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Why Is My External Hard Drive Shows Read Only on Mac? Answered

Is your external hard drive showing the read-only restriction on Mac? To find out more about the reasons, causes, and solutions of the external drive, read-only Mac problem. Overviewing these solutions will help you make your external hard drive usable.


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Updated by Tracy King on Dec 19, 2023
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Data storage has turned out to be a necessary provision that needs to be fulfilled at all costs. To ensure the operability of any process, having a proper storage space is necessary. Multiple hardware was introduced to cover the necessities of storage space. External hard drives were one of the many innovations made in the market.

While managing the data on your Mac, you might require an external hard drive. However, what if you face the issue of a "Read-only" drive on your Mac? The article has proper solutions for the external drive read-only Mac for such cases.

Goal: Fix external hard drive shows read only on Mac
Supported Devices: External hard drives, external USB drives, SD cards, internal HDDs/SSDs, etc. 
Compatible OS: macOS 14.0 beta - 10.13
  1. 1️⃣ Change USB Port or Reconnect the External Hard Drive
  2. 2️⃣ Clear Viruses and Malware
  3. 3️⃣ Add NTFS Read and Write Driver to Mac 🏆
  4. 4️⃣ Get Mac Permission
  5. 5️⃣ Format Corrupted External Hard Drive That Shows Read Only

External hard drive read only

What I Can't Do When External Hard Drive Shows Read Only on Mac

On reporting such issues with your external hard drive, multiple possibilities arise against the problem. Although external hard drives are believed to be a source of data transmission and management, there are numerous things that you can't do when you are facing the external hard drive read-only Mac issue. For a better understanding, look into the things that you are restricted from doing under such a problem:

  • There is no option for editing the existing files within the external hard drive, as you can only read them.
  • You cannot delete anything off the external hard drive as you are not allowed and do not have access to any particular action.
  • Adding files to the external hard drive is another operation restricted in the read-only issue.
  • There are no provisions for formatting or partitioning the external hard drive, as the drive can only be read.
  • The files cannot be moved to new locations because of the restrictions.
  • No new software or applications can be installed or directed into the external hard drive with read-only provisions.

If you are experiencing similar issues on different brands of external disk drives on Mac, such as listed here, you can directly refer to the provided fixes below on this page for help now:

What to Do When External Hard Drive Shows Read Only Mac

We will discuss resolving the external hard drive read-only Mac issue. Let's find out what can be done to resolve the problem with the external hard drive:

Fix 1: Change USB Port or Reconnect the External Hard Drive to Mac

For the first remedy to this problem, it is best to change the USB port or reconnect the drive to the Mac. If it shows such an error, it can only be a glitch or a hardware fault in the Mac. Changing or reconnecting the drive can lead to a proper solution. You are not bound to incur any expensive costs to resolve the problem.

Reconnect external hard drive on Mac

Fix 2: Clear Virus and Malware

Since you seek to resolve the external drive read-only Mac issue on your device, you can try clearing out all the viruses and malware within the system. For that, downloading a suitable anti-virus is an important task to fulfill. This can help you resolve the critical errors caused by the virus and malware within your system or external hard drive. Bitdefender, Norton, or Avast can be some great options to consider.

Run Norton antivirus sotware

Fix 3: Add NTFS Read and Write Driver to Mac with NTFS for Mac Software

Another appropriate solution to the read-only problem on your Mac is adding the option of NTFS read and write, which can be done with the help of a driver on your Mac. To cater to this requirement, you will need perfect software for its execution. As there is no direct option to this solution, tools like EaseUS NTFS for Mac provide the best platforms.

While you can find fully-compatible software in EaseUS NTFS for Mac, it supports the latest macOS and the Apple Silicon chip Macs. With its help, you can find complete read and write access to NTFS drives within your Mac. To know if it helps in exempting the external hard drive read-only Mac problem, find out its utility in the following steps:

Step 1. Launch and activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac. Click "I already have a license" to unlock this software.

Activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac

Step 2. Connect an NTFS drive to Mac, EaseUS NTFS for Mac will automatically detect the device. Select your drive and you'll see it's now marked as 'Read-only". Click "Enable Writable" to add read and write rights to the drive.

enable writable write to NTFS drive

Step 3. When the state of NTFS drives turns into "Writable".

Make changes to saved files on NTFS drive

Step 4. EaseUS NTFS for Mac will pops up a window to help Mac get access to the NTFS drive:

  1. 1. Select "Full Disk Access", click the Lock icon and enter admin password to unlock it.
  2. 2. Select the two icons of NTFS for Mac.
  3. 3. Drag them to the "Full Disk Access" list.
  4. 4. Click " Quit & Restore" to re-launch EaseUS NTFS for Mac.
Gain NTFS access

Step 5. When EaseUS NTFS for Mac restarts, you can then open to check, read, write, and even modify saved data on the NTFS device.

