Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Data Storage

Cross-OS File System That Sucks Less? 449

An anonymous reader writes "I recently got an external hard disk with USB 2.0/Firewire/Firewire 800/eSATA to be used for backup and file exchange — my desktop runs Linux (with a Windows partition for games but no data worth saving), and the laptop is a MacBook Pro. So the question popped up: what kind of filesystem is best for this kind of situation? Is there a filesystem that works well under Linux, MacOS X, and Windows? Linux has HFS+ support but apparently doesn't support journaling and there's also an issue with the case-insensitivity of HFS+. Are we stuck with crummy VFAT forever or are there efforts underway to bring a modern filesystem (I'm thinking something like ZFS, BeFS, or XFS) to all platforms? Or are there other clever solutions like storing ISO images and loop-mounting those?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cross-OS File System That Sucks Less?

Comments Filter:
  • Network it, or NTFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:14PM (#20024061)
    NTFS-3G [ntfs-3g.org]
    • I though the problem with NTFS was that Microsoft never released the documentation and NTFS is pretty complex, so nobody else could really know for certain if a driver was 'complete'. Has that changed, or is NTFS-3G still reverse-engineered?
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:18PM (#20024085) Homepage
    Just get a USB card punch and reader. I think 029 punch code is pretty much standard.
    • Just get a USB card punch and reader. I think 029 punch code is pretty much standard.

      Sid, Is that you?

      Refrence; Userfriendly.org Jan 07 2002

      "hief, Smiling Man, Sid
      Chief: This quibbling about who the decision-maker is stops now. Do you two have any idea how power struggles invariably end?



      Chief: So did you not do the finance guy thing this week and neglect to pay electricity bill?

      Smiling Man: Look, I can't get that stupid punchcard reader to work!

      Sid: All you gotta do is ask man. That,
  • Ext3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:20PM (#20024099)
    http://www.fs-driver.org/ [fs-driver.org]

    I just use a external drive formatted in EXT3, and for windows files i just install the Ext3 driver.
    • I just use a external drive formatted in EXT3, and for windows files i just install the Ext3 driver.

      I use an external NAS. It uses an encrypted Reiser filesystem. The NAS takes care of offering to the network NFS or SMB shares. In an outage, the shares unmount and require the encryption key to remount. This provides protection in case of theft of the drive. Per share I can provide either NFS and/or SMB services so it plays nice to Windows, Linux, and Mac. Putting stuff on it is as easy as posting on S
  • Moving Target (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gadzook33 ( 740455 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:21PM (#20024111)
    Not really, right? Even if there was, Microsoft doesn't seem to be interested in keeping it that way. With the "advent" of Vista and whatever relational-style FS they might try to forcably upgrade us to in the future, what are the odds of the prototypical modern journaling, etc FS being shared across the two? My guess is you're stuck with ext on linux and NTFS or whatever else on Windows. Of course, you could run NTFS on Linux if you've got two big brass ones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by NickFortune ( 613926 )

      Of course, you could run NTFS on Linux if you've got two big brass ones.

      You could do it if you had a pair of sub-atomic soap bubbles. ntfs-3g [ntfs-3g.org] has been stable for a while now.

    • It really doesn't take big brass ones to run ntfs on linux. The linux driver ntfs-3g has long been in version 1.0 which is a stable release. I've been using ntfs-3g for a while now and it actually fixed a couple problems on my windows partition that windows couldn't fix.
      • Okay, I have to ask, have you or has anyone you know ever tried to run a Linux distro off of a NTFS system? I'm not sure why you'd want to but I'm curious as heck if it is possible.

        • by Eideewt ( 603267 )
          I believe permissions are wonky with ntfs-3g, so it would be akin to running on a FAT system.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Enderandrew ( 866215 )
          The ntfs-3g website says you can boot from it, and run Linux of it, so apparently you can. Will there be any issues? Quite possibly.
  • by markybob ( 802458 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:23PM (#20024123)
    ext2 is supported everywhere and it's far better than fat32 or ntfs. for windows, http://www.fs-driver.org/ [fs-driver.org] and for osx http://sourceforge.net/projects/ext2fsx/ [sourceforge.net]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by klazek ( 1134141 )
      This is the *ONLY* bit of software I have ever used that gives me a consistent kernel panic. Granted, it is a kext, they can be risky. I don't know of another solution for using ext2 or ext3 on a mac.
    • "far" better than NTFS? Umm, no. I know anything from MS automatically sucks in some bizarro world, and ext2 is a fine OS and in some ways better than NTFS, and in some ways inferior. It is by no demented, fanboy stretch "far better" than NTFS.
    • by Malc ( 1751 )
      I'd take NTFS over ext2 any day. Far far far superior filesystem.

