3 Proven Ways to Fix Mac External Hard Drive Read Only Error

You receive an error message that says you can only read the external hard drive on Mac. How to fix the hard drive read-only error? This tutorial will show you how to fix the error without losing any data on your macOS Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, and more.

Table of Contents

Don't worry when your external hard drive displays as read-only on Mac. This page includes 3 reliable solutions that can assist you in removing the 'read-only' error from your Mac external hard drive, making it readable again. Pick up any method below to fix the Mac external hard drive read only error.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Fix 1. Reformat External Hard Drive Without Data Loss Open "Applications" > "Utilities" > Launch "Disk Utility" to "Erase" external drive > Restore formatted...Full steps
Fix 2. Ignore Permissions Right-click external drive > "Get Info" > "Sharing & Permissions" > Check "Ignore ownership on..."...Full steps
Fix 3. Repair Drive Errors Open Disk Utility > Select the external hard drive and click "First Aid" > Click "Run"...Full steps

The External Hard Drive Shows Up as 'Read Only' on Mac, Help!

"Hi there, do you know how to make the external hard drive accessible again when it shows as 'Read Only' on Mac? I'm having this problem that my Seagate hard drive suddenly turned to read-only this morning when I connected it to Mac. I could only read and view saved data on the drive, but can't use the data on it. If you have any clue to fix this problem, please tell me. Thanks very much."

mac external drive read only

Right-click your external storage device, select 'Get Info', and if you see 'You can only read' at the bottom, you are encountering one of the commonest problems with an external hard drive. Follow the tips below when your external hard drive or other external storage devices show up as 'Read Only' on your Mac.

You can.

  • Open the drive and view the files
  • copy files from the external storage drive

You can't.

  • Copy files to the device
  • Delete files from the external drive

Why Is Your External Hard Drive Read-Only on Mac

Why can you only read the external hard drive connected to your Mac? There are three possible reasons.

The File System Is NTFS

External hard drive read only on Mac

Right-click your hard disk and select 'Get Info', if you find the external hard drive in NTFS format, that's the cause. The incompatibility of the file system is the main cause. NTFS is a file system that is optimal for Windows-based computers. Although the Mac operating system allows you to read the files on the external hard drive, you can't write files to it because the way NTFS writes data to the device is incompatible with how macOS does it. (Go to the Fix.)

The Permission Settings Is Not Ignored

An external hard drive is subject to the access permission set up by OS X for all files and folders on the system. When you use the device on another computer with a different OS, its permission settings may not be recognized or prevent access to the files on the hard disk. (Go to the Fix.)

The Hard Drive has Formatting Errors

Another common cause for the external hard drive 'Read Only' problem on Mac is the formatting errors of the storage device itself. If you see a warning that says the device is only being mounted in read-only mode while connecting, your hard disk is diagnosed with formatting errors preventing you from writing files to it. Then, that's the cause. (Go to the Fix.)

Identify the cause that leads to the 'Read Only' error on your Mac from the information above, then follow the corresponding solution to solve the problem easily.

How to Fix MacBook External Hard Drive 'Read-only' on macOS

Based on different reasons, there are three solutions to the problem. However, some methods will cause data loss. So we highly recommend you to get data off your external hard drive first to avoid data loss.

First Thing: Rescue Your Data Before Troubleshooting

Generally speaking, when a storage device shows up as read-only, you can still copy files off of it. If you cannot view or see all saved data on the drive, don't worry. You can use the professional Mac hard drive recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac to get back your lost data on the drive with simple clicks.

EaseUS Mac HDD Data Recovery Tool

  • Recover deleted files, documents, photos, audio, music, emails, and videos on Mac.
  • Recover files from formatted hard drive, emptied recycle bin, SD card, flash drive, digital camera, and camcorders.
  • Support data recovery for sudden deletion, formatting, hard drive corruption, virus attack, system crash under different situations.

Step 1. Search for lost files

Select the disk location to search for lost files (it can be an internal HDD/SSD or a removable storage device) on macOS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura, and the latest Sonoma. Click the "Search for lost files" button.

Note: Before data recovery, you'd better click "Disk Backup" from the left sidebar to create a backup of your Mac to avoid further data loss. After backing up, the software can recover data from the Mac backup, and your computer can wirte new data again.

Recover Data Step1

Step 2. Go through the scanning results

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac will immediately scan your selected disk volume and display the scanning results.

Recover Data Step2

Step 3. Select the file(s) and recover

In the scan results, select the file(s) to preview and click the "Recover" button to have them back.

