NTFS Woes

My Windows7 laptop finally bit the dust a while ago when the internal fan failed for the third time (original + 2 replacements). Thanks HP. I spent a bunch of money on this system and spent $100 each time I needed to replace the fan. Looking online, the fan replacement didn’t look that simple, so I used a repair service, which did a fine job, but as they indicated, this system had fundamental design issues that made fan failure more likely (even though I had the system on a laptop cooler pad).

So for now, the Windows7 laptop is tucked away. I had functionally replaced it after the first year of grinding through glacial hard drive performance and video driver crashes. I couldn’t ever find a video driver to replace what came installed and even HP’s own tool to find drivers, which pointed to a particular driver for my laptop, ended up saying it wasn’t compatible! So, combined with the misery of this laptop and HP’s service (they only wanted to sell me an extended service agreement) and how Windows 8 looked, I changed to a Mac. I’ve been very happy with the change, but there are always those programs that are only avaialble under Windows. So I also run Windows7 when I need it, using Parallels. Parallels 9 has been pretty stable. The one issue I’ve had with Windows apps isn’t (I don’t think) a Parallels issue. Excel 2013 isn’t real stable and the display of some Windows programs on a Retina Mac is really tiny unless you raise the zoom up a lot and/or display it on a larger monoitor (both of which I usually do). I used the Windows version of Office because at the time, the Mac 2011 version of Excel was woefully behind the Windows version in certain functions I used. With the new release of Office for Mac, that may not still be the case, though I haven’t yet upgraded.

One function I used my Windows7 laptop for was to automate backing up my server to some external hard drives. I used a utility called Second Copy to copy the folders/files that changed to sync from the server to the laptop’s attached external drives, without needing to connect the drives to the server. Second Copy figured out which files had been added (or deleted, sync options are up to you), then made the changes to the external drives.Second Copy is great and I’ve used it through a number of iterations to automate file backup or replication. With the demise of the Windows laptop, I thought, “Hey, I have Windows7 running on my Mac Mini (under VM Ware Fusion7), I’ll just attach the drives to it and copy the files (on the server) through the Mini, to the external hard drives!” Woah. Not so fast there boy! Windows (generally) uses NTFS formatted drives (as was the case on these external drives). Mac can read them, but not write to them. I can’t use Fat 32 (compatible with both operating systems), because I have a number of video files that exceed the file size limit for Fat32 (4 gig). Also, for reasons completely unfathonable to me, Fusion doesn’t support USB3 under a Windows VM (even though Windows7 and Mac both do so. The USB ports on the Mac Mini are USB3, as are my drives, but they might as well not be there as far as Fusion is concerned. Argh!

Now, I could have reformatted the drives (5tb and 4tb) to Mac formats, but that would mean a LOT of file copying again; replications that literally took days to copy hundreds of gigabytes from the server to the hard drives attached to the Windows machine and verify the files were all copied and valid. And, even had I done so, then any Windows machine I connected them to wouldn’t be able to read the Mac formatted drives without installing a Windows utility to do essentially the same thing. I have no problem copying files from the Mac(s) to the Synology server (which runs a customization of Linux), but “no go” to do so to NTFS externals. In the short term, I found that I could use my Ubuntu laptop to copy files to/from the drives, but I’m not yet knowledgeable enough on the CLI of Linux or Mac to setup Rsync to accomplish the task and I don’t always remember what files changed in which folders on the server.

I can’t use one external drive for all of this, because one drive doesn’t have enough capacity. There are other utilities to copy files from Macs (Chronosync, Rsync, to name a couple) just as Second Copy does, but their functionality would ultimately depend on being able to write to NTFS drives. I bought Paragon NTFS for Mac to give me both read and write capability on the Mac to the external NTFS formatted drives. Not an expensive utility. Arrived on a CD. Ugh. I used a credit on Amazon and got the CD rather than the download. I connected my USB CD/DVD drive to install the software on the Macbook Pro and will have to do the same for the Mini. I may install Second Copy on my Parallels machine (Macbook Pro), as I think USB3 is supported, or I may muscle up a little and figure out how to use Rsync, or I may try to use Hazel to see if it can sync folders on my server to the external hard drives. Hazel is an amazing utility, but I don’t always have the hard drives attached to my laptop, so I’m uncertain whether I can set up rules that depend on a particular device being present before running, or if it will replicate folders between these two sources. In reading briefly, Rsync may be the solution, as on Apple’s support forum they say in part:
“USAGE You use rsync in the same way you use rcp. You must specify a source and a destination, one of which may be remote.”
I’d need to put this into a script I could run rather than retype all of the CLI to accomplish the tasks, which vary by drive. I really don’t want to run Windows for one utility, and don’t necessarily want to buy another utility for this one task. So I suspect it may be an Rsync script.

Oh well, something else to do. Solution still under construction…

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