Fix a Read Only External Hard Drive on a Mac

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Mac computers are easy to use, for the most part. But sometimes, things happen that can really turn that ease of use into “What do I do with this?” One of those things is when you unplug a USB storage device without ejecting it properly. Usually, you just get a quick warning message and things return to normal.


But sometimes, something worse will happen. Instead, you’ll now have a read-only external hard drive that won’t allow you to do backups. If you’re having trouble copying a file to your external hard drive, right click on it in your Finder and select Get Info. If you see this at the very bottom under Sharing & Permissions, then you have a problem.


In some cases, you don’t even need to eject it improperly for this to happen – it just happens from one usage to the next. It can also happen if you are switching between using the drive on a Mac and a Windows PC. No matter the reason why, this can be a very frustrating thing to deal with, especially if you have just backed up a large amount of files onto your new drive.

Troubleshooting a Read-Only Seagate External Hard Drive

Since Seagate is one of the most popular brands you will find when searching for a backup external hard drive for a Mac on sites like Amazon, we’ll troubleshoot this problem based on one of their hard drives.

The first thing you will run across when you search for a read-only external hard drive on a Mac is the suggestion to reformat it. That’s the suggestion the Seagate forum support admin offers. Of course, if you have files on it already, that really isn’t an option, as you would lose all of those files.


Another suggestion you’ll find is to create a second backup of your read-only external hard drive and then reformat the read-only had drive. Again, this is an irritating prospect as you have paid for one hard drive, and you don’t want to pay for a second just because the first one is having problems. And it’s another suggestion by the Seagate forum admins.


After reading a lot of forum entries, you’ll find the solution to this issues is actually quite simple – you just need to download and install a NTFS driver for Mac OS from Seagate.


Once installed (and you’ve restarted your Mac), your external drive should be back to normal. You can check by either trying to copy a file to it or right clicking on it in your Finder, selecting Get Info, and making sure the permissions have changed to read and write.


If this isn’t the case, you may need to keep searching for solutions. But most of the time, this will solve the problem and allow you to use your external hard drive freely between your Mac and PC.

Preventing the Read Only Hard Drive Issue

One way to prevent this issue from happening with your Seagate (or other) external hard drive is to set up your external hard drive as specified in the directions that come with the product. While almost every piece of hardware is now plug-n-play, some do need those extra configurations and software to get the best performance.

Troubleshooting a Read-Only External Hard Drive Other Than Seagate

Experiencing the read-only problem with another company’s external hard drive on a Mac, or not able to fix it with the driver suggested above? You can try searching on Google for others who have solved this problem, although many will simply suggest that you reformat the drive or get a second backup and then reformat your hard drive. Some companies will, like Seagate, have specific drivers that you can install to help your Mac identify your external hard drive as read and write again.

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