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Best file format for 1GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive?


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#1 kreativ

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 11:32 PM

My 1.0GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive came factory formatted with FAT (for compatibility I suppose). If compatibility isn't a concern (e.g. using only with WinXP), what is considered to be the best file format for a USB flash drive?

#2 Jeff Poulin

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 01:47 AM

I formatted mine as FAT32 mainly because I didn't like the inefficiency and limitations of FAT16. I run linux, but needed something compatible with windows for other machines. Since linux has limited write support for NTFS, that ruled that filesystem out. Any linux filesystem was ruled out too since I needed windows compatibility (and, occasionally, some BSD as well). Despite its faults, FAT32 seems to be pretty close to a "universal" file system which is nice in a portable drive. My GB flash drive has been FAT32 for about a year and used quite often. I've never had a problem with it in any O/S.

#3 Hairlocks

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 03:48 AM

If your are only using windows XP then NTFS is the best filesystem of the 3. As it is only 1GB it will be easy to copy all the files of it and change it later if you need to.

#4 TwoJ

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 08:07 AM

I left mine as Fat16 since i occasionaly, much less frequently though, come accross people or companies that still have Win9x machines, and since the effeciency of a 1GB flash drive compared to if it was FAT32 or NTFS i consider pretty small, i decided to go with compatibility.

If however you only use it with XP i guess putting it to FAT32 should be ok - I would only do NTFS if you are sure it is going on WinXP or above.

#5 ehurtley

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 10:52 AM

Plain Text is good. Rich Text if you need formatting. Avoid Word unless you are positive everyone using it has Word.

Oh, File SYSTEM Format, not FILE format!

Well, unless you are absolutely, positively, 100% certain that it will only EVER be plugged into a Windows 2000 or above computer, go ahead and put NTFS on. Just don't use NTFS encryption, because it will screw up on other computers. (Don't make it a 'Dynamic Disk', either.)

If there is even the remotest of possibilities that you will at some point want to move files to a Win Me or older computer, or a Mac, just leave it in FAT. (It probably is in FAT32 already.) On a small, removable device such as that, the file system really doesn't matter all that much.
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#6 blakerwry

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 11:31 AM

I'd go with FAT32, NTFS has too much overhead (both in read/writes and in space of the file system housekeeping). FAT32 should be just as fast, and on a relatively small flash drive you won't run into any of its limitations.
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#7 Gilbo

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 11:38 AM

While normalling the journalling nature of NTFS is a tremendously desirable feature, in this case it will shorten the life of the flash memory. In general one should use a non-journalling FS on flash memory.

#8 kreativ

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 04:44 PM

Thanks for the good feedback. And yes, I should've said "file system format" rather than "file format." :P

I formatted mine as FAT32 mainly because I didn't like the inefficiency and limitations of FAT16.

For a flash drive, is there a point (storage size) in which FAT32 become better than FAT16? I remember FAT16 being the quicker and more efficient file system for smaller volumes...

While normalling the journalling nature of NTFS is a tremendously desirable feature, in this case it will shorten the life of the flash memory. In general one should use a non-journalling FS on flash memory.

As far as flash memory life is concerned, would FAT16 and FAT32 perform equally?

Edited by kreativ, 07 July 2005 - 04:44 PM.

#9 Gilbo

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 05:32 PM

The performance difference will not be at all noticeable in any task.

The only things to consider are that the maximum FS size for a FAT16 FS is 2GB, and that since slack is an issue with FAT filesystems FAT32 might be a better choice since you could use smaller cluster sizes. Since, your drive is only 1GB you could use FAT16, but only you know the file sizes you'll be storing, so I can't comment on whether slack will be an issue at all. If you think it will be use FAT32 instead.


For those who don't know what slack is:
The smallest element of addressing in a FAT filesystem is a cluster. A file can take multiple clusters, but always takes up at least one. If many files are significantly smaller than the cluster size, significant amounts of wasted space accumulate eating into one's capacity.

Slack isn't nearly as much of an issue on NTFS for a variety of reasons.

#10 Jeff Poulin

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 07:54 PM

I formatted mine as FAT32 mainly because I didn't like the inefficiency and limitations of FAT16.

For a flash drive, is there a point (storage size) in which FAT32 become better than FAT16? I remember FAT16 being the quicker and more efficient file system for smaller volumes...

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The cluster size for a 1000MB flash drive under FAT16 is 16KB, but it's 4KB under FAT32. Thus there's less slack space on FAT32. Also, FAT16 limits you to 512 entries in the root filesystem whereas FAT32 doesn't have such limits. Finally, FAT16 filesystems cannot be larger than 2GB, but FAT32 goes up to 124.55GB (not a concern for 1GB flash drives, but it won't be long before 4GB flash drives are available if they're not already).

I think FAT16 is okay for flash drives that are 256MB or less. Anything above 256, I'd recommend FAT32 for efficiency.

#11 whiic

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 01:12 PM

There's no 124.55GB limit set by FAT32 file system. FAT32 can be (theoretically) as big as 2 TiB (binary) or 2147483648 TB (decimal).

http://www.ntfs.com/ntfs_vs_fat.htm
http://www.pcguide.c...artFAT32-c.html
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#12 Jeff Poulin

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 02:13 PM

There's no 124.55GB limit set by FAT32 file system. FAT32 can be (theoretically) as big as 2 TiB (binary) or 2147483648 TB (decimal).

http://www.ntfs.com/ntfs_vs_fat.htm
http://www.pcguide.c...artFAT32-c.html

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I misread wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAT32). The 124.55GB limit is due to scandisk shipped with windows. 2TB is theoretically possible.

#13 qasdfdsaq

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 05:50 PM

I thought you couldn't put NTFS on removeable drives...

#14 bsdlist

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 05:55 AM

While normalling the journalling nature of NTFS is a tremendously desirable feature, in this case it will shorten the life of the flash memory.  In general one should use a non-journalling FS on flash memory.

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Current flash drives are good for several millions read/write cycles, so I don't think this is an issue for most people.

For Linux/BSD one could mount the file system with the noatime option which will speed up access and reduce the number of writes done. On *BSD one has "soft updates" that will reduce the number of writes : http://openbsd.org/f...tml#SoftUpdates

#15 ericg

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 01:07 PM

I thought you couldn't put NTFS on removeable drives...

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You can format NTFS unless the drive is only a few MB.

Removable is restricted to one partition in Disk Managment. Write caching is different.



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