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Thread: Choosing Filesystem for external hard drive

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Choosing Filesystem for external hard drive

    Brief History :
    There was a time when the question posed in the headline, just not standing in front of users. Despite the fact that the file system was more than one even before the onset of the first desktops, a choice usually does not exist. Just because different incompatible (or only partially compatible) computer architecture was a lot behind each stood a particular firm that uses its own operating system and has its own ideas about "what is good and what is bad." And yet, and storage media used different and incompatible with each other. And if compatible hardware (such as floppy disk used in so many computer systems, with the main sizes of disk drives at the hardware level, were more or less standardized), then the data are organized differently. More or less compatible tape drives were, because so Historically, ever since the "big" computers they often used to exchange data between systems of different architecture. But the only mass recorders, which were used in conjunction with personal turned out to be domestic, and the primitiveness of typical CD-cassette led to the fact that all manufacturers, if they really used and have tried to squeeze the maximum out of the media, and all did so in different ways. The situation improved only when it became clear that the line of IBM PC (the progenitor of virtually all the surviving today architectures PC) is becoming the de-facto standard in the industry (not only). Well, when the market appears dominant architecture, all the rest are forced to take this into account - for reasons of survival. The main removable data storage then were floppy disks, so that fast enough means to ensure compatibility were those of their format used by IBM. Not the best, it should be noted. And not just on hardware, though it too - despite the fact that the first drives to 3.5 "appeared in the same year as the first PC, and many manufacturers have started to use them in the first half of the 80's, she IBM moved to this construct only in 1987, and until clung five inch drives on the market in 1976. However, in terms of format "original" design IBM conceded even by many clones of its computers - in particular, the company is on the bilateral double-density floppy disks hold only 360 kilobytes of information, while competitors are the same without any special tricks squeezed and 600-720 Kbytes . But nothing of the primitive FAT file system is not only lazy reasoning. Although it is quite possible, it is primitive and has become the second reason for turning "floppy" in the standard - it was really not easy to maintain. They should at least read-only and in addition to its own "advanced" version.

    However, from the perspective of today, all it has only historical value. Floppy disks long ago ceased to be used as the primary means of information transfer, and alternative bar "x86-based» computers in most market segments remained. But we can not say that it completely solved all the problems. The fact that this same single standard platform running almost more operating systems than there were during the times when "all the flowers bloomed. Even if we take the most prevalent in the market of family, namely Windows, then it is, strictly speaking, homogeneous. Most of the installations have so far for Windows XP - comes from the early twentieth century, but it takes almost 2 / 3 of the market. Somewhere in the last quarter accounted for modern versions of Windows, and all the rest - on the hodgepodge of surviving PCs with systems that have emerged to Windows XP (they are now running low, but can still be found), various versions of MacOS and whole bunch of UNIX-based systems. But even if you are lucky enough never to face in practical life with anything other than Windows XP, all this does not solve the problem - once the "computer" technology has long gone beyond this market, is actively interfering in the consumer electronics industry. For example, most of today's video players can work with USB-drives, and cameras or mobile phones are commonly used variety of memory cards. And then everything is just only if, for example, the card is only used in "his" camera - it means format the camera and for all forget about this question However, if we should at least communicate with the computer, there is not all so obviously. The cause of the problem is that almost all modern operating systems with a few exceptions do not support a file system (as it did 20-30 years ago), but several. And the degree of their support may be quite different. And sometimes changes with the help of additional software. The mass of options, so we will not attempt to cover them all in one short article. But enough background information so that you can understand "where to dig, still try to give. And it is enough to get acquainted with the main file systems, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Choosing Filesystem for external hard drive

    FAT - old, limited, but the ubiquitous :
    We'll start with the oldest file system, which appeared during the time MS DOS, but, nevertheless, still occasionally occur. The positive features of the system are simplicity, compactness service areas and a long presence in the market. In general, the first two advantages follow directly from the third - in 1980, when the system and there was, computers were so "powerful" and the media as "intensive," that's nothing complicated to use was simply impossible. However, the original version, namely, FAT12, has long been out of public use because the size of the disk with the system can not exceed 32 MiB. Although, of course, some cameras and even camcorders still manage to make a flash card or even a smaller size, but to fully utilize them in such a configuration still does not come out.

