FAT32 partision > 32GB

Constantine Evans constantine at evanslabs.org
Mon Dec 25 09:42:26 UTC 2006

Ben Edwards wrote:
> Thanks, I think that is it.
> Also what are the drawbacks of fat32 apart from performance.  Am I
> correct there are issues with long filenames (seem to remember
> something about this).
> Ben

There are a variety of major drawbacks to using fat32. From Wikipedia's
"Comparison of filesystems":

* One cannot have files larger than 4 GiB. This is probably the largest
drawback. With proper settings, ext3 can have files up to 2TiB in size.

* There is no journaling support. This is very important for an external
hard drive which might be accidentally disconnected.

* Permissions are essentially nonexistent.

* There is no support for sparse files, hard links, soft links, and so on.

I would highly suggest that you consider using ext3 instead of fat32,
especially for an external hard drive. The lack of journaling in FAT32
means that it is very easy to corrupt the filesystem and lose data if
the device is accidentally disconnected, or if there is a power outage,
or even if the system crashes. Furthermore, especially on a large
external drive, it is quite possible that you will want to have files
larger than 4 GiB.

There is an excellent driver for ext2 in Windows which also works with
ext3 at www.fs-driver.org, and I have used it extensively with
reasonable results (it has a tendency to cause fsck to be run on ext3
partitions occasionally[1]).

If you really must use a filesystem supported by a default Windows
installation without the ext2 driver, then use NTFS. It has journaling,
large file support, and reasonable, if experimental, support in Linux
with ntfs-3g.

Constantine Evans

[1] I think this is due to it mounting the fs as ext2, and thus
incrementing the mount count, which eventually triggers fsck. I remember
dreading the periodic checks in the old days of Linux, since they seemed
to take so terribly long at the time, much longer than now.

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