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Old 09-04-2012, 03:38 PM   #1
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Best filesystem for cross platform activity?

Hello my friends,
A relevant and ill discussed question.

Following my experience in a musical workshop in Crete - sharing digital information from time to time with an external disk oner audience can be an "area of conflict" between Mac, Win, and Linux fs.

Latest posts i've excavated suggests that FAT32 is the most complient cross platform fs but being restricted to 4GiB in filesize, is irrelevant for many tasks. NTFS complience to linux and mac might demand 3rd party drivers.

The main question is what filesystem will be best suited for using external HD over different OS?
is it possible to format such drive as a UDF fs which is built for cross platform support?

Old 09-04-2012, 09:45 PM   #2
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I recommend ext3 but make sure you make it with inode size 128, which is not the default, but will make it more compatible with Windows (using Ext2IFS ) , BSD (older versions ). Or you can go with NTFS, which everyone can handle with NTFS-3g, as you know.


mkfs -i 128 -t ext3 /dev/sda1

for example or whatever partition you have your drive on instead of sda1.

Last edited by mostlyharmless; 09-04-2012 at 09:51 PM.
Old 09-04-2012, 10:32 PM   #3
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:36 AM   #4
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I use ext3 - if you configure avahi and samba your drive(s) will be visible/accessible from macs and windows machines
Old 09-05-2012, 09:57 AM   #5
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FAT32 no question.

If you just want it to work that is.
Yes, it does have a filesize limit.
Yes, it does defragment (badly)
Yes, if you unplug it too soon you can loose new files easily
Yes, i still trust it enough to commit my data to it

But aside from this it is still the most widely spread and supported filesystem. You can even use it on any type of flash storage media without worrying about wear leveling and stuff.
Old 09-05-2012, 09:57 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dmcnatty View Post
I use ext3 - if you configure avahi and samba your drive(s) will be visible/accessible from macs and windows machines
Whatever filesystem you use beneath a network filesystem is irrelevant, FYI.
1 members found this post helpful.
Old 09-05-2012, 03:27 PM   #7
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Thanks for the light shedding!

could any of you explain some more about network filesystem: how to format? would it be slower than direct filesystem read/write? would it require installing samba and avahi on the windows/mac machine?

I guess we can conclude that currently there is no filesystem that will work plug&play from every machine except FAT32 which is out of question with files > 4GiB.

Old 09-05-2012, 05:05 PM   #8
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nfs and samba (SMB) are networking protocols and not real file systems. No formatting is required. Is networking the computers together an option?

Nothing has to be installed on the windows or AFAIK Mac computers.
Old 09-05-2012, 10:08 PM   #9
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FAT32 would be the most logical choice as just about all operating systems support it and doesn't require FUSE.
Old 09-06-2012, 03:46 AM   #10
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If you share a disk via some networking protocol the underlying filesystem is less important but still does matter.

Suppose I want to share a large disk via CIFS/samba/windows-file-sharing from a linux system.
Firsty I want the best performance and full support by linux. That leaves FAT32, ext2/3/4, xfs, ReiserFS, and possibly jfs. NTFS is supported well and I have used it at customers sites but setting it up requires some tender loving care.
Secondly I want to create shares for different users with different access rights. That rules out FAT32. So that leaves ext2/3/4, xfs, ReiserFS and jfs.
Thirdly I want reliability so that rules outs ReiserFS (oh boy am i going to get flamed for this :O )
Lastly I want the best performance so that leaves ext4 and xfs.

XFS has full ACL support when sharing it via samba and I like the fact you can create volume snapshots from XFS disks so this one is my personal favourite for most sharing. Ext4 has somewhat better performance for small files so I use that to share development disks, etc.

Then again, so many people, so many opinions so I am positive that there are many other options.
Old 09-06-2012, 10:22 AM   #11
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many people, many opinions and also many different uses and problems...
the problem i'm trying to solve is: an external hard drive to hold and share music and videos (mainly larger than 4GB) between musicians - using any machine, easily.
what will be the best way doing that?
Old 09-06-2012, 03:05 PM   #12
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Larger than 4Gb?
Never thought I'd say this on a linux forum, but for an external disk, i'd choose NTFS.
If you dont need to share it via SAMBA there is hardly any configuration to do.
NTFS is well supported in modern Linux distro's; reading and writing is absolutely problemfree. I have one customer where I setup a NTFS harddisk on a Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. Its running for more than a year and it is used extensively on a daily basis. Really only one downside: you cannot check the disk from within Linux; that really needs to be done on a windows PC. Then again, NTFS is very robust and i never need to.
On my MAC i noticed NTFS disks are read only, not sure if writing is possible even.

Last edited by geox; 09-06-2012 at 03:06 PM.


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