    But FAT16, which appeared 23 years ago, more interesting, good size as a file or partition has been brought up to 2 GiB (for those who have not yet had time to get used to a binary consoles - is little more than two gigabytes). Theoretically, the capacity of the section can be up and 4 GiB when using clusters of 64 KB, but this option is not standard, so support is not everywhere. On computers with this section are able to work the system from Windows NT4 and newer ones in this series, but that's no appliances, nor the majority of "alternative" systems are not compatible with them. Thus, this option can be considered fully suitable only for low storage capacity. Recent users at the hands of quite a lot so far, but "the ball is ruled" not them. But in times of flash drives up to a gigabyte FAT16 highly relevant in view of how time, small volume requirements for their needs. For example, on a FAT16 formatted flash drive to 128 MB user to remain available 128,621,744 bytes, and if you use FAT32 - 127921152 bytes. On the one hand, a trifle, but on the other - about five years ago, the "extra" 700 KB on the road is not littered. Not without reason Microsoft does not recommend using the FAT32 partitions smaller than 512 MB, so formatting them into something other than FAT16 can only be third-party tools. The latter is still topical scope of the system - phones, iPods, cameras and other, designed to support SD cards or microSD, but does not support SDHC (now this is no longer available, but still used). Standard file system for these cards is just a FAT16, so most of these devices are no other and do not support. In this case, it is highly desirable to format the card exclusively on the device, but do not do it on your computer. The reason is that Windows XP (at least about it is known exactly) sometimes manages with explicit indication of FS to format the card under FAT32, then the same camera can not see it and did not even offer the possibility to reformat. Solve the problem have any alternative formatting program - again on the computer.

    FAT32 - a reasonable compromise between compatibility and other characteristics :
    Unlike its predecessor, FAT32 is now the most massive system for external storage. 90% of flash drives and more than half coming from the factories VZHD formatted specifically for her. The reason? Compatibility is only slightly worse than FAT16 - «behind the scenes are" just too old operating system. Initially, support for FAT32 appeared in August 1996 with Windows 95 OSR2 - if someone is present and uses an older operating system on your computer, it is unlikely that it will connect to his current external drive And in most cases - and could not. However, sometimes using FAT32 already uncomfortable because of what we have to use other systems. The main and most significant drawback is that files can not be larger than 4 GiB. Accordingly, the images are stored on the drive DVD-ROM drive, very large files or a few movies - not coming out. Rather, it can be done, but they have to break into pieces, and then prior to use "glue" that is very inconvenient. Or a partition must be provided in advance that is sometimes done, but not always. It is this reason and makes it necessary to use other file systems - albeit with less support from the hardware, but free from restrictions on file size. Judging from our conference, by the way, this problem lately is quite badly - many people, buying an external hard drive or flash drive, just the first few days trying to write back a very large file and ... very surprised by the reaction system, which tells about the lack of space media. A surprise is something: in an amicable way, the creators of the OS could handle this situation is more correct way - informing the user that the file system is not suitable for recording the file, but otherwise all looks very strange: free dozen or even hundreds (if not several hundred) gigabytes, and warn about its lack when trying to write a file size of only 6.5 gigabytes.

    But the size of a volume formatted with FAT32, can theoretically be up to 8 Tib, that even today very much (not to mention the time when the system was created). However, not all so simple - the company Microsoft, for example, believes that the volume of more than 32 GiB do not want to. And not just believes, and has introduced relevant restrictions built into the program format of Windows XP and newer versions of their system. Especially the sad result is obtained when trying to format, such as a flash drive on a 64 GB standard means: to FAT32 (according to Microsoft) is too high, and NTFS on removable media (again - according to Microsoft) are not supposed to use. Both issues are easily solved by using third-party utilities formatting. For example, a simple console program fat32format quietly works with volumes up to 2 terabytes (the maximum for non-dynamic partitions Windows XP). Not everything is smooth, by the way, and with Windows 98 or ME, despite the fact that for them to use FAT32 without alternative. The fact that some of these built-in system utilities and remained 16-bit. But because these programs the maximum size of addressable memory block is approximately 16 MB, then the sections where the FAT is larger, they are not available. In plain language, this means you can not fully use partitions larger than ≈ 127,5 GiB (about 133 GB). More precisely, we can try something, but carefully - not trying to "incite" to such a partition variety of disk utilities: In the best case (standard tools), they simply will not work, and at worst - may spoil the data. Or, for insurance, you can just break sticks, which are planned to be used with Windows 9x, the sections of hundreds of gigabytes. Note that the external drives are still running are more loyal than to internal: to get under their control to access the internal Winchester for more than 137 GB - is not quite trivial, but for the USB-drive large volumes allowed without special problems for Except unusable disk utilities. Other operating systems are no such problems, and described, in principle, be solved. This allows us to consider this the best file system for those occasions when you need to ensure maximum compatibility of the external drive with the full range of computer and consumer electronics. Especially in cases where the storage of files larger than 4 GB is not supposed to - then and visible deficiencies in practice will not be.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Choosing Filesystem for external hard drive

