Setting up a digital media hub hard drive for Mac and PC

Q: My buddy and I both have sizable music collections and we want to buy a separate computer to set up as a digital media hub, primarily for music, but also, perhaps, for movies and photos. The plan is to get a cheap PC and a large removable hard drive and use iTunes to manage and play the music. I use a PowerBook G4 and I would also like to interface with the hard drive, loading music I get onto it and copying music from it. Will the hard drive work between a Mac and a PC?

– Matt

A: First, a Mac can mount and read a disk that’s formatted for Windows; the PC, however, won’t be able to read a Mac-formatted disk without third-party software such as Mac Drive (http://www.media4.com/).

However, a problem arises if you want to use a removable drive on the PC; it will be hard to get the appropriate enclosure for use with your PowerBook, since Macs need either USB or FireWire for external hard disks. What’s best is simply to connect the two computers via an Ethernet cable, set up networking on both computers, then mount the PC volume on the Mac and copy that way.

Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books including iPod & iTunes Garage. His blog, Kirkville features articles about the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X and much more.
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