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Data Storage Operating Systems Software Windows

USB Flash Drive Comparison Part 2 — FAT32 Vs. NTFS 198

Posted by timothy
from the get-your-data-past-the-border-guards dept.
Dampeal writes "Ok, a little while back I ran a somewhat large USB Flash Drive Comparison with 21 drives compared, today I got part two of that comparison. I've taken the 8gig and 4 gig drives, nine in total, and formatted them FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT and ran all of the tests over again for a comparison of how the file systems work on the drives." Good news — after some exhaustively graphed testing scenarios, the author comes to a nice conclusion for lazy people, writing "[I]n my opinion the all around best choice is FAT32, or the default for most all USB drives out there today, it seems to give us the best average performance overall."
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USB Flash Drive Comparison Part 2 — FAT32 Vs. NTFS

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  • Great (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chih (1284150) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @12:55PM (#26624341)
    I'm lazy, so it's good to know that the default setting is the best.
  • not so fast (Score:5, Informative)

    by uberjoe (726765) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @01:05PM (#26624505)
    FAT32 is great, unless you want to exceed the 4gb filesize limit. In which case you will need an alternative.
  • by js_sebastian (946118) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @01:16PM (#26624741)

    The question about filesystems has come up a few times over on the Dell Mini forums. Basically the question is which is better to use on machines with SSDs? If you're not dealing with >4GB files, several people have suggested that you're better off formatting the drive as FAT32. I'll need to take a better look at this article when I get a chance, but it seems to be suggesting the same thing.

    FAT32 is fine for a USB stick, but you shouldn't install an OS on it. The problem is that FAT32 has no concept of file ownership. So your operating system will be unable to restrict access to files based on the user, which is one of the building blocks of security on any modern OS. This way, any (malicious) process running on the system can overwrite critical system files to do arbitrary damage.

    Even if you run windows XP as adminstrator, not all processes on your system run as administrator so you will still be (slightly) decreasing security by having it on a FAT32 filesystem.

  • Re:Size matters (Score:5, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @01:23PM (#26624857) Journal
    Did he run tests with 16GB files?

    FTA: "I've taken the 8gig and 4 gig drives, nine in total"


    FTA: "I used a 350MB .AVI Video file for all testing.".


    More importantly, he couldn't use a 16GB file, since FAT32 doesn't support single files over 4GB.
  • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

    by mollymoo (202721) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @01:51PM (#26625405) Journal

    Define "best". The manufacturers will have selected FAT32 based on compatibility. The test shows that it's a good choice for performance too.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @01:56PM (#26625509) Homepage Journal

    What about ext2 and other filesystems then?

    Ninety percent of desktop PCs run Windows, and for interchange among the public, file systems that most PCs running Windows cannot read aren't worth testing. If you format your USB drive as ext2 and carry it to someone else's PC, you'll need to 1. carry a CD or a second USB drive with the ext2 driver [fs-driver.org] and 2. get admin rights in order to install it on someone else's PC. It'd be like the Windows 9x days, when you needed to carry a floppy disk with the USB mass storage class driver whenever you used someone else's computer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @02:04PM (#26625689)

    Select the usb drive right click/hardware/policies select optimize for performance and the GUI formatter will now have NTFS as an option.

    After formatting you can reset the policy as needed.

    I personally turn optimize for performance off on USB drives as many times explorer or some other program will lock the drive preventing a safe removal.

  • Re:not so fast (Score:3, Informative)

    by mweather (1089505) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @02:23PM (#26626071)
    The only benefit of FAT32 is compatibility. exFAT does not have that.
  • FAT32 and MS Backup (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dreben (220413) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @02:46PM (#26626507)

    Since many folks use their usb devices as backup media, it should be noted since fat32 has a file size limitation of about 4gb, fat32 is not an option if you wish to use MS Backup utility to create backup images larger than that.

  • by repvik (96666) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:03PM (#26626853)

    Google "unlocker". Very useful tool.

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:22PM (#26627147)

    This.

    While all my computers are part of a domain (so my user name works on all of them and has full rights), I sometimes have problems with hard drives that I connect from other (people brought me to reinstall Windows). Now, ideally I would connect the drive to my PC, if the drive has enough free space left (>3GB), I would just move all current directories to a new one, say c:\__old, then install Windows. The owner of that PC would save what files are important to him and delete the rest of __old. However, if the drive is NTFS, sometimes I have problems moving or deleting the Windows directory because I do not have enough permissions and taking ownership does not work. Then I can only copy all other files to some other HDD or tape, format the drive in question and copy the files back. And then I just think how glad I am that the system drive of my main PC is FAT32.

    Also, FAT32 has a second copy of the FAT on the drive, so if anything bad happens (say, a bad sector) to the first copy, you can restore it. If a bad sector appears in the $MFT of NTFS - you just lost a number of files. Anyone know of a software solution that can keep an updated copy of the MFT somewhere on the drive (or on some other drive)?

    On the other hand, NTFS supports 64KB cluster size, while FAT32 supports only 32KB. That and >4GB file support made me use NTFS on some hard drives, because HD movies are usually >4GB in size...

  • Re:not so fast (Score:4, Informative)

    by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness@yaho o . c om> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:42PM (#26627489) Homepage Journal
    exFAT has as much in common with FAT32 as does NTFS. Microsoft made a big change with a purposeful break from backwards compatibility. So while it may be a 64-bit compatible FAT implementation, it doesn't share anything with the older FAT file systems - even FAT32. So no, no more compatibility whatsoever than NTFS.
  • Re:Size matters (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @05:48PM (#26629375)

    Yes, Windows has a built in artificial limitation for formatting FAT32 because they want you to use NTFS. Format with Linux instead for 32GB+.

  • by _Splat (22170) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @09:56PM (#26632775)

    Flash drives have a flash translation layer that makes the flash look like a regular disk despite having special properties. This layer handles the wear-leveling, garbage collection, and bad block detection so the standard filesystem (that was designed for magnetic disks, probably) doesn't have to consider them. Regardless of the filesystem used, the wear of the device should be related to the total amount of data written, not the location of the data.

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