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

Miriam English mim at miriam-english.org
Thu Jul 10 00:23:08 UTC 2008

Thanks Deborah. I didn't think of shutting Windows down when it refused 
to unmount my thumb drive. Good idea. I only very rarely have any 
contact with MSWindows these days.


	- Miriam

Deborah Gronke Bennett wrote:
> 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 . . .
> -deborah
> 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

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

More information about the Techtalk mailing list