Computer Geek question, for project recording hard drives!

I’m hoping there are a few computer geeks out there that can maybe answer or explain this to me. I’m pretty tech-savvy, but this is challenging me a bit as it’s kind of new.

I have several external hard drives (in enclosures) that I used to use with my Mac recording setup. They were formatted as HSF+ most likely (kind of old Mac OS). The Mac died awhile back, and I figured I should use the drives - convert them to Windows, as that’s all I’m using right now. I went through a learning curve to figure out how to do this without relying on a software tool to do it for me - which was enlightening and rewarding. So I managed to do it, but a few things still puzzle me.

So I was able to wipe the drives (didn’t really need to save anything as I had backups to Windows earlier) in a Windows Command Prompt, and then formatted them to NTFS in the Disk Management utility. Here are the questions I have:

  1. When formatting to NTFS, it asks me to choose “MBR (Master Boot Record) or GPT (GUID Partition Table)”. I understand that MBR is the old style, dependable but somewhat outdated, and GPT takes advantage of the UEFI extension capabilities of BIOS and offers some advantages. My Windows computers are some years old, and at least one doesn’t appear to have UEFI amended to the BIOS. That suggests I should go with MBR formatting on the drives? Or does it matter?

  2. After formatting the drives as NTFS/GPT, I could see them in Disk Management and Safely Remove Hardware, but they didn’t show up in Windows Explorer. So I tried converting one to MBR and no difference. Then, in Disk Management I tried assigning a drive letter (prior, I had chosen no specific assigned drive letter) and was able to see the drives in Windows Explorer. At this point, I have one drive still GPT and the other converted to MBR, and they both showed up in WE when I assigned the drive letters. Usually Windows will assign the next available drive letter after removal/connection, so I find this situation puzzling, if anyone has an explanation.

So basically, does the MBR/GPT issue make any difference for a Windows data-only drive? It looks like it could be an issue for a bootable drive, since that involves BIOS and/or UEFI, but I only intend to store data on these drives, or read/write DAW project files to them.

I’m still working through this between a Windows 10 and a Windows 7 PC, but at this point I think I at least figured out most of the workable parts. Both computers are older as I said, but I’m wondering if I ever use these drives with a newer computer in the future … would that make a difference between MBR and GPT?

Thanks in advance for any answers and/or advice!

Stan I don’t have a good answer for you but I have tried to convert thumb drives from Apple to Windows or vice versa and they tended to be unreliable. I think Apple is probably a more secure system but having gone through that I would just buy a new drive, they are cheap today. I don’t remember the choices I made when formatting.

Avoiding drive failure is critical for anything of any importance and I don’t want to have to worry about it.

Thanks for replying to the orchestra post, you make some good points and I need to research my levels before replying.

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From my experience, and my recent reading about this issue, a thumb drive formatted to FAT or FAT32 shouldn’t have any issues. In fact, I’m pretty sure I used my thumb drives originally formatted on Windows with my Mac all the time with no issues. That’s actually how I retrieved files from the Mac and external drives before it crashed. So those are usually very compatible on both systems, with the FAT (File Allocation Table) format.

The problem comes in when you have a regular external hard drive formatted to Windows NTFS or Mac HSF+, because the opposite computer OS won’t ‘talk’ to the drive. Reformatting drives shouldn’t be difficult, and indeed the basic process wasn’t hard at all. I’m just trying to get clearer on a process that I currently understand about ~90% of.

I have yet to data-test these reformatted drives, was just wanting some clarity on the MBR/GPT issue before proceeding with that. I don’t anticipate any reliability issues, but I’ll keep your reservations in mind. I used one drive as a backup for the other one anyway, essentially keeping a dual set of project files. I did that with Apple Time Machine backup, which made it quite easy. I’ll have to think about a way to do that with Windows, though using my current Windows backup schema should work just fine.

FWIW here’s the difference MBR vs GPT . GPT is newer and gradually replacing MBR. Try one drive and see what happens?

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Thanks for looking it up. I read something very similar to this in my research. I think I understand all those points, I just couldn’t find anything that addressed my particular circumstance with old system hardware, OS, BIOS version, etc. I finally found something referencing ‘when’ they started rolling out UEFI (GPT), I think it said Intel started in 2020. Maybe another mfr in 2018. So it’s pretty recent, but I just learned that after my experiments. The technology has been around since the mid-2000’s I think, but is just now being implemented for OEM. I had been familiar with MBR going way back, but just found out about GPT this last few days.

In my reading, it seemed that either format should work for data-only drives. I assume that GPT is “backwards compatible” for the most part, as long as it’s not a BIOS clash with a system boot drive. That’s why I initially went that route.

Yeah, I’ll just have to plunge into the data testing and see what happens. Chances are, it won’t make much or any difference either way. And if it does, well then maybe I’ll learn something more. :slightly_smiling_face: