Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/177529/htg-explains-why-are-removable-drives-still-using-fat32-instead-of-ntfs/
Microsoft’s Windows XP started using the NTFS file system by default for its internal drives back in 2001. It’s now 12 years later, so why are USB sticks, and SD cards, and other removable drives still using FAT32?
My router has a USB slot that supports either 3G or an extrenal hard drive. The drive will only work if its formatted as FAT32. The problem I have with this is, the 4GB file size limit. I have a 1.5TB drive that I use for backups and sharing media. With this file size limit, backups have to be split up and large video files/movies have to be compressed. The only solutions I see is, buy another router that supports NTFS external drives or buying a NAS device.
The 4GB limit to a file is not exactly accurate. You will not be able to copy a file larger than 4GB to FAT32. However, if you create a file on FAT32, the 4GB limit no longer applies. That's how I've been able to write my 9GB DVD .iso files to FAT32.
I buy thumb drives for my workplace and format them to FAT16 to be used by CNC machines that run DOS. Other than backwards compatibility, it really doesn't make sense not for factory format it than anything older than NTFS. If a customer needs to revert it back to an older format, they (I) can do it themselves.
What about using ExFAT? I typically format my thumb drive using ExFAT since it allows me to copy files larger than 4 GB onto it.
Is NTFS really the only alternative to FAT32? What about for us Linux users? why should we stick with a Windows-based file format for external drives/storage?
I will try this and if it works for me I shall praise your name.
ExFAT is not FAT, and it requires special handling.
Of course, technically speaking, FAT32 isn't FAT, either... FAT32 uses 32-bit numbers in the allocation table and allows for long file names, 2 things that the original FAT lacked. (FAT uses 16 bit numbers, giving us a 64K limit on cluster count. This caps the file system at 64K files and puts a hard cap on the drive size, since a cluster itself also has a size limit of 32K bytes.)
FAT32 exended the allocation table to use 32-bit numbers, in addition to supporting long file names. FAT32 came out with the second release of Windows 95, also called Windows 95 A.
ExFAT further extends FAT by fixing some other problems, including the file size limitation. That wasn't supported until XP and WS2003.
So a DOS system will not work with FAT32. Likewise, if you plugged an ExFAT partition in to a Windows 2000 system or something like a PS3 or digital camera, the device would not recognize it.
There are file systems specific to Linux and MacOS that are completely independent of Microsoft's OS.
However, don't expect your ext4-formatted thumb drive to work in your digital camera. The same reasons that NTFS are bad for thumb drives apply to any other file system, as well.
FAT32 is still useful for Linux to avoid problems with file ownership. I recently installed Gentoo on my new laptop and made a mistake (I think) configuring the kernel. I'm unable to mount FAT32 drives so I formatted a flash drive with ext4. When I tried to copy a directory from my other laptop to the new one I got a 'permission denied' error. I had to use chown before I could put it where I wanted it.
Thanks for the info. I did notice that I had problems using the thumb drive with the PS3 and now I know why.
I had the same problem trying to do a firmware update. (Turns out someone had modded the PS3 I bought used, and I could not put version 4 of the OS on it.)
I ended up reformatting all of my thumb drives back to FAT32 to fix the problem.
Soullessech, Please post your results here.
I'd like to know also. I tried creating a TrueCrypt file larger than 4GB on a FAT32 ext. 1TB HD and it wouldn't take it - said "too large". Unfortunately I already had quite a bit saved on the drive so couldn't reformat it.
P.S. Re some compatibility problems with devices - very true. I have a Sony CD player with a USB port (yes, I still play CDs at times - you know how the elderly resist change...:-)) and discovered I can't play any music on it from an NTFS USB - HAS to be FAT32, period.
All my external HD are formatted in NTFS and I can use them with my TV and BD Player. I think that like DLNA, NTFS has become a standard for the newest multimedia devices.
I think it's going to become increasingly common to see NTFS on media players, simply because people are going to be plugging in hard drives, not just memory sticks. Every external hard drive I've bought recently was pre-formatted with NTFS.
However, supporting NTFS costs more money, since that's yet another set of patents that someone has to license, in addition to coding a file system driver. (I assume that most of these smart devices are based on Linux, which would mean that the file system driver is basically free... but the patent licenses still have to be paid for somehow.)
Linux: Linux systems now include solid read/write support for NTFS drives, although this didn’t work well for many years.
"this didn't work well for many years" yet are ignoring that was a decade ago and it has been solid for a decade.
NTFS is also quite garbage. Windows users don't have a choice with using NTFS but Linux users do. Linux has MANY great options including ext4, zfs, btrfs, and more that all of which are much better than NFTS. They all have more features, better stability and better file structure ensuring that all personal files are separated from system files, unlike NTFS.
USB vs HDD (or SSD) is a completely different topic as to FAT32 vs NTFS. Yes, USB drives should use FAT32 regardless of what the platform it is being used with is. It doesn't matter if it is a Windows, Linux or Mac user...they should always be formatted as FAT32.
Now back to Linux support...you mentioned that Linux supports NTFS, which it does but it also supports everything else including Mac file system, the Mac file system support is limited to reading only but it allows you to see what is on a drive and the ability to copy files off the drive. No other operating system provides that much support (though BSD is close).
It isn't the only alternative and Linux users should NEVER use NTFS because it is garbage in general but even if it wasn't there are so many better options for Linux users that most Linux users should be using EXT4. (there are more options but they are usecase specific)
The problem with most HowToGeek articles is they mention Linux but NONE of them appear to be Linux users so they their advice is typically Linux Advice to Windows/Mac Users from Windows/Mac Users. There is something a little off with that.
you mean file system not format but that is a different question all together. FAT32 is great for USB Drives but it is utter crap for external drives, such as external HDDs. This could be many options but the safe bet is either EXT4 or EXT3. Now if we are talking about what is the best for a network attached storage (NAS) then that is a whole other conversation. This is highly debated wither ZFS or BTRFS is better.
he was asking about external drives not exclusively usb/thumb drives so FAT32 wouldn't always be a solution.
Tell Google that FAT32 isn't a problem....the jerks in the Android division won't release a Nexus device with an SD card slot, saying that FAT32 isn't safe or reliable on external (SD card) devices, and forcing users to live with the paltry storage built into the device (and having to fight with MTP as well).
Yeah, I hate MTP. I ended up buying a USB OTG adapter so I could use a Flash drive to transfer files. I can't seem to get any of my computers to reliably mount my Galaxy S4 via MTP.
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