Friday, March 30, 2012

External Hard Disk Formatting Tips - Fromrum Friday

Hey everyone! I hope you all are doing great and my this post finds everyone in pink of their health! :D

External Hard Disks are one of the most popular computer accessories these days for increasing the computer storage. The main reason being, they are portable and thus one can move the data from one place to other. Popularly using USB as the connection mechanism, these drives have made their place in the market, and have solidified there position so good, that almost 90% of the professionals and enthusiast computer owners are today using this. I don't know how correct my last line is, but if I consider the people I know, then that line is 100% correct! Please donot consider this post to be a tutorial of how to format, I am just sharing some tips. If you guys need a procedure, kindly comment, I'll be happy to share. But since I think most of you know it, I didn't find it worthy to share.

External Hard Disks, though amazing, are always having issues to deal with, especially in case of those users who use them heavily, copying/moving tonnes of data all the time! If I talk about myself, I use external hard drives to store all of my photos and for my backups. External hard drives are great, but they must be formatted properly before you start filling them up with important information. Just yesterday I had format my drive since it's transfer rate had gone down at 1 MBps! O_O Anyways, I thought to discuss such issues and the simple way to format the External Hard Disk here at my blog. How the idea strike in my mind? I was searching the internet for some information related to RAM. Accidentally, I bumped into "popular" article section and saw an amazing CNET article, the link of which I have attached at the end.

Most external hard drives (HD) are sold in a format called NTFS, which is designed to work with Windows. Macs read and write to a different format, called HFS+. Another format, called FAT32 is compatible with both OS platforms. Here's a look at how the different HD format types function:

FAT32 (File Allocation Table)
- Natively read/write FAT32 on Windows and Mac OS X.
- Maximum file size: 4GB
- Maximum volume size: 2TB

NTFS (Windows NT File System)
- Natively read/write NTFS on Windows. - Read-only NTFS on Mac OS X
- Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and above but has proven instable.
- Maximum file size: 16 TB
- Maximum volume size: 256TB

HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, aka Mac OS Extended)
- Natively read/write HFS+ on Mac OS X
- Required for Time Machine
- Maximum file size: 8EiB
- Maximum volume size: 8EiB

So if we observe, FAT32(though I personally stopped using since the year 2006 or 2007! >_<), is the best option for cross-platform users. Though I recommend use of exFAT instead(the option is readily available in Windows 7 atleast). HFS+ seems to be the best! MAN JUST SEE THE FILE AND VOLUME SIZE IT SUPPORTS!! DAMN AWESOME!!! :D But alas! :/ it is supported only by the MacOSX. Anyways, we have some utilities available to get it read/write ready on the Windows too, but well, something that is meant for something else, you cannot be 100% relying on them :/ Though there are both open-source and commercial software available for this, I would recommend a commercial one, since it is more reliable. Example - HFSExplorer(open source), and MacDrive(Commercial Software). Similarly, NTFS is one of the most amazing, but well, won;t work on Mac :/ Though just like for HFS+ on Windows, we have software to run NTFS on Mac too, but as I said for HFS+ also, you cannot rely 100% on them.

Isn't FAT32 the obvious solution?

According to the list above, formatting your hard drive to FAT32 so that you can read and write on either OS seems like the obvious solution. The video and directions below will guide you through the process, but before you format your HD to FAT32, beware of these drawbacks:
  • FAT32 offers no security, unlike NTFS, which allows you to set permissions. If your HD gets into the wrong hands, that person will be able to access your data.
  • The max size for any given file stored on a FAT32-formatted HD is 4GB. So, for example, if you want to store a 9GB movie, it will be impossible.
  • In general, FAT32 drives are more susceptible to disk errors.
  • It's not a huge issue, but FAT32 is less efficient at storing files. Its large cluster sizes waste disk space, unlike the other HD storage formats.

For alternatives to FAT32 in such case, you can consider the before mentioned software to use NTFS on Mac or HFS+ on Windows. Though if you use only one platform(like I use Windows and Linux, not Mac, NTFS works best for me), then either one would be suitable for your need.

I can see I have not said much about the tips while formatting the external HD, but to be honest, I was to share only the above thing. but well, since I have said I will share tips(the above things were also tips damn it! >_<), I will say more about it, okay?

  • You can make partitions in your external drive to manage things, but be sure that each partition means eating away of a small, a very small chunk of your volume space.

  • You can consider using NTFS on Mac or HFS+ on Windows with the software mentioned before, but be cautious. Though commercial software are highly reliable, I would say if you work on just one platform, why go for such things?

  • Another tip I got is, if you are a cross platform worker, you can make 2 partitions. One for Windows(NTFS) and other for Mac(HFS+). how's that? ;)

  • Periodically backup, format, defragment your drive to maintain speed and reliability.

So that's all I had to say about it, and yes! I just saw that I have discussed disk-defragment in Windows XP, but not in Windows 7. So I will discuss it and also partition scanning in Windows 7 also, in detail with screenshots real soon. So stay tuned, Bhanu Gupta is kinda back with Tech Updates foe you all! ;)

Thanks for reading, good day!

Links you might like to check out:

CNET Article - The best ways to format an external drive for Windows and Mac

HFSExplorer - Read HFS+ system on Windows - OPEN SOURCE

MacDrive - Commercial Software to read/write HFS+ system on Windows


Paragon NTFS(Commercial)

How to scan a partition

What is Disk Defragment

How to defragment disk


  1. This blog is already excellent. Maybe a few article additions, tips, videos and illustrations can add a few touch. Anyway, Cheers for posting.

    1. Oh! thanks a lot friend! Thanks a lot for your wonderful comment! :) I'll try to make it better. But right now, I need to concentrate mor eon my exams! After that, I'll try to make it better! :)


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