How to Recover from External Hard Drive Read-Only Error on Mac

How to Recover from External Hard Drive Read-Only Error on Mac

Troubled with the mac external hard drive read only? Need to find out the perfect fix? Here is this article to assist you in looking out for the actual reasons and appropriate solutions to perform a hard drive read only fix.

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Sep 28, 2020 • Filed to: Answer Hard Drive Problems • Proven solutions

Since the security update for High Sierra 3 days ago, my Seagate external hard drive has become Read Only. Working perfectly prior. Any ideas? Has 900GB iTunes on it so I want a fix with no risk!!! Thank you.

When the hard drive on Mac switches to 'read-only', for sure that has something to do with the filing format. The read-only error only allows you to read the data in the file but you cannot access the data to make any changes. The operating system of Mac carries sharing and permission settings that is a key path that can be followed to convert the file from reading only to read and write version.

Mac users can confront a read-only error, but in worst-case scenarios, mac external hard drive read-only is not going to allow for creating a backup. You cannot copy the file from the external hard drive. In this case, you have to change the system preference settings that can change the read-only version to read and write one. Everything is related to the filing system in which the external drive is formatted. Sometimes when you are using an external drive with a window and then connecting it to the Mac device, the files stored would not be editable. The reason behind it is the NTFS filing system. This is only compatible with windows that will show up a read-only error on Mac. In general, most of the storage devices are formatted in the NTFS filing system since their production. In this regard, the only way to avoid the mac external hard drive read-only error is to format the external drive. But is this a good option? Formatting may cause loss of data permanently. So, here is this article helping you to get a compatible hard drive read-only fix without making any compromise on data. The following are some of the topics that would be discussed in detail.

Part 1: Verify the Read-Only Status of an External Hard Drive on macOS

Are you facing flash drive read-only mac error? The files are only readable but not editable? Then at first, you need to check the exact status of your external hard drive. It will let you know the actual reason behind this error. Here are the steps to follow with which you can check the status of your external hard drive.

Step 1: Start the process by connecting your external hard drive to your Mac device. Make sure the connection is appropriate.

Step 2: Next step is to select the drive. You can do this from desktop by right-clicking the drive or launch Finder to look from the drive.

Step 3: In the context menu, select the option of getting Info. It will help you to check the status of your hard drive.

Step 4: Now in the Get Info prompt, check the file system format of the drive.

Step 5: To see the filing system, click the button of Window and you will get to know whether your device is on reading the only ode or read and write mode for the external hard drive.

verify read only status

Part 2: The Cause of "Read Only" Disk Error

Once you came to know that you are confronting mac external hard drive read-only error, the next step is to find out the exact reason causing the error. Knowledge about the reasons will allow you to go for an appropriate hard drive read-only fix. The following are some of the obvious reasons behind the read-only error.

1- Mismatched File System

As mentioned above, this error is associated with the filing system of the external hard drive in which it is formatted. Most of the time, as a default format, the hard drive is formatted with the NTFS filing system, which is only compatible with Windows. While working on a mac device, this filing system will cause the read-only error i.e. on your mac device you can only read the files of the external hard drive but cannot edit them.

2- Permission Settings Issue

While operating a mac device, you need to access some permissions. This permission setup will allow you to access the data in form of files and folders either on the device or on an external hard drive. Every operating system/device has its own set of permissions that are not compatible with others. So if you are using the external hard drive priory with windows, and then connecting it with Mac, then you are going to face the read-only error.

3- Formatting Error

Apart from the above two causes for mac read-only error, another important reason can be the hard drive formatting errors. If your device shows up with a warning message while connecting the external hard drive i.e. device is on reading only mode, then be very sure that it is because of the formatting errors. These errors won't allow you to write on the file.

Part 3: Fix External Hard Drive Read-Only without Losing Data

Once you recognize the actual cause behind the mac read-only error, the next step is to find out the compatible solution for running the hard drive read-only fix. Here are the solutions with which you can fix the mac read-only error.

