Most versatile HDD File System

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Populus, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.

    I've been struggling for many years to choose a file format that suits best an external Hard Drive that is aimed to be read not only by macOS and iOS, but also by my TV, which has USB connectors.

    All my external hard drives are now formatted with the APFS file system, except this 2TB external hard drive, plenty of movies and video files. This external HDD is formatted in NTFS, so that it can be read by my TV.

    But, after many years, I'm tired of installing the NTFS drivers on my Macs to be able to write onto this HDD, the only one in NTFS file system. Yeah, I have a partition with Windows, so was able to take those files from Macintosh HD on my Windows partition and copy them on the 2TB HDD. This doesn't work anymore, since APFS is not readable from Windows. So my only chance is grabbing a 250GB HDD and format it on Fat32 or ExFAT and make it a bridge drive.

    All of this sounds overly complicated, and I want simplicity. I don't think having a NTFS Hard Drive is mandatory to be read by the Macs and TV. There must be another file system... I know some TVs read FAT32, and FAT32 is read/writable from macOS, Windows, and readable from many TVs. But FAT32 is an old file system that is not very healthy for HDDs (because of the way it works, using the same regions to write over and over) and it has a limit of 4GB per file.

    But, there is an alternative: ExFAT. In theory, this file format could be read/writable from macOS, Windows, readable from TVs, and would offer no limits to the file size. Would it be "healthy" for my HDD? Well, I'm assuming ExFAT is more advanced and modern than FAT32.

    There are other file systems, like the ones used with Linux. But I'm afraid those won't be compatible with macOS, Windows, and TVs.

    So my best bet is formatting this 2TB external HDD into the ExFAT file system. What do you think?

    EDIT: Is ExFAT readable from iOS? That's a good question, because I plan to incorporate iPadOS into my ecosystem.
  2. netnewswireuser macrumors member

    Jan 2, 2017
    ExFAT is perfect for a HDD storing movies and files in general, no problem. It's readable from iOS too (iOS 7 or newer).

    Regarding how "healthy" is using ExFAT... it really doesn't matter with a HDDs because writes and re-writes have no cost. SSDs are other story cause re-writing in the same place wears-out the medium.

    So... if you use SSD, APFS is recommended. OTOH if you use a HDD, ExFAT is ok.
  3. Populus thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    Thank you netnewswireuser. Yes, it is a traditional HDD, not an SSD.

    Problem is, from what I'm reading on some LG forums, that ExFAT file system is not supported on many of their TVs. Mine is a Samsung, but anyways, I want maximum compatibility just in case I take my drive to a friend's home.

    Apparently, ExFAT is somehow licensed by Microsoft. So the only true universal file system is FAT32. But I think some files I have on the Hard Drive are more than 4GB in size...

    What I want to do is, ideally, be able to plug this Hard Drive on almost any device and be able to watch my content. I still don't know if my old Samsung TV reads ExFAT, but I'm pretty sure it reads FAT32, which is a pretty old file system on the other hand xD. I don't know what to do.

    Maybe having a small Hard Drive (the 256GB one) with the FAT32 file system, just to have my most immediate files ready to be plugged on any TV, and formatting my 2TB HDD (with storage purposes) to APFS, could be the best compromise.
  4. chown33 Moderator

    Staff Member

    Aug 9, 2009
    I'd just try it and see what happens.

    Even a small disk can be formatted as ExFAT. So format a small one, put some files on it you know every device can read, and try it.

    I'd also try both MBR and GPT partitioning schemes, because different devices might have different needs.
  5. dwig macrumors 6502a

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL
    MS developed exFAT, owns core patents for exFAT, and licenses access to the format. They also have patents for most long filename implimentations for FAT32.

    The SD Card Association specifies FAT32 for cards from 2-32Gb and exFAT for larger cards. You'll also find that same pattern in USB Mass Storage devices (thumbdrives, ...). If your TV states a 32Gb limit for USB devices then it likely lacks exFAT support. If it works with 64Gb card and thumbdrives then it will have exFAT support.

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4 July 31, 2019