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 Post subject: Recommended File System for External HDDs on Win 7 Systems
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:52 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:35 pm
Posts: 17
Location: Germany
Greetings to all the fine folks on the forum.

Scott, I have some questions about the NTFS and exFAT file systems.

1. I would like to know what the best file system is for external hard drives that are used for backing up the data of a computer's internal (NTFS) hard drive. The question is whether to format the external drive -- in my case with a capacity of 1 TB -- as exFAT or as NTFS? (When I say "drive" or "hard drive" in this post, I mean a hard drive with spinning platters, not a solid state device.)

I'm asking the question under the following assumptions:

1.1 The computer is running Windows 7.
1.2 Compatibility with older Windows operating systems is not required.
1.3 Compatibility with non-Windows operating systems is not required.
1.4 The external hard drive is connected to the PC exclusively via the eSATA interface.
1.5 The computer uses AHCI mode SATA drivers.
1.6 The difference in overhead between exFAT and NTFS is not of importance.

I've tried researching this issue on the Internet myself, but presumably because exFAT is a relatively new format there isn't much useful information available regarding exFAT's suitability for hard drives, even on Microsoft's web site. What is clear, is that exFAT is definitely intended for Flash devices.

I did read your articles on the forum that have some relevance to my question, and in doing so a new question arose:

In this post you say that NTFS is generally not designed for removable devices. In this article you specifically address the more robust file system structure of NTFS compared to FAT (when write caching is enabled), using a power outage during a write to disk process as an example. What I don't understand is what the difference is between a sudden interruption in a write to disk process caused by a power outage and one caused by a "sudden removal" of an external hard drive, when considered from the perspective of the NTFS file system. Is the sudden interruption caused by "surprise removal" more severe than one caused by a power outage, and if it is, how so? If it isn't, then I don't understand your statement in this post, where you say about NTFS:

Quote:
... and in general is not designed for removable devices, where "surprise removal" may be common: viewtopic.php?p=3011#p3011


Put another way, as I understand it, if the NTFS file system would suffer less corruption than a FAT file system from a sudden interruption of a write to disk process caused by a power outage, then I reckon that the same holds true for a sudden interruption caused by a "surprise removal". I just can't see the difference. If there isn't any difference then I just don't understand why NTFS should be less suitable for removable devices than FAT, when considered solely from the standpoint of data integrity after the sudden interruption of a write to disk process. Therefore I would really appreciate your clarification.

2. On another note, if the assumption "Compatibility with Mac Systems running Mac OS X 10.4 is required." were substituted for the text under point 1.3, all other assumptions remaining the same, what would the preferred choice of file system be then? Mac OS X 10.4 has built-in NTFS read capability, and third party file system drivers can be purchased to also gain NTFS write capability. I don't know of any third party software that facilitates exFAT compatibility on older Mac systems though. Mac OS X Snow Leopard will have to offer exFAT compatibility because of the SDXC standard, and apparently some current Mac OS X 10.6 builds already have exFAT support. If companies like Paragon or Tuxera don't make exFAT file system drivers available for older Mac OSes at some point in the future, I doubt that these OSes will gain exFAT support at all, because Apple will obviously want consumers to upgrade to Snow Leopard rather than making exFAT support available for older OSes. So, as it stands now, if Mac OS X 10.4 compatibility were desired, I would go with NTFS. Do you agree?

Thanks for all the effort you put into answering the questions on the forum.


Kind regards,

Daniel


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 Post subject: Re: Recommended File System for External HDDs on Win 7 Syste
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:40 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:44 am
Posts: 5846
Quote:
I would like to know what the best file system is for external hard drives that are used for backing up the data of a computer's internal (NTFS) hard drive.

Definitely NTFS.

Quote:
Is the sudden interruption caused by "surprise removal" more severe than one caused by a power outage...?

I'd say they are about the same in most cases assuming the power just goes "out", however power outages including surges, spikes, or other fluctuations can potentially cause more severe problems.

Quote:
If there isn't any difference then I just don't understand why NTFS should be less suitable for removable devices than FAT, when considered solely from the standpoint of data integrity after the sudden interruption of a write to disk process.

The difference is that NTFS normally uses write caching, which makes it more susceptible to file system damage in case a power outage occurs before the cache is flushed to the disk. You can turn off the write caching, but then performance will suffer. But this may be overstated. In my opinion, the difference in susceptibility to problems is pretty minor in either case. Read this post from where I state: "In my opinion this warning is more of a disclaimer than a serious warning of danger..."

Quote:
On another note, if the assumption "Compatibility with Mac Systems running Mac OS X 10.4 is required." were substituted for the text under point 1.3, all other assumptions remaining the same, what would the preferred choice of file system be then?

Still NTFS. <g> Scott.


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