Your Mac is already pretty good at reading other file systems. Stick a FAT 32 formatted external drive into a USB port and it’ll read it better than Windows... However, try the same with an NTFS formatted drive and your computer will simply offer to initialise it.
That’s where MacFUSE comes in handy. Think of it as a shell that enables you to add modular support for other file system types to your Mac. NTFS? No problem. Install MacFUSE and the appropriate NTFS plug-in – and off you go, reading and writing to NTFS drives direct from your Mac. The only downside is that it happens fairly slowly.
MacFUSE was inspired by FUSE, a Linux kernel tool built directly into the operating system – but the OS X version is based on the FreeBSD implementation. The surprising thing about this handy tool is that it’s not confined to OS file systems. There are plug-ins available for reading iTunes’ file system, YouTube, Wikipedia and more. They enable you to access these sources in the same way you access and manipulate any file in Finder.
If you think that this all sounds just too good to be true, then you’re right. There are a number of potential issues involved in installing software that integrates so closely with your operating system. MacFUSE works alongside your existing OS kernel, filtering system calls. So, unfortunately, if you have a malfunction in one of your plug-ins, it can affect your file system access. The NTFS plug-in can also change the way BootCamp operates – making it necessary for you to boot using the alt key to access your Windows partition.
Is it worth it? Installation and usage is by no means easy. If you’re comfortable with the terminal, frequently need read and write direct access to Windows drives, want to work with WebDAV accounts or FTP – then the answer is a tentative yes. Otherwise, you can still read and write to shared Windows folders over a network, if necessary.