Will formatting a 1TB drive array in FAT32 cause problems?

By pyromaster114 ยท 9 replies
Feb 8, 2008
  1. I have just gotten a new external USB SATA drive enclosure that supports hardware spanned or striped RAID.
    I chose to use it as spanned.

    I have 2 500GB SATA drives in there right now... but they're unformatted.

    I want to be able to use this drive to store all my media... and read AND write with windows AND linux.

    My question is, can I safely format it in FAT32 as opposed to NTFS and not compromise my data? (I am aware that formatting destroys all data on the drive... but the point is there ISN'T any data on there right now...) Will it compromise the integrity of the volume?
  2. Didou

    Didou Bowtie extraordinair! Posts: 4,274

    Well one thing you have to take into account is that FAT32 won't allow you to have files bigger than 4GB. Formating in FAT32 won't damage the hard drive but it's more prone to errors/corruption than NTFS.
  3. subcan

    subcan TS Rookie Posts: 51

    with that much room, why not partition it with different formats?
  4. Didou

    Didou Bowtie extraordinair! Posts: 4,274

    In case you weren't aware of this fact, many Linux distributions come with NTFS read/write support right out of the box (Ubuntu for example). You do not have to format the drive in FAT32 if you want to use the data across multiple operating systems.
  5. AlbertLionheart

    AlbertLionheart TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,026

    With the limitations of fat32 I wouldn't even think of doing it on these large drives!
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,838   +896

    FAT32 is a simple FS, but frequently has cross-linked files. It is supported by ALL OS systems.

    NTFS is a journaled system and far superior and as security descriptors.
  7. pyromaster114

    pyromaster114 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 246

    Thanks for all your input. I have decided to format it in NTFS because I CAN write to it with Linux, just not as easily as FAT32...

    I am now debating though, if I should use the RAID0 feature of the enclosure... to create a spanned volume.
    OR if I should just have 2 500GB drives separately...

    PROs of Spanned Volume:
    All my media stays in a folder structure on one volume, easier to manage and is in alphabetical order always in the GUI

    CONs of Spanned Volume:
    One of the drives goes bad I loose ALL my data... as opposed to just half of it.

    I was leaning toward the spanned volume cause it's easier to manage... but how likely is it that one of those 2 brand new SATA drives will fail?
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,838   +896

    100% loss.

    Spanned volumes increase performance at the expense of reliability,
    eg if the OS is on it, it's an immediate crash (hint: never do this).

    Spanned volumes also increase the media necessary to take a backup and from the
    above, clearly you need it.

    Mirrored volumes provide Fault Tolerance but are not a substitute for backups.

    1. partition one volume into pieces (/, /swap, /tmp, /var, /usr)
    2. use the other for user data, eg /home
  9. subcan

    subcan TS Rookie Posts: 51

    I agree with joebeard.
    I would personally keep both doth drives separate. I would partition the first drive to hold my MS OS and the start of the drive (min. 50GB), then space for NTFS storage partition, then partitions required for Linux and end of first drive. I would likely partition the second drive with a partition for 'media and video' since that stuff causes so many fragmentation issues, unless separated. I would then make up remainder partitions as to what my needs would be; software copies, etc...
    Right now my HD is partitioned: 1: OS 2: Storage 3:Media On my OS partition I only have OS and programs installed. I use minimal 'my documents' and store most of my documents on the Storage partition. I store all my "software" copies on an external drive. This makes for easy reformat and backup. The only drive that ever needs defragmenting is the OS Partition.
    Just my 80 bits
  10. Didou

    Didou Bowtie extraordinair! Posts: 4,274

    The drive he is talking about will not contain the operating system, that was just an example given by pyromaster114, it will mostly contain multimedia file (see first post).

    I have a similar configuration but the drive is a networked one (LaCie Ethernet Big DIsk) & inside it is nothing more than two 500GB drives. I use it to house all my lossless music but I have them duplicated elsewhere in case the LaCie drive would go bad. In the meantime the entire collection is shared across the network.
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