Read,write, open, and modify files on NTFS drives

If this method successfully fixed your external hard drive from read only to readable and writable on Mac, feel free to share this article to help more of your friends online:


Fix 4: Get Mac Permission

You can also provide permission to the external hard drive on your Mac, which is essentially a straightforward solution. If there are no prevalent problems with your hard drive, you can change them manually. To perform this process, look through the steps provided below:

Step 1: Open Finder by accessing it from the Dock of your Mac and continue to locate the external hard drive in the "Locations" section on the left panel of the new window.

Step 2: Right-click on the external hard drive to select the "Get Info" option from the drop-down menu.

Get disk information

Step 3: Find the "Sharing & Permissions" option in the next window and expand its settings. Select your username in the "Privilege" section and tap "Read & Write" to change the permission settings.

Get permission to access external hard drive mac

Fix 5: Format Corrupted External Hard Drive That Shows Read Only

If your corrupted external hard drive has distinct permission, it can be resolved with proper formatting of the drive. You can efficiently use your Mac for this purpose and make your external hard drive usable. For that, follow the steps provided below to resolve the external drive read-only Mac issue:

Step 1: Open Finder on your Mac and continue to the "Utilities" folder in the "Applications" section. Look for "Disk Utility" on the next screen and open it on a new window.

Open disk utility

Step 2: Select the "View" button on the top and change the option to "Show All Devices." This will display your external hard drive in the left column as well.

show all devices on Mac disk utility

Step 3: Select it and continue to the "Erase" button on the window's top menu. On selecting, set up a new name, select the "ExFAT" format, and define the "GUID Partition Map" as the Scheme. Click "Erase" to execute the process and format your external drive.

Format unreadable external hard drive on mac

What Causes or Makes External Hard Drive Read Only on Mac

It is time to find out what causes the external hard drive read-only Mac issue. For that, this section lists down all the critical causes that direct to such a problem:

  • Incompatible NTFS File System: The drive attached to your Mac may be NTFS formatted. This raises compatibility issues for which you have to format your drive. Having an NTFS format on Mac is equivalent to having no writing rights.
  • Read and Write Permission: The permission settings of the external hard drive may have been changed to "Read-Only." You are required to change these settings from the available settings.
  • Corrupted External Hard Drive: Another probable cause of the external drive read-only Mac issue is a corrupted drive. If there are formatting errors reported against the external drive, it may be corrupted. This can be caused by virus attacks or malware within the drive.
  • Failed Driver Updates: If you have been trying to update your external drive's drivers, it can cause such problems if the updates fail for no reason. Such compatibility and interruptions can lead to damage in the hardware settings.
  • Damaged Cable or Port: Instead of issues within the software, the problem can also redirect to the hardware section of the external drive. Problems with the cable or port of your Mac can also cause read-only problems with your external hard drive.

BONUS: Tips to Keep External Hard Drive Working Properly on Mac

There is always a way to keep yourself safe from such issues in your external hard drive. To ensure that it works properly on your Mac whenever you attach it for your work, there are some tips that you can follow. Following these tips will help you protect your devices from external hard drive read-only Mac issues:

  • You have to plug in and eject the hard drive properly on your Mac. Ensure that all the data is transferred between the devices.
  • Avoid all forms of physical damage to the external hard drive. Try to keep it away from extreme temperatures, moisture, and dust.
  • Always run an anti-virus check on your devices after some time. This will help cast out all viruses and malware from your Mac and external hard drive.
  • Define the proper format for your external hard drive, which needs to be anything instead of the NTFS file system.
  • Use an NTFS for Mac software to manage the connection of the NTFS drive with the Mac.
  • Give complete permission to read and write to the external hard drive on your Mac from the settings.
  • Try using new cables to establish a connection to avoid hardware problems.


This article has provided a comprehensive overview of all the reasons, causes, and solutions related to the problem of external hard drives read-only Mac. To transfer data and files properly throughout the drive, it is essential to resolve such errors. However, in situations where the drive's file system is sustained within NTFS, you can consider using software like EaseUS NTFS for Mac for perfect results.

FAQs About External Hard Drive Read Only on Mac

For more understanding, we have focused on some critical queries that need to be answered. Look through these frequently asked questions focusing on the external drive read-only Mac issue:

1. How do I unlock a USB drive that is read-only on Mac?

To unlock a USB drive not having permission on your Mac, you need to follow the steps provided below:

Step 1: Launch Finder and access your attached USB drive from the left panel of the new window. Right-click on it and select “Get Info.”

Step 2: Continue on the new window and expand the “Sharing & Permissions” option. You must select your name in the “Privilege” section and select “Read & Write” to change its settings.

2. What hard drive format types can I use on Mac?

You can consider using the APFS, FAT, and exFAT format types for your hard drive. These formats are supported on Mac devices.

3. What to do when I don't have permission to write to the external hard drive on Mac?

You can change the permission settings of your external hard on Mac by re-formatting the drive. Follow the steps to execute it in the following way:

Step 1: Open Finder and access the Utilities folder, and continue to look for "Disk Utility".

Step 2: As a new window opens, change the "View" option to "Show All Devices" from the top. Select your external hard drive from the left panel and tap the "Erase" button.

Step 3: Set up a name, select a format such as "exFAT", and set the scheme as "GUID Partition Map". On clicking "Erase", the drive formats.