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Accessing EXT2 data from Mac OS/X - works on Snow Leopard (partially)

SWMBO and "The Gentlemen" use Macs at home. I got a bunch of disks formatted with EXT3 and EXT4 wich they also want to access, so I went out to research the topic. The EXT file systems have the unique feature to be backwards compatible. So a driver written to access EXT2 will still be able to access an EXT4 disk (obviously without having access to newer features). There is a commercial product available, but that wasn't what I was after. After wading through a lot of discussion board posts I did the following:
  1. Download and install MacFuse
  2. Download and install MacFusion. MacFusion is the GUI to configure MacFuse. Unfortunately it turned out, that they don't support EXT yet, but you can help and vote for this enhancement
  3. Download and install MacPorts (odd: I needed a reboot or it seemed so to get it to work)
  4. Open a terminal window and type: sudo port install ext2fuse You have to provide your password. That command send off my Mac for quite a while running a GnuMake/TCL script to download and configure all dependencies: expat, gperf, libiconv, ncursesw, ncurses, gettext, ossp-uuid, pkgconfig, e2fsprogs, macfuse. (failed since the macefuse installer didn't recognize SnowLeopard. I tried to hack the PortFile with little success)
  5. Download and install Fuse-ext2 from Sourceforge gives you - when auto mounting - read-only access (and a nice setting in the preferences)
  6. Reboot the machine and your EXT2/3/4 drives show up in Finder. I don't know if that works for internal partitions, but it worked for the one connected via USB very well

Lessons learned

  • On Snow Leopard EXT2FS didn't work
  • Downloading the sourcecode for Ext2Fuse from SourceForge and trying to compile on 10.6 (sudo ./config, sudo make, sudo make install) didn't work either
  • Installing MacFuse before MacPorts didn't help to avoid the dependency check
  • There are two project porting Linux software to the Mac: DarwinPorts and MacPorts. Downloading DarwinPorts gave me a File MacPorts1.7.0.pkg, while MacPorts delivers a file MacPorts-1.8.1.pkg. The two projects seem to draw from the same source
  • There seems to be way to go before everything works back on 10.6
  • Once you leave the realm of i[Insert-your-average-Mac-application-here] it gets as powerful and as complicated as any other OS
As usual YMMV.

Posted by on 02 October 2009 | Comments (1) | categories: Software


  1. posted by Philip Storry on Monday 05 October 2009 AD:
    Just one quick correction:
    ext4 is not ALWAYS backwards compatible.

    I have ext4 partitions that cannot be mounted as ext2/3.

    The incompatible features are only set when formatting though, so any ext3 FS that's upgraded to ext4 will (probably) be mountable.

    Unfortunately, in a larger disk the main feature you'd want from ext4 - extents - is also the major incompatibility.

    Although that having been said, there are also edge-cases in which an otherwise ext3 compatible ext4 filesystem would become incompatible - such as if you went past some of the ext3 limits that ext4 has raised/removed.

    The only way I'd guarantee you access to an ext4 system would be through ssh to a linux machine that mounted it correctly.
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