    NTFS - fast, powerful, but the excess :
    Until recently, this file system is the only reliable means of working around "the problem of large files on computers running Windows. Of course, not every version of Windows - 9x line, in principle, does not support NTFS, but compatibility with these systems is important to put it mildly, not everyone. Worse, in household appliances NTFS support is quite rare. But in recent meets. In addition, such support sections and computers running MacOS or Linux - at least they know how to read the data from these sections, and installing special drivers often goes to work, recording function. With the help of additional drivers, by the way, support for NTFS can be "bolted" to Windows 98 or even DOS. How is this system good? First, the restrictions as to the volume size and file size can be considered missing: the one and the other can take up to 16 exabytes (to improve the perception reported that one ekzabayte approximately one million terabytes). Secondly, we can obtain a higher speed, especially if you come across directories that contain a very large number of files - such as when there are several thousand, the difference in the rate of FAT32 and NTFS visible to the naked eye. Thirdly, this system is more resilient, at least because of logging. Fourth, it is able to work with clusters of small size (more precisely, not only capable, but is designed for it), so that the loss of disk space for storing small files from NTFS is much smaller than FAT32, not to mention the exFAT. Fifth, the possibility is quite convenient built-in support for data compression. Of course, the backup on the fly, is far less effective than using special programs archivers with severe algorithms, but it holds and transparent to the user to read, but if stored well compressed data gives a noticeable effect. In general, it is not surprising that your internal hard drive is currently NTFS is the dominant system.

    But on the outside it also has drawbacks. The most innocuous of them is the inability in practice to obtain many advantages of the system. In particular, at the moment hardly anyone carries uncompressed files: even when it comes to office documents, then starting in 2007 they already are automatically compressed when saving, but about the photos, videos and say nothing, so that the built-in support for compression is out of business ( and even more often hinders, rather than vice versa). And the huge number of files in the directory are rare - far more typical is a dozen very large files. (At the same time it levels out and benefit from the smaller clusters.) Also improved by caching, performance may be a double-edged sword - formatted with NTFS drives is highly undesirable to disconnect from the computer without using the Safely Remove Hardware "or its equivalents. All these inconveniences inherent to any external drives, but based on flash memory, there are more. First, logging in this case, it is recommended to disable (because the resource is limited to bulk flash drives, so the "extra" they write files to anything). Secondly, the speed of these drives depends significantly on the levelness of all structures of FS and the cluster erase block boundaries, which is important for the FAT, but NTFS, with its small cluster size (and love of many programs, including staffing tools Formatting Windows XP, remove the top section of 63 sectors), may prove to be very critical. And in general - as the experience of many users, the best speed results easiest to achieve using the cluster size of 32 KB, ie, no less than FAT32.
    Add to this the compatibility issues, after which it becomes apparent that the use of removable media is NTFS often not very justified.

    exFAT - the future of flash drives and not just :
    In situations where the FAT32 is not enough, and NTFS - not optimal, it is not surprising that Microsoft has once again (10 years after the appearance of FAT32) finalized the FAT. The new version, dubbed exFAT, debuted in Windows CE 6, as was most relevant for embedded systems and appliances, but later it appeared in support of desktop computers. What is new is different from the previous version? First, remove the restriction on file size - like a version of the "old" systems, it can reach 16 exabytes. Secondly, the increased size of the cluster: if the previous system had to keep it under 32 KB (sometimes not using a supported option on all 64 Kbytes), then exFAT maximum cluster size is 32 MiB, ie, increased in 1024 times. Of course, this is extremely inconvenient in the case of small files, but they are not too relevant as the subject of transportation, but the size of the file allocation table was reduced accordingly, and consequently reduced and the requirements for RAM to work with large volumes . Naturally, for exFAT was abolished and the voluntarist limit of 32 GiB for the size of the volume - do not need it more The first, which took advantage of this, incidentally, were the producers SD-memory cards rather tightly knotted in the standards is to FAT. For the SD specification version 1.x standard was FAT16 (which determines the maximum card capacity of 2 GB) Version 2.0 focuses on FAT32 (SDHC cards up to 32 GB), and the new version 3.0 for maps of a large volume of standard is exactly exFAT (respectively , maps SDXC visible from the viewpoint of practical use of constraints on capacity are not).

