FAT32 vs Windows NTFS vs Mac HFS vs exFAT for all my external hard drives & backups

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Sossity, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. Sossity macrumors 65816

    May 12, 2010
    I have some external hard drives and backup duplicate external hard drives, ie; I have one for music, & then a duplicate backup, of which I do rotated backups every 6 months for offsite storage of the backups as discussed on here earlier this year.

    I am now a bit undecided about which format would be best to use on all my external hard drives.

    I use both Mac OS and Windows computers, & want my hard drives to be cross platform. Mac OS native format is a bit too specific, as it does seem that there are more windows computers out there in the wild than macs. And it seems that if I had to plug my hard drive into a computer that is not mine, it will more likely be a Windows machine than a Mac.

    Another format for cross platform compatibility that I have liked & used so far is FAT32, but I do not like the 4GB file size limit, & it would be an ordeal for me to have to reformat, & re import my data onto an external that needed the 4GB file size limit lifted.

    I have seen a bit about eFAT, but I have heard & maybe even read on here that it is not good, or too many bugs, & has not been around long enough to be stable.

    So that would leave me with windows NTFS, which seems the most common modern format right now, but it is limited to just windows.

    I have paragon NTFS installed on my mac to work with my NTFS drives. But then I think what if I have to plug them into a mac with out an NTFS driver?

    And this leads me back to FAT32 for cross platform, but then I think what if I start getting files bigger than 4GB?

    so I am torn between these 2 formats.

    what would be the best strategy?

    Should I have my external hard drives in each format? one in NTFS & the backup in FAT32? or just have them all in FAT32, & when & if I get file sizes bigger than 4GB, I will make a dedicated external hard drive in NTFS for files that are bigger than 4GB?
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    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 Mac OS X 10.5 and later, including Lion, FUSE for OS X
      • 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.
  3. Sossity thread starter macrumors 65816

    May 12, 2010
    thanks for the listings & breakdowns of the formats, I have seen this before, & aware of the different formats,

    but what I am asking is what does anybody suggest that I use for my external hard drives & backups?

    should I stick with FAT32 for all my data/content that is under 4GB? & then make separate external hard drives for files sizes over 4GB?

    I know I will have to decide, I was just trying to get an idea of what others would do.
  4. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    If you read what's posted, you'd see that for backups, whether with Time Machine, CCC or SuperDuper!, you need HFS+.

    There is no need to use FAT32. If you share drives with Windows, use NTFS or exFAT.
  5. Sossity thread starter macrumors 65816

    May 12, 2010
    what I meant by backups are back ups of the external hard drives, not of the macs internal hard drive.

    so NTFS would be best? what if I find I have to plug in one of my NTFS externals into a mac (that is not my own) that does not have an NTFS driver? my macs do, but I know most do not.

    is there any way I could run an NTFS or other driver from the external hard drive, so that any computer could read it?

    is there any harm in using FAT32 on larger drives that are 1 & 2 TB? is NTFS better for the drive?

    I am not trying to argue, I am just trying to explore all options & find what is best.
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Also as stated in my first post, Mac OS X can read NTFS drives natively. They just can't write natively.
    No, the driver would need to be installed on any Mac you want to be able to write to NTFS drives.
    As stated in my first post, the max volume size for FAT32 is 2TB.
  7. Justinhub2003 macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2012
    Cincinnati Oh
    Since I use a Mac, i always stick with HFS+

    I have had bad experiences with 1Tb or larger drives formated into FAT32.

    For Example I have Western Digital Elements drive (1TB).

    When I plugged it into my Mac, it would take a full 5-7 minutes before the system would recognize it.

    And when I tried to transfer a file bigger than 4Gb on to it, it wouldn't allow me.

    So When I formatted the drive to HFS+, it began to initialize on my Mac right away.

