Which file system does OSX use

Dealing with the OS X file system

Bastian Gruber

Switching from Windows to Mac not only results in a different user interface, but also in a different way in which the system handles files. From permissions to saving to management, pretty much everything is different. In this article, we will clarify what exactly you have to consider when switching.

The NTFS file system is used under Windows. It's proprietary and only Microsoft has the source code. This is one of the reasons why OS X cannot save to USB sticks or hard drives with the "Windows format" by default. Third-party tools provide a remedy here. The attentive user knows what to do differently, however, because OS X masters a file format that is understood by both operating systems.

FAT and exFAT - formats between Windows and Mac

The available file systems for external storage media that can be read and written under Windows and OS X are called FAT and exFAT. If you select FAT when formatting USB sticks, only files with a maximum size of four gigabytes can be saved. This format cannot handle larger files.

The exFAT format, which was specially created for flash memories (USB sticks), provides a remedy. This can also store larger files and is therefore better suited for iTunes libraries or other backups (if both systems want to access them).

If you connect a USB stick to your Mac, open the "Disk Utility" (via Spotlight or under / Applications / Utilities /) and select the stick or external hard drive from the list on the left:

EnlargeAfter you have selected your USB stick in the list on the left and clicked on the "Delete" tab, you can now select the partition format. We recommend the "exFAT" format, which also allows larger files to be exchanged between OS X and Windows.

You can use the "Delete" tab to select a file system from the drop-down menu:

EnlargeThe exFAT format is the last entry in the list. If you have selected this, the entire external data carrier will be deleted. So back up all important data locally on your Mac beforehand.

Safe or fast - delete options in OS X

Your connected storage medium can also be securely erased in the hard disk service program. After you have selected the file system, you can use the "Security Options ..." button to specify the "Degree of security":

EnlargeThe fastest option when deleting is also the least secure. After this deletion variant, special programs can restore almost all data without any problems. Moving the slider further to the right makes it more secure, but at the same time the deletion process takes longer.

Once you have found the security level you want, you can send confidential information to data nirvana forever by clicking on the "Delete ..." button.

Own data vs. user folder on the Mac

In addition to the file system, the storage location of your personal documents is also different from a Windows system. Microsoft does have a folder called “My Documents”, but this is by no means as important as your user folder on OS X.

As already described in the article on user management, each user of a Mac has its own directory. This disappears completely as soon as another user logs in there (or it is then temporarily made "inaccessible").

Therefore, save all files in your own directory and set up your working folders etc. there.

Who can do what: Assigning rights on the Mac

A big plus point when handling files under OS X is the simple assignment of rights. For each file, it can be specified who is allowed to read or edit it. If you select a file or an .app package (more simply: an app or a program), the information window can be called up with Command-I. In the lower section you can then define who is allowed to read and edit this file:

EnlargeIn the last section of the info window you can set the assignment of rights for the selected file / folder. As everywhere in OS X: First select the lock symbol and enter the administrator password. Only then can changes be made.

The principle of OS X is: Everything is a file. So a simple Pages document is far more powerful than it seems. The complete assignment of rights as well as the comments and all information that is useful for file handling are stored in it in addition to the "pure text".