Is it true that if you set your external hard drive to exFAT, it will fail frequently

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by galaksy, Sep 23, 2014.

  1. galaksy macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2014
    I heard that if you format your external HDD as exFAT to use it with both Windows and Mac, it will fail early, so that it's best to choose the formatting for either Windows or Mac and then use some sort of software that lets you read files from a different OS.

    What is the name of the software?
  2. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    Eh, no. It's an interesting position about ExFAT, but false - unless you have a link that details some testing on ExFAT, other than some anecdotal report.

    Windows won't even see your Mac-formatted partition, so if you prefer to have the drive formatted for Mac, then - on your Windows system - you will need to install something like MacDrive.
    It's a commercial product, but you can try it for a few days for free.

    If you prefer to have the drive formatted for Windows (NTFS), then, on your Mac, you will need to install software that provides the read & write drivers for NTFS, such as those from Tuxera -
    There is a free version (NTFS-3G), but I'm not sure how well that supports newer OS X versions - plus it's much slower than the commercial Tuxera NTFS for Mac.
  3. tomnavratil macrumors 6502a


    Oct 2, 2013
    Litovel, Czech Republic
    I've had an external drive running as exFAT for more than 3 years and never had a single problem with it to be honest. I don't have this setup any more but it worked fine in my case.
  4. galaksy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2014
  5. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    Whoever told you that is misinformed.

    ExFat does not use journaling, so file corruption can happen a bit easier, in theory. I've had quite a few disks formatted to exfat for years without any problems.
  6. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    For what it's worth, I've never had any problems.
  7. iir macrumors newbie

    Sep 3, 2014
    Miami, FL
    the biggest issue i had with exfat was with the constant spotlight indexing killing my battery life. i like to keep my code repository on an external, so i would work off of it and keep it plugged in most of the day. i'm not sure if it was corrected but for some reason my mba would use a ton of resources trying to index the drive, and my battery life dropped by half. otherwise its great, universal compatibility, and can handle large file sizes!
  8. littlepud macrumors regular


    Sep 16, 2012
    The type of file system (ExFAT, HFS+, NTFS, etc.) can't affect the physical durability and lifetime of the drive.

    That being said, some file systems will be more robust than others at recovering from things like single-bit errors. The FAT family of file systems tend to be more fragile than journaled file systems like HFS+ or NTFS, though the latter two are Mac and Windows specific respectively.
  9. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
    USB powered external? If so that alone might account for the shorter batt life.
  10. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    Quite a few NTFS drivers have that problem but I never experienced it with exFAT.

    I would add to this thread that Windows can see the HFS Mac partition once all bootcamp drivers are installed (which you really should install as a few things only work properly with them like keyboard backlight). It cannot write to the partition but read it just fine.
    Same goes for the Windows partition in reverse you can see and read it but not write to it. I think Apple never supplied write capabilities on either side because that means only people that usually don't call their phone support get write capability though 3rd party software can mess with stuff.
    It isn't hard to add write capability but then adding the proper xrw privileges with out errors, which is the most basic security layer for any OS, is something, they apparently weren't upto.

    exFAT is fine for external use. It is low overhead and very simple. It is very easy to repair for things like disk utility. For the data like movies, music, documents it is perfectly fine. You wouldn't want to run a database on top of it.
    All the problems that should occur are fixed by copying a file to it again if the process didn't complete, or repair the file system in Disk Utility.

    All that being said exFAT has one quite substantial problem in my opinion. It is often not compatible with TVs, Settopboxes and so on. exFAT is owned by Microsoft and must be licensed. Only Apple seemed to care for it. NTFS is ubiquitous on the other hand and is read from virtually any device.
    That is the main reason I go for NTFS on external drives, because I want to attach them to more than just my own notebook. The paragon driver is the best btw. NTFS 3G is really bad also with the indexing bug, Tuxera is okay but more troublesome than paragon. I got Tuxera now but after I spent the money I didn't want to go back. Paragon I only tried out but it had less problems. Speedwise it is the same.
  11. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    For what it's worth, I have experienced issues with exFAT with external drives.

    Generally speaking it behaves but I've noticed that if the drive has something bad happen (such as losing power because you're away in some far away country where the power isn't as reliable as you might like), you'll almost certainly lose data.

    I won't claim that this is entirely due to exFAT - of course it's not, but I've noticed that other file systems appear to have better resiliency with issues such as this.
  12. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Use exFAT on quite a few external HDD or USB drive, swapping between Windows, OSX, virtual machines, etc. No problem at all.
  13. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    4 years on my external drive

    I have had no problems at all with exfat for media storage etc, as pointed out above though many things like TVs and blu rays won't recognise the drive.
  14. Merode macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2013
    Warszawa, Poland
    The only issues you might experience with exFAT is when you suddenly unplug HDD from your MAC/PC without first ejecting it in OS.

    If by chance your OS was currently utilising HDD, your data might get corrupted.

    That's everything. Besides that exFAT has some limitations which you can check here but they're not importnat to most casual users.

    One thing that might put you off is that exFAT doesn't recognize file ownership. You can't limit files to some users/groups etc.

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