, since I don't know anything about corporate computing...

You can connect an normal USB external drive to a Windows machine and share it on a network.

Mac's can read / write to Windows machines on a network.

There are tools that enable a Mac to read/write NTFS.

Ergo, I would think a person could share a drive on a network of mixed Windows and OS X systems without specialized network-ready (NAS) gear. Still, I'd listen to what IT-savvy people like Sam tell you.


#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 16 2009 - 09:03 AM

Like I said Dave, it can be done but its a hassle and not recommended, and when the OS update breaks your 3rd party tool, it's Ron they will blame...


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