1. Recover data on the hard drive

In case you happen to lose your data while dealing with the mac read-only error, the only solution left for you is to retrieve the data by using third-party recovery software. In this regard, Recoverit Data Recovery for Mac is one of the renowned software that recovers all the lost data in no time. The amazing features of the software include data recovery in terms of documents, emails, photos, videos, and audio files, quickly and easily from a laptop, recycle bin/trash, internal hard drive, external storage media, and even a crashed computer. The following are the steps to recover data on the hard drive.

Step 1: Start the process with downloading and then launching the Recoverit data recovery software on your Mac device.

Step 2: In the software interface, select the option of Lost Partition Recovery.

external partition recovery

Step 3: The software will start the recovery process by initializing the scanning mechanism. It will undergo a quick scan process to restore all the raw file data.

scanning lost data

Step 4: Once the scanning is complete; the software will show up all the recovered files in the interface. Preview all the files and select the one you need to recover. Click Recover to continue.

preview recovered photos

Step 5: Once the files are recovered, select a location to save the data on your device.

2. Reformat the external hard drive

Apart from the third party software solution, another option for getting rid of read-only mac error is by reformatting the external hard drive. The process of reformatting will setup the new format compatible with the mac device and by the end of the process, your files will be converted into reading and write mode. You can use the Disk Utility to reformat the external hard drive on Mac. Here are the steps to support the process.

Step 1: Start the process by launching the Disk Utility. Head towards Applications in the main menu and then select the option of Utilities. Else you can launch the disk utility by pressing 'command + space'.

Step 2: In the menu of disk utilities, select the external hard drive. Once selected, select the option of Erase.

Step 3: Now choose a compatible file system and rename your external hard drive. You can select either Mac OS or APFS file systems, both are compatible for mac.

Step 4: Again click erase to continue the process of reformatting.

reformat external hard drive 1

Part 4: Free Solutions to Resolve Mac External Hard Drive Read-Only Error

You can also choose some free solutions to resolve the mac external hard drive read-only error. The following are some of those free methods.

1. Erase the Drive

One of the easiest ways is to change the file system of the external hard drive and use the one that is compatible with your mac device. In case the file system s NTFS, shift it to Mac OS or APFS. Following are the steps:

Step 1: Launch Finder and select the option of Applications.

Step 2: In the menu, check for Utilities and then click Disk Utilities.

Step 3: Now select the external hard drive and select Erase.

Step 4: Next step is to format the drive, change the file system format, and click Format to continue the process.


erase the drive 1

2. Ignore Ownership

The second best option is to change some permission settings. It will shift your read-only mode to read and write mode on mac device. Follow the steps and complete the process.

Step 1: Click on the storage device (targeted external drive) and select the option of Get Info.

Step 2: In the drop-down menu of Sharing and Permissions, click on the lock icon and add the password if and when required.

Step 3: Select the option of ignoring Ownership on this volume.


ignoring ownership 1

3. Repair the Drive

Lastly, you can repair the hard drive for fixing the mac external hard drive read-only error. This method can be sued in case your drive has some formatting errors. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Launch Finder and then follow the directions i.e. Applications >Utilities>Disk Utility.

Step 2: Now select the hard drive and click on First Aid.

Step 3: Select the option of Run when you see the report is ok.


repair the drive 1

This is how you can fix both the formatting error of the drive and in turn, resolve the issue of mac read-only error.


This article was all about explaining the various reasons and then proposing certain solutions to fix the mac external hard drive read-only error. The article stated possible reasons causing the error which include mismatched file systems, permission setting issues, and formatting errors. In case your device is facing the read-only error, you need to check out the status of your drive. This process will help you to verify that your device is facing the read-only error. It may be due to the inappropriate filing system of the hard drive or sometimes due to the incompatible permission settings. For this, you can use the reformatting solution, one can also go for free solutions like erasing the hard drive, ignoring the ownership, or repairing the hard drive using built-in mac mechanisms. In case you lose your data at any step, you can use third-party recovery software to restore the data. Recoverit recovery software is an all in one solution to retrieve the data back to your device. All you have to do is to follow a few steps and the software will run a quick scan to restore all the lost files and folders. Save them back and you are all done with getting back your data.

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