Making a USB Drive Do Mac, Windows and Linux
This is my site Written by rower on August 6, 2011 – 7:05 pm

Move video files between operating systems without losing your mind

By Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA ( 8/6/2011 – For moving large video files, a flash drive isn’t big enough or fast enough. Unless you have a crazy fast network, dragging the files across your LAN is not going to do either. For the editor on the go or with multiple operating systems, here’s how to transfer big files between all operating systems.

It seems tempting to use whatever native file system you have, whether that’s HPF+ on the Mac, ext2 on Linux or NTFS on Windows.¬† Linux will read all three formats, but won’t write to journaled HPF+. The Linux Foundation is working on HPF+ as a Google Summer of Code project, but for now, no dice. Linux finally got write access working on NTFS, but with Windows changing NTFS in every version, your mileage may vary.¬† You can find flavors of NTFS that Linux doesn’t know. Forget Mac OS X UFS. This Darwin-flavored version of the BSD file system only has compatibility with NetBSD.

NTFS and HPS+ are not universal enough for our purposes. How about ext2 or one of the other open source Linux file systems? There’s a good open source ext2 driver for Windows, but not for Mac OS X. In any case, this approach won’t work for our purpose because we don’t want to install a driver on every machine we touch just to mount a drive.

How about good old FAT32, the Windows 95 file system format? Yes, that’s the answer. It has no journaling, but we don’t care with a drive that’s only for transfers. If something bad happens to the drive, we’ll go re-copy the originals anyway.

Mac, Windows and Linux will read and write to FAT32. The question is, do we format the drive on Windows or Linux? You’d think that Windows 7 would be best at formatting a Windows FAT32 drive. We tried it. Linux wouldn’t recognize the drive.

Examining our Windows-formatted FAT32 drive in cfdisk on Linux revealed that Windows had created a 1 GB partition on the front of the drive, left 1 GB of unusable free space on the end and formated the second partition as some flavor of NTFS that we couldn’t read in Linux.

Linux is great because  it will give us what we asked for, a single FAT32 partition. Using Linux we deleted the partitions in cfdisk, created a single primary partition, set its type to 0B (FAT32), then formatted it using mkdosfs.

# cfdisk /dev/sdb
# mkdosfs -F 32 -n Fat32 /dev/sdb1

We named our disk “Fat32”, but you could name it anything. We used a surplus laptop drive inside a small harddrive enclosure we got from TigerDirect for about $25. It’s only a 60 GB drive, but that’s plenty for our purposes. We’re using Linux dvgrab to capture HDV files that we then transfer to Final Cut or Avid. How do do that is another story.

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