Disks are becoming cheaper and so it’s becoming common to have on our desk an external (usually USB) hard drive with a size of 1TB or more.
Now, once that we bring at home our new gadget the first question for us is: “which Filesystem should i use with this big disk ?”
There are a lot of options and the main point is once again a simple question: do you want to use this disk with several different operating systems ?
Perhaps you have a computer with a dual-boot with a Windows operating system , or perhaps you plan to use that external hard drive also with your Macbook…or connect it to a TV.
Let’s take a look at some options you have to suit your needs.
A possible solution is to split your hard drive in multiple partitions and dedicate each one to an Operating system, so for example you could have 25% of your disk with a Fat32, 25% with NTFS and 50% with Ext4. Personally i don’t like too much this solution, sure you can use a native file system in every operating system, but you also have all the possible problems in mounting a different FS, and I’m sure that I happen to have the right documents in the wrong partition.
So, for me the best solution is to have 1 partition and 1 big filesystem.
The most common File systems
The most common choices when you think at a USB hard disk are FAT32, NTFS, ext3 and ext4 (well this one is a less common than the others i suppose),, so as first thing let’s take a look at the limits of these filesystems:
File size limit:
FAT32 : 4GiB
NTFS : 16 EB
ext3 : 2 TiB
ext4 : 16 TiB
Partition size limit:
FAT32 : 2TiB
NTFS : 2TiB
ext3 : 32TiB
ext4 : 1 EiB
Taking a quick look at these information i’d discard FAT32, is becoming common to have big files, such as the backup of a Bluray or a DVD and the technology behind this FS is really old, the good thing of this FS is that is well supported by all operating systems.
Note: FAT32 theoretically has a volume limit of 2TB, but Windows won’t let you format a partition larger than ~32GB as FAT32 so you’d have to format it in Linux.
The other FS that at the moment i discard is ext4, This FS is good if you use only Linux, but there is no support on WIndows for ext4.
If your primary operating system is windows this is probably the best choice, This FS is compatible with OSX and there is a good read/write support on Linux with the NTFS-3G driver. NTFS-3G supports all operations for writing files: files of any size can be created, modified, renamed, moved, or deleted on NTFS partitions. Transparent compression is supported, but there is no support for encryption.Support to modify access control lists and permissions is available. NTFS partitions are mounted using the Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) interface.
If your primary operating system is Linux ext3 could be your filesystem. It’s reliable and fast enough for a general use and some operations are supported on Windows, thanks to ext2fsd an open source ext3/4 file system driver for Windows (2K/XP/VISTA/WIN7).
Features Ext2Fsd supports:
- ext2/ext3 volume reading & writing
- ext3 journal replay when mounting
- various codepage: utf8, cp936, cp950 …
- mountpoint automatical assignment
- large inode size: 128, 256, …
- CIFS sharing over network
- htree directory indexing
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