Can’t Transfer Files From Your Mac To External Hard Drive? Here Are Some Fixes

External hard drives are a great portable storage medium. You can transfer your files from your Mac to an external hard drive and carry them wherever you want. But, what if, one day you plug in your external hard drive and are unable to copy files from your Mac to the hard drive?

In this post, we’ll go through all the possible ways in which you can rectify the issue and successfully transfer files from Mac to the external hard drive. Before we dive into the solutions let’s identify some possible reasons why you can’t transfer or copy files –

Possible Reasons Why You Are Unable To Transfer Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

  • The hard disk is not connected properly.
  • The external hard disk is formatted with a file format that is not compatible with Mac such as NTFS.
  • Copy-paste functionality is not working on Mac.
  • The external hard drive is damaged.
  • Insufficient storage space i.e. the external hard drive is already stuffed with files and can’t make space for more.
  • Inadequate disk permissions.

Steps You Can Take If You Can’t Copy Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

Solution No. 1 – Check Permissions

If you are unable to copy files from your Mac to an external hard drive, you may have to check the permissions associated with the hard drive. More specifically, you will not be able to copy and paste files to an external hard drive whose permission is set to read-only. To remove this permission and set it to read and write, follow the steps mentioned below –

Step 1 – Right-click on the external hard drive and click Get Info.

Step 2 – Go to Sharing & Permissions at the bottom of the Info pane.


Step 3 – Check the permissions that each user has on the disk. In case, you see read-only permission go to the next step.

hard drive

Step 4 – Click on the yellow-colored lock at the bottom right-hand side and enter the correct admin password.

Step 5 – Under Sharing & Permissions, select the username of the account with which you are logged in.

Step 6 – Expand the privilege and choose Read & Write.

Solution No. 2 – Is Copy-Paste Functionality Working?

Before you get worked up and try any advanced measures to fix the issue, you may want to check if the copy-paste functionality is working on your Mac or not. To do that try copying files from one location on your Mac onto another. In case the functionality itself isn’t working, a simple restart could help. You may also want to rule out any MacBook keyboard issues as well.

Solution No. 3 – Is There Enough Space On Your External Hard Drive?

If you can’t seem to transfer files from your Mac to an external hard drive, there is a possibility that your external hard drive is lacking storage space. Here are some ways you can clean up your external hard drive, free up storage space, and then try to transfer files from your Mac.

Tip –

If you regularly use external hard drives to store files, there’s a likelihood that your Mac contains duplicate files, particularly if you work with multiple versions. In this case, you use a dedicated tool like Duplicate Files Fixer and get rid of duplicate files on your Mac.

How To Use Duplicate Files Fixer On Mac To Remove Duplicate Files?

Step 1 – Download Duplicate Files Fixer on Mac

Step 2 – Click on Add Folder from the right-hand side of the interface and select your external hard drive connected to your Mac.

Duplicate files fixer

Step 3 – Click on Scan for Duplicates. Wait for the scan to complete.

Step 4 – Click on Auto-Mark from the top and select duplicates. Before deleting duplicates, you can preview duplicates by clicking on them.

scan duplicate files

Step 5 – Click on the Delete Marked button to delete the duplicates.

Solution No. 4 – Check the USB For Any Faults

Unable to transfer or even copy files from your Mac to an external hard drive? There are chances that you are dealing with USB issues. For instance, it is likely that you have a damaged USB. This is just one instance, in case your USB keeps disconnecting, you can refer to this post and then check if you can transfer files from your Mac to the external hard drive.

Solution No. 5 – Does Your Hard Drive Have A Compatible File System?

If your external hard drive is formatted in NTFS, copying or transferring files from your Mac to this hard drive will be challenging. An NTFS formatted hard drive only has read-only access on Mac. In this case, you will have to format your hard drive in a format acceptable to Mac such as APFS or HFS+.

Copy Files From Mac To External Hard Drive In A Hassle-Free Manner

Not being able to transfer files from your Mac to an external hard drive during moments of urgency can lead to issues. For instance, it may result in delays in crucial tasks, loss of important data, and potential disruptions to project timelines.

We earnestly hope that the solutions provided in the blog have effectively resolved the issue for you. Do share your experience in the comments section below. For more such content, keep reading WeTheGeek. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.

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