Quest: best filesystem for my external hard drive
I have a 750 GB Seagate FreeAgent drive, where I’ve kept most of my media (photos, music, video, backups) for the past couple of years. Until now, I was operating in an all-Windows world of my own design, and NTFS was the best (most reliable, performant, flexible) filesystem for that drive.
Now that I’ve introduced a Mac into my life, and because I’m planning to plug it into the Mac Mini for the vast majority of the time (to host media I record from or wish to display via the Mini) I’m faced with what feels like an imperfect choice:
- FAT32 doesn’t support > 4 GB filesize, which in this day and age of recorded/downloaded TV (not to mention the potential for virtualization in my future, in case I want to keep experimenting/developing) is damned easy to exceed.
- NTFS isn’t natively supported in Mac OS X (at least, not for writes, though a read-only NTFS driver is available).
- Mac-only filesystems (e.g. HFS+) feel like a bit *too* much commitment to a platform that isn’t the dominant in my lifestyle yet – e.g. what if I want to unplug that drive from the Mac mini and hook it to my Windows box to do some USB 2.0-speed backups or other file transfers? I know that most of my file transfers will probably work fine with an SMB share over the Wifi network (it’s all 802.11 g or better, in a pretty confined space), but sometimes I just want to get something done quickly. Not to mention I’m not yet familiar with what steps I would have to take if I were to hook up my external drives (the 750GB – cleaned off now – and my backup one – FAT32), format the 750 gigger and try to copy over all my FAT32 data into reasonable facsimiles of the data I replicated off the 750 (before I repartitioned it).
There’s some fairly predictable chatter about lower performance of 3rd-party (R/W) NTFS drivers when used within Mac OS X (http://www.123macmini.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=23243&highlight=ntfs), and I’d expect similar concerns about 3rd-party HFS+ drivers (R/W) running in Windows. I’m not worried about booting from the external drive, so that limitation of NTFS-3g isn’t a concern for me (http://www.123macmini.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=23057&highlight=ntfs).
However, after thinking about what my *majority* usage will be, it’s clear to me that I’ll end up leaving the drive mounted to the Mac Mini 95% of the time, so I should optimize it for that scenario and not the “just in case” fear-based scenario. If it turns out that I’m using the drive directly attached to my Windows box *that* often, I can always use a one-time read-only HFS+ driver in Windows to get the data off the drive, then reformat with NTFS. Getting the data off the drive isn’t a worry of mine (these drivers all seem good enough for at least the “disaster recovery – get my data off the drive *eventually*” scenarios); so I’d be an idiot not to optimize for the day-to-day performance issues I’d otherwise be facing with a non-native filesystem for the host where it’ll be plugged in 95% of the time.
- Quest: a tuner I can “set and forget” (i.e. reliable, stable, robust performance)
- Quest: improve the screen drawing response time in “Screen Sharing” (aka VNC)