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

Deborah Gronke Bennett deborah at deborah.best.vwh.net
Wed Jul 9 02:14:22 UTC 2008

Well, I always use VFAT on my USB drives just so I can exchange data (or 
pictures) between Windows and Linux. You may know these already, but I 
follow a few rules with them.
On Windows, I always use the Add/Remove hardware dialog to quiesce the 
USB drive before I remove it.
If I had a Windows machine that refused to unmount the drive, I would 
shut down the system before removing the drive. Sometimes the shutdown 
procedures will leave you with a cleaner filesystem than just the 
add/remove dialog.
On Linux I always unmount the filesystem on the drive before removing 
the device.

My apologies if you knew all of this already . . .


Miriam English wrote:
> 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 
> disks.
> Best wishes,
> 	- Miriam

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