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Best Filesystem for an External Disk

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#1 systems_glitch


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Posted 07 July 2008 - 11:24 AM

My new RMA'ed 500 GB Seagate disk came in today, and I'm trying to decide on a filesystem to use on it. I want to be able to use it with my PowerBook under OS X and on the many Linux machines I'm running. Windows support would be nice too, since that's very common at school and such.

My first thought was ext2, since there's OS X and Windows support for it, although you have to install a filesystem driver. So, I formatted the disk as ext2. It works fine under Linux and Windows, but OS X wants to do a full fsck every time the drive is plugged in. That takes too long with a 500 GB disk.

I know FAT32 will work under all three OSes with no additional driver files, but it's not really meant for 500 GB disks (even though Linux will format them). Also, it doesn't support files larger than 4 GB, which I actually have quite a few of (DVD images, virtual machine backups, etc).

I've thought about HFS+, but I don't know about its stability under Linux, since most online resources recommended disabling journaling. Also the Windows drivers for HFS+ are purchase-type software.

The external drive will mostly be used with my personally-owned machines, which is why I don't mind installing drivers. But there's also the chance I'll need to use it with a school-owned computer or someone else's computer. In the past, when I only had to worry about Windows-Linux interoperability, I just placed a 50 MB partition at the front of the drive, formatted under FAT32, which contained the Windows ext2 drivers. But the OS X slugishness is deterring me from ext2.

#2 Pharoh


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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:08 PM

For my external drives, I use NTFS. Yes I know, Microsoft gross, but the NTFS-3G driver is actually quite stable on Linux and OS X.

#3 Ohm


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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:13 PM

I've been having good luck with NTFS on Linux as well. I have no idea about OS X, but it's certainly a possibility. I've used ext2 on Windows before, but it messes up the fsck count or something. Every time I rebooted into Linux it wanted to fsck the filesystem.

#4 xof7


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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:20 PM

I second ntfs.... I use external drives to move around my HD movie rips and having to split up files so I can throw them onto a fat device is painful...

I've never used ext2 on an external but it doesn't sound like fun.

#5 systems_glitch


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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:50 PM

Looks like we have a winner -- NTFS-g3 works! I'd rather have something natively supported by Linux, but this looks like the best bet for compatibility.

Just a note, you should have a kernel of version 2.6.20 or greater, according to the error message I received when mounting the disk under Debian Etch (2.6.18 kernel). The disk will still mount, but there's a warning about making sure that ntfs-g3 is actually terminated after umounting the disk. Support under Mac OS X 10.5 is fine.

And no, external drives with ext2 aren't fun. I'm glad that *nix NTFS support is mature enough to be stable nowadays.

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