    We also can not say that all of the improvements were only quantitative - there were also qualitative. In particular, lifted restrictions on the number of files in a directory. Not that they greatly interfered with before, but still - now, for example, the camera manufacturers do not necessarily lay out the photos into folders, and you can quietly record everything to the root of the card. A more significant improvement - there was a bitmap of free space, which when used properly, can reduce the fragmentation of the (previously select the most suitable piece of free disk space, too, was possible, but at the cost of active use for each operation of system resources). Logging, of course, under the new system is not - it's too easy to do, and for flash drives (which exFAT in the first place, and aims), this operation is undesirable. But the potential for fault tolerance have provided - it is possible transaction support (of course if it supports a host device). In general, sistemka turned to a miracle is good - there is everything you need and nothing unnecessary. Why is it still has to suffer with a choice, do not go to the exFAT everywhere? And because the external drive, as has been repeatedly mentioned, compatibility is that even a sacred cow - what's the point in the characteristics you are using on the flash file system, if you can use this flash drive only every tenth computer? exFAT is still just in a similar position. Guaranteed to use it only on computers running Windows Vista with SP1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Seven. It seems that there is support in MacOS X 10.6, but there may need to update the system - by the way, may very well be that Apple would not support the new development was Microsoft, but in the last line of computers the company decided to build a card reader that supports Memory SDXC, and this is necessarily required, and compatibility with exFAT. For Linux may have to integrate the driver (and two of them: only supports the normal read and write - just using FUSE). Windows XP users are lucky a little more - in early 2009 on Windows Update there were official update KB955704, which adds to the systems with SP2 and SP3 support exFAT, but it does not apply to mandatory, so there is not on all computers. With all the appliances are as sad as with previous versions of Windows - a happy exception is the few modern devices with SDXC (they have nowhere to go), but the rest is still easier to find support for NTFS, rather than exFAT.

    Other exotic, sometimes useful :
    Like it or not, but at this point in time the majority of personal computers (about 95%) is running one of the systems Windows, and basically this percentage split between Windows XP, Vista and Seven. Accordingly, the most relevant is the choice between these file systems, because they alone without any special tricks supported by this triple. Think about something else, it makes sense only if the compatibility with Windows you have, in principle, do not worry: despite the fact that the majority support "native" OS for other file systems, there are drivers for Windows, for each computer to put them - thankless task. Therefore, regardless of the merits and demerits of some ext3 it can be used except in the case when the external drive is operated as a stationary or close to that form. The only partial exception to the rule - a file system HFS +, the traditional MacOS X. It is not even in some of its special qualities, but the fact that the Operating System has let a small but monolithic market share (which can not be said about the different sometimes incompatible with each other "Linux"). In addition, despite the low prevalence worldwide, there are countries where niche MacOS quite palpable. This puts the HFS + in a privileged position. Up to the fact that some manufacturers sell special versions of external hard drives «for Mac», formatted HFS + (but not FAT32 or NTFS, which occur frequently) directly from the factory. This does not imply any unsuitability for other Mac disks, or inability to use the "Makovsky" on other computers. Moreover - for the exchange of data between Macs and other systems generally more convenient to use FAT32, is guaranteed to work in most cases. What is plus HFS +? The fact that the built-in backup and restore Time Machine is only compatible with disks with this file system. So, if you use the drive for data backup on the Mac, the choice remains. Well, if sometimes arises the need to connect the external device to other computers, the logical step is to install special drivers for them to support HFS +. However, it is the worst option would be, and partitioning for a couple of sections - with a small FAT32 will communicate to different systems, and Section HFS + will allow anything does not deny working under MacOS X. Sometimes buying a special version of an external hard drive "for Mac" may be justified for the user Windows - as a rule, these models are equipped with an interface FireWire (sometimes FireWire-800) in addition to USB 2.0, which can be useful. C file system will have no problems - from the perspective of Windows, formatted HFS + drives any data structures do not contain, so just create a partition (or partitions) and format fit us properly.

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