    I'm not sure if this issue is a Mountain Lion issue (ive seen other people with this issue) or because the drive is USB 3.0 and my mac is USB 2.0, but its annoying either way.
  8. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    I use exFAT for my drives that need to go between windows and OSX, however this only refers to a couple portable drives I have.

    Your backup situation looks like it's getting pretty serious, have you considered migrating everything to a NAS?
  9. Sossity thread starter macrumors 65816

    May 12, 2010
    Excuse my ignorance, what is NAS? however I backup, I need to have 1 copy of each external hard drive offsite from my home.

    I will also go to Google to investigate NAS as well.
  10. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
  11. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Synology makes great NAS's. A cheap & cheerful DS112j would serve you well.
  12. skorpien macrumors 68020

    Jan 14, 2008
    I second the use of a NAS. This way, you won't have to worry about the format of the drives as the NAS will use either AFP or SMB to allow either Macs or Windows machines full read/write access to the drives. Additionally, depending on the NAS you can automate backups and have their internal drives backed up to external drives for offsite storage I believe.

    I also second the use of Synology. They're a great company, and they even include Time Machine backups as one of their features for their products.
  13. Sossity, Dec 19, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012

    Sossity thread starter macrumors 65816

    May 12, 2010
    thanks all for the suggestions, I went to synologys website, & read a little about them.

    am still trying to figure out the NAS drives, if I had one at my home with my hard drives in them with all my data, would I be able to access my hard drive contents from a say a public computer? or from my laptop out in public? & how is this done? it says it is its own cloud, but I have about 4 2 TB hard drives of data & my data grows, will synology keep up with it? is is cloud storage limited like most are?

    would I be able to connect my nas to my at&t 2wire router without having to modify my internet settings?

    It would be a big help if there was a way I could access & restore data from all my hard drives in the event of a disaster at my home, most likely type of disaster for me would be a fire. This is my main concern, to have a way to restore data in the event of a disaster at my home.

    that is why I need an offsite backup, as of now, I have been using a friends office, some small space under their desk as offsite backup of my hard drive contents.
  14. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    The storage you have available to you in your NAS is only limited by the amount of harddrive space you have connected to it. Most modern NAS's will allow you to add drives to your existing array and expand the partition without data loss or corruption.

    You can also access your data from outside your network via FTP or HTTP, additionally most of the big name NAS makers have some type of web interface for file access as well as iOS/Android apps. You will, however need to open up some ports on your router in order for this to work.

    As someone else mentioned, you can also very easily backup the NAS to a local USB harddrive and move that offsite when needed. Future considerations could include you buying a second "offsite" NAS in which your home NAS automatically backs itself up to.

    Once you do more research about NAS's, you're going to want to start learning about RAID. When you have a lot of drives with important data, RAID is your friend.
  15. Justinhub2003 macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2012
    Cincinnati Oh

    HSFS+ is Mac Journaled. Its what my drive attached to my Airport extreme is formatted to too. The only drive I have not formatted that way is the 2 TB samsung drive attached to my Boxee Box
  16. andrewj macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2008
    what is faster exFAT v. NTFS via Paragon

    If I could follow up, for an external hard drive that is already formatted as NTFS, what would be faster: formatting/using it as exFAT v. keeping it as NTFS and using the Paragon driver?
  17. murphychris macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2012
    This section should be updated. NTFS-3G is only current if it's from Tuxera or built from Macports. The URL provided links to a rather old version of NTFS-3G and shouldn't be used.

    Also, osxfuse itself doesn't provide NTFS support, so it doesn't need to be mentioned.

    As for what file system to use, I'd use either HFSJ or NTFS. I wouldn't use exFAT because it has a single FAT, which makes repairs more difficult should they be required. It's also not a journaled file system, which isn't a major issue if this go-between volume is relatively small or doesn't contain many files (the journal makes repairs go faster is all).
  18. cool11 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2006
    After some years of this useful discussion, I would like to read opinions on extFAT use on mac.

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