ExFAT: Switching all my external HDDs?

MacNoobGuy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 18, 2012
497
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hi all, here's my current setup: 2x 1TB HDD's that are both NTFS and store general files like music/videos plus one 1TB drive that Time Machine uses to backup my Mac. i don't know where to place this thread, but i thought i'd get a much better response here because the Mac folk would have more experience with ExFAT.

since Mac's cannot write to NTFS and i have a Mac and Windows machines i thought i'd be better off just switching both to ExFAT and keep this as a permanent solution. what are the limitations of ExFAT compared to NTFS? can other devices like iPods and Android devices read ExFAT? what would i be giving up by switching to ExFAT from NTFS?

what do you guys think? what potential problems can i run into? does ExFAT have higher rates of disk failure or anything like that? would i be better off leaving one as NTFS and making the other ExFAT just in case?

since this is a big undertaking, i want to make sure i know what i'm doing. i want to keep using the normal 'Mac OS Extended (Journaled)' for the Mac's HDD, but switch the external HDD's from NTFS to ExFAT.

what can you recommend? this is all my data so i'm worried.

thanks for any help!
 

justperry

macrumors G4
Aug 10, 2007
10,483
5,897
I'm a rolling stone.
EXFat has a 4 GB file limit AFAIK, why not buy Paragon NTFS, it's not that expensive and works well on the Mac, since you want to access the disk by both Windows and OS X this would be the best option IMO.

Bold = Not true
 
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blueroom

macrumors 603
Feb 15, 2009
6,381
25
Toronto, Canada
EXFat has a 4 GB file limit AFAIK, why not buy Paragon NTFS, it's not that expensive and works well on the Mac, since you want to access the disk by both Windows and OS X this would be the best option IMO.
exFAT does not have a 4 GB limit. FAT32 does.

PS sharing files on a network, check out a Synology NAS.
 

justperry

macrumors G4
Aug 10, 2007
10,483
5,897
I'm a rolling stone.
exFAT does not have a 4 GB limit. FAT32 does.

PS sharing files on a network, check out a Synology NAS.
You're right, but that's why I also said AFAIK, should have done a fast google search first.
Don't get it why I had this in My head, I am pretty sure I read this here on MR.

Well, at least I learned something, thanks for clearing this one up.

eXfat Max file size = 16 EB as in Exbibyte
 

MacNoobGuy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 18, 2012
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i'm still trying to figure this out. can anyone give me a recommendation or a guide to look at?
 

GGJstudios

macrumors Westmere
May 16, 2008
44,419
768
Format A Hard Drive Using Disk Utility (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder)

Choose the appropriate format:

HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)

NTFS (Windows NT File System)
  • Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
  • Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X
    [*]To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X, here are some alternatives:
    • For Mac OS X 10.4 or later (32 or 64-bit), install Paragon ($19.95) (Best Choice for Lion and Mountain Lion)
    • For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
    • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx $36), which is an enhanced version of NTFS-3G with faster performance.
    • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and later versions, but is not advisable, due to instability.
  • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support NTFS
  • Maximum file size: 16 TB
  • Maximum volume size: 256TB
  • You can use this format if you routinely share a drive with multiple Windows systems.

exFAT (FAT64)
  • Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
  • Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages.
  • exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
  • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support exFAT
  • Maximum file size: 16 EiB
  • Maximum volume size: 64 ZiB
  • You can use this format if it is supported by all computers with which you intend to share the drive. See "disadvantages" for details.

FAT32 (File Allocation Table)
  • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
    [*]Maximum file size: 4GB.
  • Maximum volume size: 2TB
  • You can use this format if you share the drive between Mac OS X and Windows computers and have no files larger than 4GB.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,503
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
Last week I formatted a thumbdrive as ExFAT to take a file to a print shop. I didn't know whether they ran Windows or Macs, so I figured ExFAT would be a safe bet. It wasn't. For reasons I don't need to go into here, I ended up at two print shops... and in both cases they needed to try the thumbdrive in multiple systems until they found one that had an OS capable of dealing with ExFAT. I won't be using ExFAT again. It is not quite as flexible as one would think.
 

Stooby Mcdoobie

Contributor
Jun 26, 2012
824
36
Last week I formatted a thumbdrive as ExFAT to take a file to a print shop. I didn't know whether they ran Windows or Macs, so I figured ExFAT would be a safe bet. It wasn't. For reasons I don't need to go into here, I ended up at two print shops... and in both cases they needed to try the thumbdrive in multiple systems until they found one that had an OS capable of dealing with ExFAT. I won't be using ExFAT again. It is not quite as flexible as one would think.
FAT32 would've been the best option for something like that. exFAT is fine for personal use, however, if you're sharing files that are greater than 4GB (Blu-ray rip, for example), or if you have a RAID/external drive >2TB. Of course that is assuming you're sharing between multiple operating systems. If you're only using one OS, it's certainly best to stick with its native format.
 

MacNoobGuy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 18, 2012
497
0
The default cluster size for exFAT drives 32GB-256TB in Windows is 128KB - and since you'll be working with Windows, I'd just stick with that. Generally, you'd only want to go with a smaller cluster size if you're working with a bunch of small (in this case smaller than 128KB) files.
ok thanks.

so if i go with the default cluster size of 128kb, are you saying that i wouldn't be able to access files smaller than 128kb?

edit: ok i just checked that Microsoft link and i understand now. does Apple have a recommendation for the cluster size?
 
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Stooby Mcdoobie

Contributor
Jun 26, 2012
824
36
ok thanks.

so if i go with the default cluster size of 128kb, are you saying that i wouldn't be able to access files smaller than 128kb?

edit: ok i just checked that Microsoft link and i understand now. does Apple have a recommendation for the cluster size?
It just means that the system "reserves" a minimum of 128KB for each file. (If the file is less than 128KB, it still uses 128KB of harddrive space.) That's why it's good to go with a smaller size if you're working with mostly small files (text/config files for example). You'll be able to use and access the files just fine, no matter the cluster size.

As far as an OS X recommendation, I'm not sure. But I wouldn't worry about it. Just go with whatever it defaults to.

edit: This article explains it better than I did.
 

Wirenut

macrumors regular
Nov 6, 2016
198
94
Hey guys, has any of this info changed in the last few years? I would like to format a few thumb drives and use them for backup. I would li,e to be able to get the files from both a Mac and Wi dows computer if necessary. Which file system is best?
 

ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
2,310
1,155
Hey guys, has any of this info changed in the last few years? I would like to format a few thumb drives and use them for backup. I would li,e to be able to get the files from both a Mac and Wi dows computer if necessary. Which file system is best?
Not really - ExFAT is equally as terrible as it was in 2013. But, unless you opt for the less capable (but I would argue more reliable) FAT32, or live it up and go for a Synology NAS unit, or use iCloud drive or another cloud sync service, ExFAT is your primary option. IMHO, if one is using ExFAT, they should keep at least two copies of those backup files given the tendency for ExFAT volumes to easily become corrupted (especially on Macs.)

Both Microsoft and Apple get a big fat 'F' grade when it comes to integrating cross-platform capable, reliable, journaling filesystems.
 
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GGJstudios

macrumors Westmere
May 16, 2008
44,419
768
Other than file size, what other capability would I lose using FAT32?

THanks.
Your only limitations with FAT32 are file size (4GB max) and volume size (2TB max), and of course, you can't create a bootable backup of macOS. Of course, NTFS is another option.
 
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