I deal with a lot of big files, so I deal with a lot of external storage. My favorite portable, big hard drive line is the FreeAgent Go from Seagate. 500 gigs, no external power = awesome. They are becoming available up to 640 gigs, but I haven't played with one of those yet.
When using a drive like this with the Mac though, you can fall into a pretty easy trap. You can plug it in and it works, but you won't be using a Macintosh file system with it - its formatted for Windows. 99.3% of the time you won't have an issue, but when that .7% bites you, it can result in some wierd problems... File types going away, files that exist on your main computer, but give you an error when you copy to the external drive, etc. You're on a Mac, right? So lets let it run like one.
Lets make sure you really have a problem:
- Open up the utilities folder under Applications.
- double-click on the disk utilitity application.
- Select your hard drive from the list on the left. Notice how it appears twice, with one indented below the other? Select the indented one below.
- If the info at the bottom says "Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled)", then nevermind - you're fine. (if it says something about case sensitive, journaled, you're ok too...)
- If it says "Format: MS-DOS (FAT)", "Format: MS-DOS (NTFS)", or some other variation, you want to fix that.
The fix: (CAUTION - only do this on a blank drive - you are going to reformat the drive, so be aware of what you are doing!)
- you should still be inside Disk Utility, with your MS-DOS formatted drive selected.
- Select the 'erase' tab in the main body of the window.
- Select any of the Mac OS options. The typical option is "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". If you bought the drive from Apple, that is the way they would ship it.
- Hit the 'Erase' button. This should only take a minute to run. (Curious people might select the 'securuty options' button - which is interesting, especially if you are wiping a drive you are about to get rid of, but this is a new drive and those options will only add formatting time. Potentially turning a 2 minute operation into one lasting several hours).
- There is no step 5, unless you include quitting Disk Utility.
You're done! Enjoy your new drive.
I'm often amazed that I'll see the same hard drive in the same box with a sticker that says 'Formatted for Mac", with a +$30 price tag. Save your 30 bucks and format it yourself.