Update! I revisited this question with a modern computer and a slightly different outcome. See that article here!
If you’re like me, you use Macs and PCs on the same desk, have a pile of external disks ranging from 1-2 terabytes to a bunch of terabytes, and you’ve got a bunch of crap on all of them that needs to move around a lot. You’re probably not like me, but if you are, you probably don’t want to be using ExFAT on all of those disks, because ExFAT sucks. So you want good performance accessing those drives, you don’t want to lose all your data if a fly lands in the wrong spot in Belize, and you need read/write access from Mac as well as Windows? Sucks to be you. But luckily, there’s actually competition in this space these days. Screw ExFAT, and HFS+ is right out, leaving you with NTFS, which is read-only by default in macOS. You’ve got three options to add write support: Tuxera NTFS for Mac, Paragon NTFS for Mac 14, and NTFS-3G. But which do you chose?
Easy answer here. It’s a PITA to install on OSX, and the performance isn’t great. It CAN be pretty reliable, and because it’s open-source, there are lots of eyes on it. But leave it to the Linux crowd, where it’s a much more fluid experience.
Tuxera is actually a principle developer of NTFS-3G, and the commercial product is built on top of it with some substantial proprietary improvements to performance.
Paragon hasn’t been around as long, but they’ve got a pretty polished product. Because it’s not based on NTFS-3G, it should be immune to some of the performance oddities of NTFS-3G, as well.
But which one?
Okay, so how do Paragon and Tuxera stack up? I wanted to know, so I did some research and ran some tests. On cost, Paragon wins. Kind of. It’s $22 USD at time of writing to buy a license, and Seagate actually partners with Paragon to offer the latest version for free as long as you only want to be able to write Seagate disks. If that’s true for you, stop here, Paragon’s what you want. You can get the Seagate-only copy here. On the other hand, Tuxera is $31 USD, so a few bucks more. But there’s a caveat – Paragon charges for each upgrade, which typically bumps macOS major version compatibility. So you’ll probably have to pay again each time Apple releases a new OS. Tuxera doesn’t – one license with free upgrades. As well, Tuxera charges on the basis of one license, one person. Paragon is one license per machine, which will add up if you’ve got more than one Mac you need write support for. On this basis, I’d say Tuxera wins on cost, though it looks more expensive. For $9, I’d rather get free upgrades and one license for all my personal machines.
But what about performance? I hooked up some external disks to see. I have two NTFS externals I primarily need support for, one of which is a Samsung SSD T3, and one of which is a Western Digital spinning disk. My Late 2011 Macbook Pro doesn’t have built-in USB3.0 support, so for the USB3 tests, I’m using a USB3 ExpressCard/34 adapter. The caveat here is that the ExpressCard/34 slot only has 2.5Gbps of bandwidth, so while it’s USB3 and much faster than USB2, it’s still a bottleneck on the up-to-5Gbps USB3. That matters for the SSD in particular, which can max the bus. For the numbers, I’m using BlackMagic’s speed test from the App Store.
|Disk||Driver||Connection||Read (MB/s)||Write (MB/s)||Winner?|
So in the end, Paragon is faster, but to a degree that totally doesn’t matter unless you’ve got a ripping-fast external SSD and USB3.0.
On the one hand, Paragon is SUBSTANTIALLY faster on the SSD/USB3 test than Tuxera. On the other, I really prefer Tuxera’s licensing, and it’ll be somewhat rare that I’m using this machine for performance-intensive stuff on the one drive I have where it matters. I’m going with Tuxera. TL;DR: Buy Paragon if you have a ludicrously fast external SSD and need all the performance. Otherwise, Tuxera’s licensing is better, and performance as good as matters for anything else.
I’ll let you know if it nukes my data and demands a ransom in the next few months.