exFAT for your USB Flash Drives


It is not that uncommon to use multiple different operating systems. I personally use Mac, Linux, and for some applications also Windows. In these situations it is not uncommon that you want to transfer file between different computers with different operating systems. One commonly used method is using flash drives. (I know even today with all the cool networking possibilities).

Flash drives are getting cheaper these days and they are available in much higher capacities. My biggest flash drive is 16GB and even that one is sometimes full. Anyway, you need to format the flash drive using a file system that is available on all operating systems (OSes). FAT is a good choice, but remember that its performance and effective space decreases by increasing the flash drive capacity. Furthermore, if you have large files (bigger than 4GB) you can not store them using FAT file system. (Yes, it happens for a file to be more than 4GB quite easily these days).

NTFS is quite efficient on large volume sizes, provides additional security (at least on Windows) and can store large files; even the file size can be quite much bigger (way much bigger) than the biggest hard drive available on the market at the time of this writing. :D. So, no shortages on that front. However, it is not widely supported on other OSes. MAC OS only supports reading from a NTFS drive but not writing to it. You can get NTFS-3G or other 3rd-party drivers to enable writing to a NTFS drive (check my other posts). However, I noticed that it’s performance has gone awry on Mountain Lion to the point that it is slowing down the entire system. (It keeps reading and reading from the NTFS drives and slowing down the entire system). Perhaps, the commercial version does not have these problems. But once there are free options, why should we pay. After all we are poor students.

The replacement could be exFAT file system. This file system has been around for quite a while, (since Windows XP and CE 6.0). It is naturally supported by MacOS 10.6.5 and later (both read and write permission, by the way, if you haven’t upgraded your MAC OS already, do it so), and it supports large file sizes (up to 16 EiB, I think this should be enough for most of us for quite some time :D, let me know if you have larger file size :D).

The only thing is that it is not supported on Linux, right out of the box. But don’t worry. As usual a very cheap (this means free) solution is there. As usual I will only explain how to support read and write from/to exFAT only on Ubuntu and debian.

The only thing that you need to do is to install exFAT support using apt-get as follows:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:relan/exfat
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install fuse-exfat exfat-utils

That was it. You are done. Enjoy your exFAT formatted drive on debian linux as well as on MAC and Windows.

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2 Responses to exFAT for your USB Flash Drives

  1. ali says:

    Apparently you are super energetic today :)!

  2. Oliver says:

    Could you please show me commands for doing the formatting on Debian. Or will I be able to mkfs.exFAT /dev/hd** once I have installed the format support utilities?

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