      Curious: why wouldn't you suggest ext3? Is it not supported so well or something? At least suggest a journalling filesystem instead of something old and suffer obsolescence. Really you should be suggesting ext3 + ACLs, or something better thank you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
      ext2 is supported everywhere and it's far better than fat32 or ntfs.

      ext2 is better than NTFS? Seriously? Have you been eating the yellow snow or something? (I'll give you that ext2 is better than Fat32, but then again nearly everything is.)

      for windows, http://www.fs-driver.org/ [fs-driver.org]

      You have an interesting definition of the word "supported." From the FAQ:

      Access rights are not maintained. All users can access all the directories and files of an Ext2 volume. If a new file or directory is created, it inherits all t

  • i came across this [lifehacker.com] on lifehacher.com but i have not have a chance to try it out. I don't think this is going to fix your linux problem..but it might be useful for all the other mac/win people out there
  • by halfloaded ( 932071 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:29PM (#20024195) Homepage
    The biggest problem here is the lack of file system support in Windows. On a linux box, it is trivial to add support for virtually any file system type: NTFS [linux-ntfs.org], HFS [sourceforge.net], FAT [berkeley.edu], etc... The list goes on.

    Since MacOSX is BSD based, I would be willing to bet that similar projects and support can be found (but, I Am Not A Mac Fanboy).

    On Windows, you are pretty much stuck using either NTFS or FAT. FAT volumes can not be created in windows larger than 32GB [microsoft.com]. Although, you could create the partition using 3rd party tools to get beyond that limitation. I have had some success mounting ext3 partitions using Ext2 Installable File System For Windows [fs-driver.org] or Ext2 File System Driver for Windows [sourceforge.net].

    Personally, from my experience, VFAT or NTFS are about your only options.

  • by dfn_deux ( 535506 ) <datsun510@gmaiTOKYOl.com minus city> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:30PM (#20024203) Homepage
    Having been in the exact same situation I've tried all sorts of different solutions and I'd say the best current solution is NTFS, which is out of the box natively supported on both OSX and Windows (natch) and also available R/O in the default linux kernel as well as having strong R/W support now via ntfs-3g. Of course fat32 still works just fine for this application, but it's getting a little long in the tooth as far as advanced features and modern storage needs go (c'mon what is up with those weak filesize limits)!?!? And I've had some limited success with using ext2/3 on windows and linux but found that the windows kernel driver for ext2 was not very stable in my config and the userspace tools to read/write ext3 in windows was far too kludgy for my tastes; I haven't had a chance to try ext2/3 on OSX.
    • by IvyKing ( 732111 )

      Of course fat32 still works just fine for this application, but it's getting a little long in the tooth as far as advanced features and modern storage needs go (c'mon what is up with those weak filesize limits)!?!?

      When Tim Paterson first wrote QDOS, he thought that four bytes would be more than enough for file size (10MB hard drives cost several grand at the time) and that also happened to fit in with a 4 byte data element in CP/M's file control block. At least we weren't stuck with the bit-map from CP/M.

  • by Jimithing DMB ( 29796 ) <dfe.tgwbd@org> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:32PM (#20024221) Homepage

    For quite some time now (10.3 Panther I think) there has been a case-sensitive variant of HFS+. The Linux kernel has supported mounting it for some time now since I contributed a patch after realizing I couldn't access my filesystem. Unfortunately, it does not support HFS+ journaling so you have to make sure OS X gets shut down properly. Also, the last time I looked, the open source HFS+ utilities like fsck did not handle case-sensitive HFS+. I looked into fixing it but it was such a god-awful mess of code I decided I didn't trust it anyway.

    On Windows you should be able to use MacDrive but you may want to check with them to make sure that case-sensitive HFS+ is supported. I only say this because for instance Alsoft's DiskWarrior product didn't support case-sensitive HFS+ until very recently. Why, I don't know since case-sensitive HFS+ simply omits the case-folding step before determining b-tree position. It's all documented in TN1150.

    • ' For quite some time now (10.3 Panther I think) there has been a case-sensitive variant of HFS+. '

      You won't be too happy with it if you run MacOS X. There is too much code out there that doesn't expect case sensitivity (and too many users as well), and very very few applications are ever tested on a case sensitive file system.

