[Techtalk] USB thumb drives -- VFAT vs Ext3 format

Miriam English mim at miriam-english.org
Wed Jul 2 02:44:39 UTC 2008

Hi all,

I have had to reformat one of my USB thumb drives a few times now. Most 
recently when I was transferring files between my niece's WindowsXP 
computer and my Linux one and her Windows machine refused to unmount the 
thumb drive. She had to leave and so I removed the drive regardless, 
corrupting the filesystem on it.

USB drives are generally formatted with the MSWindows VFAT filing system 
because stupid MSWindows machines can't read other filesystems. What I 
was wondering is would formatting them to a Linux filing system like 
Ext3 would make them less prone to corruption? I know that reduces their 
usefulness because I could not then plug them into MSWindows machines, 
but frankly I get impatient with having to frig around with MSWindows 
machines these days anyway. Most machines I deal with are Linux. Losing 
the ability to connect to MSWindows would almost be a blessing.

One of the things I've noticed with VFAT is that its blindness to 
upper/lower case can cause subtle problems so I'd be glad to be rid of 
it on that count alone.

Anybody know whether Ext2/3 filesystems are less corruptible?

It annoys me that we must be oh-so-careful about unmounting a thumb 
drive when finished reading/writing it lest the data be mangled, 
wrecking the filesystem on the drive and requiring it to be reformatted. 
It seems to me that this problem was solved two decades ago with floppy 

Best wishes,

	- Miriam

My time wasn't completely wasted last year.
I went on a 940 million kilometer journey.
Website: http://miriam-english.org
Blog: http://miriam_e.livejournal.com

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