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I've just purchased a WD Elements external hard drive and plan to use it across Linux, OS X and Windows devices (read and write on every OS).

Is there any file format by which I could format my HDD so that I could read and write across all these OSs?

  • You can read/write the FAT format on all these OS. – StrawHara Oct 23 '15 at 9:04
  • @MrMojoRisin Yea i've been thinking about using exFAT but apparently that isnt supported on Linux :/ – pranavnairtech Oct 23 '15 at 9:16
  • Use MS-DOS (FAT), which is formatted as FAT32. – user3439894 Oct 23 '15 at 9:23
  • @user3439894 Maximum file transfer size if 4 GB :/ – pranavnairtech Oct 23 '15 at 9:27
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FAT32 works on every system, but files cannot be larger than 4GB in size.

There is exFAT, which works with larger files, but it isn't natively supported by Linux. You can however see this link how to get it working on Ubuntu for example (read and write support with this solution).

  • The problems with using exFAT is it only has one file allocation table where as FAT32 has two copies of the file allocation table and therefore exFAT is more susceptible to corruption then FAT32 and exFAT has proven not to be a robust filesystem and easily prone to corruption in general. I would never use exFAT for long term storage and personally avoid it in general too. – user3439894 Oct 23 '15 at 15:38
  • Wow that's new for me. Good to know. What filesystems do you recommend? I mainly work on Mac, so HFS+ is my goto filesystem right now. Once OSX gets support, I'm gonna switch over to btrfs or zfs. – deadderek Oct 23 '15 at 18:45
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Beware of the downsides of using FAT32 with HFS+ files. Personally, I'd install FUSE on the mac and the linux box and then choose a file system that all 3 will support like NTFS.

Note that @deadderek's answer contains a link to a question with an answer that explains how to install FUSE with exFAT support on Ubuntu. That may be helpful.

  • In general, I try to avoid using NTFS with external media as it buffers almost everything and does require unmounting the drive before removal – agentroadkill Oct 23 '15 at 12:21
  • @agentroadkill, All external disks should be properly unmounted before being ejected/removed, whether or not it may not be required by a particular OS. This is the best way to ensure one does not have open files handles and possibly corrupting the filesystem. – user3439894 Oct 23 '15 at 15:35
  • You are of course correct, but I never seem able to convince myself that using exFAT and just yanking the drive once the transfer completes will work just fine. It's also wise to take into account simple accidents or other users who don't know better – agentroadkill Oct 23 '15 at 16:27
  • @agentroadkill I agree, I wouldn't use NTFS, it's just a suggestion. It is better than FAT though (for this situation), in my opinion. – Iain Oct 23 '15 at 17:07
  • Agreed. exFAT is probably best, but the lack of integrated Linux support can be a pain. – agentroadkill Oct 23 '15 at 17:13
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I think installing Fuse is a bad idea. The best choice you can make in my opinion is formatting in NTFS, and using Tuxeira NTFS in Linux and MacOSX.

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