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )
        I use it and you are sort of right, there are issues with it and I hate the lame developers who can't even use the same filenames everywhere and therefor messes it up, but the issues are small and solvable so I haven't bothered turning it of.

        I have issues with Photoshop CS 2 but that is quite old so I can understand that, but I also had it with CS 3 beta (don't know about final), which is very lame.

        I also have it with Warcraft III and thought I would have wanted Blizzard to fix it the game is old and atleas
        • I also have it with Warcraft III and thought I would have wanted Blizzard to fix it the game is old and atleast they have made a universal binary of it. I don't expect them to fix it but it would be nice.

          Blizzard still supports StarCraft on the Mac, and StarCraft is a heck of a lot older than Warcraft III. Therefore, I suggest submitting a bug report -- you might be pleasantly surprised.

      • I've been running case-sensitive HFS+ as the root filesystem on some of my OS X systems for quite some time now, specifically to make sure that I don't write buggy code which uses differently cased filenames. I don't use a lot of third-party software so it works fine. The only thing I had trouble with was early betas of CodeWeaver's CrossOver and that was easily fixable by adding a symlink.

        It should be noted that the story poster was looking for something to use as a shared-data drive, probably not a dr

  • FAT is it for now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:53PM (#20024399) Homepage Journal
    There are two "extensions" I would like to see for vfat, that could be implemented right on top in a reasonably backwards-compatible way (just as LFNs were on top of traditional FAT fs).

    The easier and more important one is symbolic links. (Indeed, it ought to be possible to devise a "virtual symlink" system that would work pretty much independent of the underlying filesystem, by simply using hidden pointer files containing the paths to the target files -- similar to .LNK files that the Windows GUI uses, but you'd want them to be supported by the OS at the filesystem layer, just like regular symlinks are on filesystems that have them; also you'd want the design of the pointer files themselves to be cleaner and more platform-agnostic.)

    The harder, but ultimately just as important, is journaling (similar to what ext3 does for ext2).

    The advantage of extending FAT32 in this way should be obvious: just like with ext2/3, systems that don't support the extension can at least still access the data (although doing so may invalidate the journal). So you don't *lose* any compatibility, you only *gain* the added features. In situations where you *mostly* use the disk with a particular system (e.g., my data drive that spends basically 100% of its time mounted in FreeBSD, but is FAT32 so I can get to my data from a non-BSD system in case of an unforseen emergency), you'd get a lot of benefit from the improved features. (I'd be particularly pleased to have symlinks on my data drive, for instance.) Then you only lose the new features if you need to mount the disk under a system that doesn't support them, e.g., if some piece of hardware on my FreeBSD workstation dies and I need to get my files, I could take the drive and hook it up to just about any computer anywhere and mount it as plain old FAT32 and my files would all be there.

    This still doesn't turn FAT into BeFS or ZFS or whatnot, but it would be a welcome improvement.
  • Hi, I have exactly the same problem, One MacbookPro, One PC, and another Linux. The fact is, there isnt a portable filesystem, if you are planning on ext2/3, the mac os x driver is unstable like the hell, and will make you loose your data and crash your system, as it happens to mine. Fat and fat32 will work but with small disks only, and NTFS your linux/macos will damage it within time. I Have a 400 GB Sata external disk and currently using HFS, because its the only one that doesnt corrupt the data from tim
  • UDF (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ant P. ( 974313 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @02:12PM (#20024593) Homepage
    It's not just for 12cm frisbees.
  • by zzatz ( 965857 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @02:18PM (#20024645)
    Trying to use a filesystem across multiple platforms is painful. That's a clue that you're tackling the wrong problem. You don't need to share filesystems, you need to share files. Different problem with different solutions.

    I set up an old PC with Linux to solve many needs. NFS and Samba provide a common pool of storage for every OS that I use. Since setting that up, I haven't ever though about shared partitions. They aren't needed.

    Linux and Samba worked for me, but that's not the only solution. A NAS box might work better for you. The point is that you need shared storage, not a shared drive. Every OS supports network storage. Every OS supports backups across the network.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by linhux ( 104645 )
      One reason many people (including me) get external harddrives is that they frequently need to move them between different locations. I have a portable 160 GB that's always in my backpack, that contains VMware virtual machines and file system images that I need to be able to access from several computer at several different physical locations (and indeed different computer networks, sometimes without an Internet connection).

      In summary: there is a real need for sharing a drive between different systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phliar ( 87116 )

      You're thinking firmly inside the box.