Recover Data Step3

After you have exported and backed up your important files, follow the solutions below to fix the issue.

Fix 1. Reformat the External Hard Drive to Fix the Read Only Error

If your external hard drive is read-only on your Mac due to its NTFS file system, you can fix it by reformatting the device to a Mac-compatible format with Mac Disk Utility. Before that, remember to back up an external hard drive to another since the formatting will erase all the files on the device.

Step 1. Launch "Disk Utility".

  • Head to "Applications" > "Utilities".
  • Or tap "Command + Space" and type Disk Utility.

Step 2. Choose the problematic external hard drive on the left list of available drives. Then click the "Erase" option in the main window.

Step 3. Choose a proper file system and rename your hard disk. (Both APFS and Mac OS Extended file systems are Mac-exclusive. Thus, if you want your external hard drive to be both Mac and PC compatible, choose MS-DOS, also known as FAT, or ExFAT instead.)

Step 4. Click Erase to reformat your external hard drive.

Wait for the reformatting process to complete, and then go to the information window. This time you will see the "You can only read" has changed to "You can read and write", which means you can read and write the drive on your Mac normally.

Read-Only External Drive on Mac - Solution 1

Direct Access and Open Read-Only NTFS External Hard Disk on Mac

An even more direct solution that helps to fix the NTFS external hard drive read-only on Mac error is turning to reliable NTFS for Mac driver software. EaseUS NTFS for Mac is reliable and efficient in assisting you in configuring an NTFS drive that is readable and writable on Mac within a few simple clicks.

Fix 2. Ignore Permissions to Fix You Can Only Read External Hard Drive

If you are sure the permission settings cause the problem, you need to ignore the permissions to solve the 'Read Only' external hard drive problem on your Mac.

Step 1. Right-click your external hard drive shown on your Mac and select "Get Info".

Step 2. Expand the "Sharing & Permissions" section, then click the lock to authenticate.

Step 3. Check "Ignore ownership on this volume".

Read-Only External Drive on Mac - Solution 2

Fix 3. Check and Repair Hard Drive Errors to Fix macOS External Drive Read Only

If a formatting error on your external hard drive makes the device read-only, you can use Disk Utility to check the errors and repair the external storage device.

Step 1. Go to "Disk Utility".

  • Head to "Applications" > "Utilities".
  • Or tap "Command + Space" and type Disk Utility.

Step 2. Highlight the read-only external hard drive, click 'First Aid' in the top center, then click "Run".

Read-only external hard drive on Mac

If you still have problems, watch this video to fix Mac external drive read only error.

  • 0:01 Introduction
  • 0:39 macOS external drive read only
  • 0:53 Fix hard drive read only Mac
Solved: External Hard Drive is Read Only on Mac


Whenever you are faced with hard disk read-only problems, you can try to reformat the external hard drive on Mac, ignore permissions, or repair drive errors. During the process, run EaseUS Mac data recovery software to recover deleted files from macOS 13/12/11/10.13/10.9.

External HDD Read Only Mac FAQs

To get further help, read the related questions and answers below.

1. Why is my external hard drive read only on Mac?

Here are the reasons why the hard drive is read only on Mac:

  • Your disk is blank
  • File system errors
  • The permission is ignored

2. How do I unlock my hard drive on Mac?

To unlock a hard drive:

Connect the hard drive to your Mac

Enter the password you've created before

3. How do I change a read only hard drive to read and write?

To change hard drive from read only:

  • Clear read-only with Diskpart
  • Remove read-only with software
  • Change read-only permission in Property
  • Fix disk read-only in Registry
  • Format read-only drive to a recognized file system

Was This Page Helpful?

Updated by Finley

Finley is interested in reading and writing articles about technical knowledge. Her articles mainly focus on file repair and data recovery.

Read full bio

Written by Tracy King

Tracy became a member of the EaseUS content team in 2013. Being a technical writer for over 10 years, she is enthusiastic about sharing tips to assist readers in resolving complex issues in disk management, file transfer, PC & Mac performance optimization, etc., like an expert.

Read full bio

Product Reviews

TrustScore 4.7 | 59 reviews
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a powerful system recovery software, designed to enable you to recover files you’ve deleted accidentally, potentially lost to malware or an entire hard drive partition.

    Read More
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best we have seen. It's far from perfect, partly because today's advanced disk technology makes data-recovery more difficult than it was with the simpler technology of the past.

    Read More
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro has a reputation as one of the best data recovery software programs on the market. It comes with a selection of advanced features, including partition recovery, formatted drive restoration, and corrupted file repair.

    Read More