Articles

Solved External Hard Drive: NTFS or FAT?

Inspiron 1150/Dimension 4
December 16, 2007 at 17:36:30
Specs: winxp home sp2, CeleronR 2.60/256mb

I’ve found an external hard drive I’m interested in buying and it seems pretty good, but the one complaint I keep seeing in the customer reviews is about having to format it to NTFS. I’ve looked on the forums and I’m seeing some people suggesting NTFS, others FAT. Going by the customer reviews, it seems NTFS is better, but I’m not sure. One customer wrote: “Will not be able to copy a file size more than 4.3GB!!! Beware if you intend to backup any DVD-5 (not to mention DVD-9) full size image. It will say not enough space to copy. No problem with my generic USB-IDE adapter.”

Another: “This product performed flawless and fast. The individual file size issue is due to the FAT32 format that the drive is set up with from the factory. To relieve this issue you must convert it to NTFS (not supported my windows 98 or me) it takes about 2 min with the disk management system included in windows system tools. After that you should have no trouble having a file size larger than 4G. My first was 57G.”

Which one should I go with? I’m looking to transfer at least 27G from one computer and over 8G from another, but I could break them into parts smaller than 4G.

Also, here are the specs for the hard drive in case they’re needed:
Hard Drive
Capacity 500 GB
Interface Type Hi-Speed USB
Buffer Size 16 MB

Performance
Interface Transfer Rate 480 Mbps
Seek Time 8.9 ms (average)
Track-to-Track Seek Time 2 ms
Average Latency 4.2 ms
Spindle Speed 7200 rpm


Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am)


See More: External Hard Drive: NTFS or FAT?

Report •


#1
December 16, 2007 at 18:07:23

If you have files greater than 4GB go with NTFS.

Report •

#2
December 16, 2007 at 18:19:06
✔ Best Answer

In addition to FAT32 having the 4GB file size limit FAT32 also has a folder limit of 65,535 files. This can be further reduced by using long file names, which can use two or three clusters. Exceeding this can cause problems.

Additionally, FAT32 uses only 2 file allocation tables so it is theoretically easier to corrupt a FAT32 drive. On the plus side it is easier to perform data recovery with FAT32. One other thing is the amount of slack you may get with FAT32.

Below is a chart showing default cluster sizes with both FAT32 & NTFS. A minimum of one cluster is needed to store a file and a maximum of one file per cluster. A typical page of text may be 2KB. With a large drive the clusters will be 32KB. That can add up to alot of wasted space (slack).

FAT32 file system cluster sizes
Partition Size Cluster Size
less than 260MB 512 Bytes
260MB through 8GB 4KB
8GB through 16GB 8KB
16GB through 32GB 16KB
32GB through 2TB 32KB

NTFS 4KB is the default for all sizes.

IMO the reason manufacturers ship the drives formatted FAT32 is for maximum compatibility. I recently reformatted my 320GB to NTFS. I had issues with too many files and couldn't use any Windows tools on the drive (scan & defrag).


Report •

#3
December 16, 2007 at 18:19:37

Most HDDs come pre-formatted as FAT32 because it's compatible with all Windows version, Linux & MAC. The only major drawback is that FAT32 doesn't support indiviual files larger than 4GB. If you don't have such huge files, I see no reason to reformat as NTFS.

Report •

Related Solutions

#4
December 16, 2007 at 18:26:10

One slight critique to OtheHill's cluster size list...those numbers are only true if you format using M$'s formatting tool. If you use the HDD's manufacturer's software, you can customize the FAT32 cluster size to whatever you want.

Report •

#5
December 16, 2007 at 18:31:21

jam

I searched for this recently in MSKB but couldn't find it. However, I am sure I read it on a MS site somewhere. If you use non default cluster sizes with FAT32 you can't use the built-in disk tools in Windows. Scandisk or Defrag or both. As I said I can't find that article again. Also think I saw the same comments in Partition Magic 8 when using it.


Report •

#6
December 16, 2007 at 18:40:13

I have my HDDs formatted as FAT32 w/4k cluster size & have never had any probs using the M$ tools.

Report •

#7
December 16, 2007 at 18:50:30

What about the maximum files in a folder I mentioned above. With 4K clusters it is easier to reach that threshold?

Report •

#8
December 16, 2007 at 19:22:27

"With 4K clusters it is easier to reach that threshold?"

If it is, I've never run into it. I run very lean though & keep my partitions reasonably small (30-50GB).


Report •

#9
December 16, 2007 at 20:19:38

I might have a problem with FAT32 because of what OtheHill said: "In addition to FAT32 having the 4GB file size limit FAT32 also has a folder limit of 65,535 files. This can be further reduced by using long file names, which can use two or three clusters. Exceeding this can cause problems."

Each folder would have about 20-30 files and the names are long. I have a problem extracting with winzip sometimes because the file name exceeds 260 characters. As far as compatibility, my understanding of NTFS is that it's compatible with window xp which is what I have on both my computers. As for a manufacture’s software for formatting, I don't know if it's included. One of the customer reviews implied that it wasn't.

If the hard drive is coming with FAT32 just for compatibility, I might go with NTFS since the limits of FAT32, especially the file name length, is likely to be a problem.


Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am)


Report •

#10
December 16, 2007 at 20:39:44

file name length is a completely different issue. It has nothing to do with file systems such as NTFS & FAT32.

i_Xp/VistaUser


Report •

#11
December 17, 2007 at 00:49:30

XPUser

Long file names will use at least two clusters. This wastes space and counts toward the total file count. It does matter if you are storing many small files with long names.


Report •

#12
December 17, 2007 at 11:28:59

"the file name exceeds 260 characters"

What? Why are the names so long? Unless I'm misunderstanding, it would be like having a file named:

I might have a problem with FAT32 because of what OtheHill said: "In addition to FAT32 having the 4GB file size limit FAT32 also has a folder limit of 65,535 files. This can be further reduced by using long file names, which can use two or three clusters.zip

Why would you name a file with SOOO many characters?



Report •

#13
December 17, 2007 at 11:33:28

"Length of the long file names are limited to 255 characters (260 for full paths) and short file names are limited to 8+3 or 11 characters (80 for full path names)".

How are you able to exceed the naming conventions?


Report •

#14
December 17, 2007 at 11:58:25

Jam
I suggest you read this article on the pros and cons of cluster sizes and large drives. Pay special attention to the paragraph titled: FAT32 Performance Tradeoff: FAT32 Cluster Sizes and FAT Sizes

http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/file...


Report •


Ask Question