Sharing external drives on a Mac

In my travels around the web I’ve seen a number of posts from people having problems sharing external hard drives on their Macs. Typically the person is saying that they have shared one or more drives using the Sharing option under System Preferences, but that they can’t see those drives from another Mac on the network. Without beating about the bush too much, the answer to how you share a Mac disk (external or otherwise) is dependant on how the disk has been formatted.

If your disk uses the Mac OS Extended or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) scheme, then you can share the disk with other Macs on the network using AFP, which is the default when you choose file sharing in the System Preferences. You would then connect to that disk from other Macs by typing in something like afp://

SMB file sharing

SMB file sharing

However, if your disk has been formatted using FAT32 for example, then you have to share it using SMB. To do that, open System Preferences and go to the Sharing option. In the list of things you can share choose File Sharing then click on the Options button and tick the box that says Share files and folders using SMB. All that remains is to set the security you want and you’re off. You can then connect to the shared drive across the nework from another Mac or even a Windows machine using smb://

I won’t go in to the ins and outs of which one’s better or how to set up security as that’s for you to get in to if you want to. For my part I have a Mac Mini that has two 500Gb external drives attached. One is formatted using Mac OS Extended and is shared with my Mac Pro using AFP. The other drive on the Mini is formatted using FAT32 and isn’t shared but is used simply to mirror the contents of the Mac OS Extended external drive so that should I ever need to physically connect it to a Windows machine and read the contents, I have that option (as Windows machines can’t read the Mac OS Extended file system).

Job done 😉

One Response

  1. Have you tried out Nomadesk? They are a file sharing and storage tool. They have some things in common with, but have a little more robust set of document annotation and security tools. They are kinda geared towards small businesses because they meet compliance standards (SEC, HIPPA, etc.). If you are interested, check out a free account at
    Keep up the great work,

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