What is the best volume format for an external disk?

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neo-admin
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What is the best volume format for an external disk?

Post by neo-admin »

That is a very good question, which we have recently received.

What format is the best for NeoFinder?

Well, that is not an easy question, and it really depends on what you want to do.

There are five possible basic volume formats available. Let's look at them.

First of all is HFS+, the native Mac OS and Mac OS X volume format since its introduction in 1998. It is well known and really well documented by Apple. There are lots of technical tools that can handle this format, to backup and fix these volumes. The problem here is that the total number of allocation blocks to be used on a volume is limited, which means that if you have a huge number of very small files, even a very large disk will be full much earlier than you thought. Since this is a native Macintosh format, you need a commercial driver software for Windows to read and write such volumes, even though Apple actually has these drivers as part of the BootCamp software on Intel Macs.

Second is APFS, a new format that Apple has introduced in 2017. It is still not really completely documented, and there are not as many helper tools for it yet. It doesn't have the allocation block limitation, and some other advanced features, which are not very important for simple data storage. However, this format is intended for SSD devices, and the cataloging performance when used with actual rotating hard drives is rather slow. Also, the support of drivers for other platforms is currently limited to read-only, so this format is not recommended for cross-platform long term data storage.

Third, the FAT32 volume format, designed by Microsoft for Windows, is still often used for data exchange. Limited to a maximumn file size of 2 GB, it is not well suited to transfer larger files between platforms or devices. You can use it for USB-Sticks to transfer smaller files, but don't use for large hard disks.

Fourth, the ExFAT volume format, designed by Microsoft in 2006, can handle much larger files. While macOS can read and write these volumes, unfortunately the speed of the native Apple drivers is extremely slow, especially when cataloging data with NeoFinder. It seems they are not caching any directory data up-front. Also, the Apple ExFAT driver has many bugs which we had reported years ago, and which are still not fixed today, such as totally wrong volume creation and modification dates, or the fact that the modification dates of folders to not ever change, even when their content is modified. Still, this is the best format if you need to safely transfer data between macOS, Windows, and Linux.

Last, the native Microsoft Windows disk file system is NTFS. macOS is able to read this format, but by default cannot really write to NTFS. This limitation can be circumvented by a free tool for macOS which will activate a hidden option in macOS that allows writing to it, or by using a special commercial driver that is available by multiple vendors.


Recommendation
If you use SSD disks only on macOS, use APFS.
If you use any actual spinning hard drives for medium and large files, only in macOS, use HFS+.
If you want to be able to access files on macOS, Windows, and Linux, use ExFAT.

If you want to catalog ExFAT volumes with NeoFinder, make sure to turn OFF the cataloging of Finder Tags and Comments, as both of these use "extended attributes", which are super slow with the native Apple ExFAT driver.
Also use the new "Catalog of FileType/Creator data" setting in the Exptert Preferences of NeoFinder, and turn that OFF for more speed on ExFAT.

https://www.cdfinder.de/guide/24/neofin ... prefs.html



What about "case-sensitive" and "Journaled"?
Case-Sensitive are newer variants of file systems that treat files named "TEST.txt" as a different file from "test.txt". In regular archiving situations, that is really not an issue if you use a good naming scheme, so you don't need that.

Journaled is an extra safety layer that helps prevent corruption of file system data. This is very highly recommended to be used!
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