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Author Topic: In need of suggestions how to format external hard drive for cross-platform work  (Read 2905 times)
adifrank
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« on: November 08, 2011, 11:30:55 PM »
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Hi. I own a PC laptop, running Windows XP with Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 3 installed.
I'm currently attending a residency at a photography school in New York. They have amazing facilities, but it's all Mac based.
So, in order to be able to work on my stuff on the Macs at the school, I decided to purchase an external hard drive (5400rpm) that has both USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 connections.

The drive came formatted for Mac out of the box. So from what I've been led to understand - the hard drive will not be recognized by my PC. I did a bit of research on the web and found the following options for making the hard drive cross-platform compatible and the questions I have for each method:

1. Formatting the drive to FAT32.
- I've read that FAT32 is good for small capacity drives, such as usb pen drives, but not so good for large drives. Is this true?
- I've read that FAT32 could be slow when transferring data. Will this have any affect when working on images on this drive with Photoshop and/or Lightroom?
- In a different forum, someone said that FAT32 is not very reliable and that one should not store valuable data on a FAT32 formatted drive, because it is not highly unlikely that files will become corrupt.
- I also am not sure if it matters whether I format the hard drive to FAT32 using Windows or the Mac.

2. Formatting drive to HFS+ and using some sort of 3rd party software on the PC to work (such as this for example).
- Is this a good method? What are the drawbacks (apart from having to purchase additional software)?

3. I read something about exFAT... what is it? And can it help me with this?


It's important for me to note that it is essential that the drive performs optimally when connected to the Mac, while with the PC performance is not as important. If it works well with the PC - that's great, and if not I'll just sync it to the laptop's internal drive and work with the internal.
Yet with the Mac computers - since they are the schools and not mine - I don't have that option. Therefore it is vital that I can work with Photoshop and Lightroom on the Macs with this external hard drive without issues.

If anyone can please help me out with suggestions, I'd be very grateful. Thank you!

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afx
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2011, 11:50:24 PM »
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FAT sucks, but is basically your only option.
Cross platform drivers tend to lead to all sorts of interesting compatibility problems that often creep up in worst possible moment.

cheers
afx
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adifrank
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2011, 07:45:28 AM »
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Thanks for the reply.
What do you mean by "sucks". What should I expect?
Is it true that files tend to become corrupt with large FAT formatted hard drives?
Will I be able to work at a reasonable speed on the Mac, doing image processing with Photoshop?

Also... does it matter if I format to FAT using a Mac or the PC?
If it possibly makes a difference regarding performance... I'd prefer that the drive preforms better on the Mac as opposed to on the PC.

Thanks...
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 07:51:24 AM by adifrank » Logged
afx
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2011, 07:59:35 AM »
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What do you mean by "sucks". What should I expect?
FAT is rather primitive. In contrast to more modern file systems as used in Linux/MacOS/Windows and the rest of the world, it has no journaling, making it sensitive to system crashes or connection aborts.

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Is it true that files tend to become corrupt with large FAT formatted hard drives?
Not necessarily. But in the end, FAT has less self protection mechanisms.

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Will I be able to work at a reasonable speed on the Mac, doing image processing with Photoshop?
No idea. If you need speed on an external file system, it should be USB3, eSATA or FW800 attached and a fast disk of course.

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Also... does it matter if I format to FAT using a Mac or the PC?
Again, no idea. Should work on both. Use the slow format, not the one that is finished in a few seconds.

cheers
afx
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John.Murray
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2011, 10:39:27 AM »
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Using any form of FAT filesytem on a large drive is risky - there is no fault tolerance, whatsoever.  With large files - the risk of a corrupted FAT entry and potentential loss of that file only increases.  The only devices I'll use FAT on are thumb-drives and CF/SD cards for my cameras; I *always* format those from the camera.

You are left with either NTFS or HFS+.  I know I'll raise some hackles, but NTFS is technically a much better filesystem.  The problem is NTFS from a Mac basically sucks in terms of performance.  Note that there are free read-only NTFS solutions out there....  I've been using software from Paragon which offers filesystem support either way.

I've settled on HFS+ using Paragon's HFS+ for Windows:

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/hfs-windows/
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adifrank
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2011, 11:28:22 AM »
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Hi John.
NTFS is not an option for me because the Mac I'm using belongs to the school and I won't be able to install any software on it. Without installing special drivers for NTFS support on the Mac, I've understood that the Mac will not be able to write to the drive (only read).

I've contemplated formatting to HFS+ and installing an HFS+ driver on my pc. But researching the web I've found several testimonies that using a Mac formatted drive on a pc is very risky. It can work fine, but can suddenly cause serious problems. The driver suddenly becomes corrupt and not only does it make the hard drive unusable, it also causes Windows to blue screen on startup, ultimately leading to having to re-install Windows Sad
I don't know for sure if this is just an isolated number of issues... but it's a scary thought.

What about exFAT? I don't consider myself very tech-savvy... so I don't know much about these things, but from what I've read on the internet exFAT might work better that FAT-32. The Mac computer I'm working on is OSX version 10.6 and the PC is using Windows XP.

From what is says here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT"]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT
There is a Windows XP update that can be installed so that it supports exFAT.

Could exFAT be the best option for me? Or should I just stick with FAT32?
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John.Murray
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 12:33:41 PM »
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I've had zero problems with Paragon's software on numerous external drives.  Certainly no bluescreens or filesytem corruption.

exFAT is still FAT - *no* fault tolerance, just support for large drives
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graeme
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 01:08:50 PM »
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Couldn't you just swap files between your laptop and the school's macs using a FAT32 formatted USB stick? Or, if the macs are on a network share files with them via ethernet / wifi.

( Sorry if I'm missing something here ).


Graeme
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