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Access Mac-Formatted Drives from Windows

MacDriveBoot Camp facilitates reading your Windows partition data when you’re booted under OS X. But what about seeing the Mac drive when you’re booted under Windows? Take a look at Macdrive.

When evaluating this product Murphy found a number of uses. Boot Camp is an obvious one. But it can also read your external drives formatted in some flavor of Mac file system. Including iPods. If you want to ferry files between computers using external drives, this could be the way to go. Keep in mind, MacDrive doesn’t change anything about your Mac-formatted drives, it’s a Windows application. So those external drives will only be accessible from Windows if MacDrive is installed on the Windows PC. If you want to access your iPod’s drive from ANY computer running Windows, reset it under Windows. That will format it as Fat32.

Like lots of software, it’s easy to get hooked on MacDrive. You’re booted under Windows and the file you thought was on your thumbdrive isn’t there? Grab the copy on your OS X desktop, right from the My Computer window. Without MacDrive you’re looking at reboot, copy file, reboot. Ouch.

MacDrive provides a read-only mode. Use it if you can. When you’re booted under Windows your Mac partition is susceptible to all the graft Windows attracts. The read-only mode applies to all your drives. Perhaps a future release will allow setting it drive by drive.

File permissions go out the window too. File permissions are what stop you from accessing home folders on your computer belonging to other users. But only OS X pays attention to OS X permissions. When you’re booted under Windows the permissions are meaningless and you can browse through all the folders on the Mac partition.

This is why physical security is so important on any computer. Once a drive is mounted in a system you control, the unencrypted contents can be read, regardless of permissions. The same applies to dual-boot machines.

For true security your data should be encrypted, which is different than setting permissions. Read up on File Vault, a tool for truly securing your home folder. If you don’t want to encrypt your entire home folder, which could be overkill, consider putting sensitive files in an encrypted .dmg file.

From Murphy’s point of view, MacDrive is essential for someone frequently jumping between Windows and OS X. Especially with a dual boot machine. Watch the screencast to see Macdrive in action.

And, as always – Back up early and often.

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