Sharing Data on External Hard Drive between XP and Windows 7 machines

I use both XP and Windows 7 machines in the field and want to maintain all data files on an external USB drive, so I always have my data no matter which machine I take with me. When I try to do this, I run into ownership problems and have to switch ownership to access many of the files. The drive was originally used with only XP. How can I setup the external drive so I have access from either without any switching?
abeavensAsked:
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Lee IngallsDirector of IT/TS, Quality and FinanceCommented:
What file system is the external drive using FAT32 or NTFS?
Are you using UserID/Passwords on each computer?

Use a common userid/password as the owner of the data on the external drive that is also on both the XP and Windows 7 computers.
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skullnobrainsCommented:
the same userid would be sufficient, but this is not really feasible if you're not in a domain

the simplest is probably to switch to fat32 or exFat

you could also retake ownership of an ntfs drive or even set it world-accessible but you'll have to start over frequently (about everytime you create a new file)
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abeavensAuthor Commented:
All drives are NTFS
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skullnobrainsCommented:
can't you format your external drive with something else ? (you don"t have to format any of the other drives, just the external shared one)

it is by far the least painful way to achieve our goal

if your question is "can i setup an external drive formatted with ntfs in such a way that i can share it on several desktops that are not in the same domain", a simple answer is "you can't" (unless you install some software on each machine that will automagically retake ownership and/or make all files on the drive world-accessible)
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abeavensAuthor Commented:
yes, I could format it FAT32 if that would do the trick. If I do, and then copy all of my files to it, would they retain any ownership and still be a problem. Or is NTSF the whole problem?
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skullnobrainsCommented:
fat32 does not handle ownership at all so if you copy everything to a fatX drive, you'll be ok.

NTFS is not really a problem.

windows user and group ids are a combination of a unique id representing the host or domain and the specific incremental id that the user/group was given at creation time.

windows does not have a unmask or equivalent tool that will let you write files with specific loose access rights, nor does it have means to mount an usb drive with specific credentials or access rights.

so whenever you write files, they inherit default permissions : something like read/write/delete for the creator owner,s group, and a few permissions for users of the same machine

if you keep using any filesystem that handles ACLs, with different users on different windows hosts, you'll keep running into similar problems
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skullnobrainsCommented:
i forgot to state that windows will not let you create a fat32 drive bigger than 32G, but it will happily use bigger fat32 partitions.

you may need to use a different fs such as exFat (which i think does not handle ACLs) or format the drive in a non linux machine (such as a game console, your mobile phone, or your own machine booted on a live cd)

you can check that the fs does not handle ACLs easily : open the properties of any file, the "security" tab should not exist

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also remember that fat is less robust than ntfs : if you plug out the disk while it is actively written to, you actually can loose your data much more easily.

on the good side, the data will be either lost or correct. in ntfs, you hardly ever loose whole files, directories or partitions, but you can end up with corrupt data easily without knowing.
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abeavensAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the input, I will have to research how to format with exFAT, buy another external drive and give it a try. If not I could do the multiple partitions, but would like to avoid it. I will let you know if I have any sucess

Art
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skullnobrainsCommented:
I will have to research how to format with exFAT

right click on the disk drive and select format. windows will give you the choice between ntfs, exfat, and possibly fat32

if you want fat32, you can format the disk using a linux OS from a live cd. partition magic or knoppix are good candidates

i see no reason why you would need to buy another drive as long as you can store the drive's data somewhere before you format. you won't break the drive by formatting it, but you will obviously loose the data and have to copy it again

multiple partitions will likely be a pita in your situation. don't go that way

best regards
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