Formatting an external hard drive for HFS, NTFS and FAT32

A couple of days ago, I purchased a FireWire 1Tb external hard drive with the intention of partitioning it so I could use it with both my MacBook Pro and my BootCamp Windows XP installation.

After 2 days of frustration trying to get it to work, I finally found a solution that worked for me, so I've decided to share it here to hopefully prevent others experiencing the same problems I had.

What I wanted to achieve was:

  • A 450Gb Mac HFS partition to use exclusively on my Mac
  • A 450Gb NTFS partition to use exclusively on Windows
  • A 100Gb FAT32 partition so I can share files between the 2 OS

The Procedure

  1. Plug in the drive and boot into OSX
  2. Start up Disk Utility in OSX
  3. Select the physical external drive in the list on the left
  4. Click the Partition tab at the top
  5. Under Volume Scheme, click 3 Partitions
  6. Create your partitions. I chose 3 as mentioned above. I labeled each according to what the file system was, and set the Format of the HFS volume to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" and both the FAT32 and NTFS to "MS-DOS (FAT)"
  7. Here's the crucial step - click Options and select Master Boot Record (see screenshot below). I missed this step the first couple of times and of course (with hindsight), XP was never going to be able to see the partitions with any other option. Obvious to me now!
  8. Click Apply and Disk Utility will make the changes
  9. The HFS volume is now ready for use with the Mac
  10. Switch to Windows
  11. Open Windows Explorer and re-format the FAT32 volume to FAT32 and the NTFS volume to NTFS
  12. That's it!

Make sure you select Master Boot Record

Now, when I boot into Mac OSX, all 3 volumes mount and in XP, the FAT32 and NTFS volumes mount, which is exactly what I needed.