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Bad FAT…

Alex Christie

1 March 2009

P0137323_C0000004_P0000000 I recently purchased a new Western Digital 1TB external hard drive for Tamar on which to archive a large quantity of HTML files.  The drive arrived the day after I ordered it and within 5 minutes of unpacking the box, it was attached to my laptop and appeared to be working correctly.

I then started the process (a very long one under Windows Vista) of archiving off 45GB worth of files, which is when I started getting errors.

After a little research it appeared that I could only have a maximum of 16,294 files in any one folder before the error occurred which is when I realised the cause of the problem.  The drive had been formated with the FAT32 file system.

There are a number of types of file systems that have evolved over time but the two primary ones in the Windows world are FAT32 and NTFS.  FAT32 was first released with Windows 95 which gives you some indication of its age.  FAT32 had a number of limitations particularly around the maximum size of files, which is why Microsoft created the NT file system (NTFS).  NTFS has been the default file system on every version of Windows since Windows 2000. 

Solving the problem is as simple as reformating the drive. Having reformated the drive, it is now working faster (file copy times have decreased) and I am now also able to store large files.  Given the widespread support of the NTFS file system (you can even mount it under linux) I am at a loss to explain why a company such as Western Digital would ship a drive formated like this.

At any rate, if you purchase a new external hard drive, it is worth checking to see what filesystem it is using before you start copying files as it will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

More info on FAT32
More Info on NTFS

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