How to Mount EXT4 Linux File Systems on a Mac with OS X Fuse

Mar 20, 2014 - 8 Comments

Mount EXT file systems on a Mac The EXT file system (short for Extended File System) and it’s family members of EXT2, EXT3, and EXT4, are the file systems used by Linux. Mac users who work with multiple platforms may notice that OS X is unable to mount EXT partitions on its own, and thus anyone wishing to mount and read EXT drives and other file systems will need to rely on a third party utility.

OSXFuse is one such tool, a free open source offering that allows OS X to read EXT volumes, and if you’re comfortable with some uncertainty and risk to the Linux partition, you can even enable an experimental EXT write function too.

  1. Get OSXFuse from the developer (free) and run the package installer
  2. Choose to install the “MacFUSE Compatibility Layer”, this is optional but necessary for FUSE-EXT2
  3. Installing FUSE EXT support for Mac OS X

  4. Reboot the Mac when installation is finished, you’ll find the “Fuse for OS X” control panel in System Preferences

OS X FUSE EXT support for Mac system preference panel

At this point you can connect EXT file system drives and/or partitions from the Linux world to the Mac and be able to read data from them as expected. That means you can access files and copy files from the EXT volume over to the Mac, but not vice versa (more on using EXT write support in a moment).

When EXT drives are mounted with FUSE, the volumes are interpreted as network drives or servers, so if you are hiding desktop icons or connected servers from Finder preferences you won’t see it except in a Finder window sidebar.

network volume icon in mac os x

Longtime OS X users may recognize OSXFuse as the successor to the now defunct MacFUSE, which, once upon a time, was necessary to gain Windows NTFS support on the Mac as well. Of course, now you can just enable NTFS write support on Macs directly without the need for any third party tools, but not too long ago that wasn’t the case.

Enabling EXT Write Support

While OSXFuse adds EXT read support, write support to EXT is disabled by default and probably not recommended to use at all, it’s considered experimental and unsupported by FUSE for a reason.

Nonetheless, if you absolutely have to write to a Linux partition from OS X and you have a backup of the data and/or drive in question, and you don’t mind potentially toasting the data on the drive, you can enable writing to EXT with the following steps:

  • Get FUSE-EXT2 and install it onto of MacFUSE
  • FUse EXT2

  • Reboot the Mac, then use following command string to enable write support:
  • sudo sed -e 's/OPTIONS="auto_xattr,defer_permissions"/OPTIONS="auto_xattr,defer_permissions,rw+"/' -i .orig /System/Library/Filesystems/fuse-ext2.fs/fuse-ext2.util

  • Cross your fingers and hope for the best, this is experimental and not recommended for a reason

Again, enabling EXT write support is not recommended. This can’t be overstated enough. Be sure to understand there are considerable risks to the drive and it’s quite possible to damage the Linux partition or drives file system by doing so. Do not do this without a backup.

By the way, an alternative for those who wish to safely read and write files between OS X and Linux (and Windows for that matter) by using an external drive are probably better off formatting a drive for maximum compatibility with the MS-DOS file system, which can be accessed by just about every operating system out there. This is particularly helpful for USB thumb drives and external disks that you want to use for quick file storage and sharing outside of a network. Otherwise, networked computers can just use the SMB protocol and share files between Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows over a local network connection. No, it’s not the same as mounting an existing EXT file system, but it works if the only intention is to be able to read and write data between different OS’s.

Uninstalling OSXFuse

The easiest way to uninstall OSXFuse is by using the packages control panel:

  • Head to System Preferences by way of  Apple menu and choose “Fuse for OS X”
  • Click the “Remove OSXFuse” button and enter the admin password to uninstall FUSE from the Mac

Removing OSXFuse obviously removes the ability to mount all EXT linux file systems from the Mac. You will want to uninstall the FUSE packages from OS X if you intend on using one of the other third party EXT mounting solutions out there, whether from Paragon or elsewhere.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

8 Comments

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  1. With Fuse you lose says:

    I’ve used this software in the past, and it brought me my first (and last) two kernel panics ever.
    It might have been an isolated case and/or fixed since then… But just a heads up to anyone trying it.
    Don’t leave any unsaved work open when fiddling with this.

    • Geoff Winters says:

      I have had the same experience a long time ago when using MacFUSE where you’d get a kernel panic when simply connecting an EXT volume! Boom, Mac kernel panic. But I suspect that has been resolved by now with OSXFuse and further refinement, though I no longer have a use-case for this and don’t have a reason to test it.

      But yes I agree with your sentiment: back up everything before trying out experimental file system support! That means both on the Mac, and on the alternate FS drive!

    • knut says:

      i’m using this software instead ftp client, and I must say that is working just fine.

  2. WAH says:

    My Tivo failed and I wanted to save some recordings so I removed the drive and plugged it into a drive slot in my MacPro 5.1 running OSX10.6.8. I used a utility to determine that it was formatted as a LINUX EXT2 volume. Using your suggestion above, I downloaded OSXFuse, selecting MacFUSE Compatibility Layer, and installed the software. I restarted the Mac but the Linux volume did not mount. I can see the volume in Disk Utility, but it is grayed out, along with each of its partitions.

    What am I doing wrong?

    WAH

  3. Coops says:

    Nope -doesn’t work for me either. I have version 2.6.4 and OS X 10.9.2, and I get the ‘disk not readable error’. Just the same as before installation.

    Any assistance would be appreciated.

  4. Charnita Fance says:

    Installed, but I have no idea how I’m supposed to “connect EXT file system drives and/or partitions from the Linux world to the Mac and be able to read data from them as expected.” More details would be helpful…… How to do mount the partitions? Where do I go to do that? Thanks.

  5. Stetson Hallowell says:

    Well it is August 2014 now. Has anyone come up with a solution? It is not working for me either.

  6. dlauder says:

    This didn’t work for me either so I kept Googling. Turns out these instructions are misleading in that it says to install FUSE-EXT2 if you want write access to EXT2/3/4. You need to install FUSE-EXT2 for read access. Write access if only active if you also run the command line listed above. Works for me now, using a USB HD formatted to EXT4.

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