      Here's my scenario: I have OpenBSD, Linux, OpenSolaris, and OS X machines. (I don't do Windows, but I hear others do.) For backups I got a 350GB hard disk and a USB drive case. I'd like to format the disk so it can be mounted on all the systems so everything is backed up on that one disk. If there's an earthquake or fire, there's only one little box to grab. And obviously I'd like to be able to look at all my files from any platform. (All my machines are not on the sa

  • After a lot of thought I went with a Kurobox [slashdot.org] running Debian and Samba. It has a gigabit ethernet port which, of course, can plug in over cat6 with no crossover, which is faster than USB. This is easily accessible by my Windows, Linux, and Mac installations and it's running ext3 - but who cares, it's over Samba, or SSH, or NFS.

    It also happens only a little bigger than most drive enclosures, and you get a cheap, quiet NAS. This or any similar Linux-capable system is well worth your time.
  • Forget it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IntergalacticWalrus ( 720648 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @02:39PM (#20024863)
    Personally I have a golden rule I always keep in mind when dealing with cross-OS file system usage: Never trust write support on foreign filesystem drivers. FAT12/16/32 is the only exception, since it's so old and primitive that anyone should have fully mastered the support of it by now. But apart from that, I'll never believe a filesystem driver to reliably write on ext2/3 outside of Linux, or HFS+ outside of OS X, or NTFS outside of Windows.

    Modern filesystems are complicated beasts. One tiny error can have catastrophic results. Native filesystem drivers are the results of many years of real-life testing by millions of users. Can you really believe a third-party filesystem driver to be solid enough to write on a foreign filesystem?

    Read-only support is OK because it's a magnitude easier to implement, though.

    The only viable solution to cross-OS filesystem usage (without crippling yourself to FAT32) is networking.

  • it's in the Linux kernel : v9fs
    it's in Plan 9 From Bell labs (obviously)
    it's in Unix clone userlands : plan9ports
    it's in Inferno
    it's in wmii

  • UFS / FFS (Score:3, Informative)

    by nbritton ( 823086 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @02:59PM (#20025063)
    Linux and Mac both have native UFS (a.k.a Fast File System) support, windows can also support UFS: http://ffsdrv.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
  • Right now, Ext2 seems to be the best option. I use it myself on my large (backup) hard drives. There are a few big problems, though.

    Ext2 support for Mac/OS X and Windows is... limited to say the least. It works, but if you're going to use Windows/Mac to copy files to your hard drive the majority of the time, you might prefer to stick with FAT32.

    Ext2 is also not terribly robust. When mounted async, it has the old well known problem of data corruption should anything go wrong while writing data (power los
    • by IvyKing ( 732111 )

      Personally, I've got high hopes for UFS/FFS. Just about every operating system supports it in one form or another. Unfortunately, it seems nobody has bothered to get their implementations compatible with other implementations. So, while there is UFS/FFS support for Windows/OSX/Linux/*BSD/Solaris/AIX/etc. it's all in just a slightly different on-disk format, so it's not easy to get one to read another.

      An example of compatibilty problems, UFS drives formatted on Solaris/Sparc are not readable by Solaris/x86 due to byte order in the data structures. Fortunately, Sun realized that mistake with ZFS - the byte order is determined by the machine that formatted the drive (zpool), but the ZFS driver will swap bytes if needed.

  • Easily solved... and you didn't mention anything about security, so let me help. I wrote about it [gnu-designs.com] previously.

    I've been moving more and more of my data off to TrueCrypt on Linux/Windows or GELI on the FreeBSD side to lock things down. So far, it works great.

  • and there's also an issue with the case-insensitivity of HFS+

    And that issue is? Not having a Linux with HFS+ volume handy, I presume that the case insensitivity is handled in the VFS. The only times that case sensitivity has ever been an issue for me are 1) some joker decided it would be funny to name a couple of Linux kernel source files with the same name in different cases, and 2) when I try to rename a file using 'mv' to just change case with mv aliased to 'mv -i', mv thinks it's the same file and asks me to confirm.

    #1 is just plain bad form to name files like

  • Linux supports almost all filesystems that are currently available, so that shouldn't be a problem. Mac OS X is a bit more picky but as far as I know, I've used it with EXT2, EXT3, HFS, HFS+, .... ReiserFS needs a driver though, I think XFS is standard, but again, not sure. Just format your file system under Mac OS X with the "Unix" filesystem and you should be all right.

    Oh, you said Windows, never mind. Use a networked file system like SMB or FTP to send things from Windows to another machine or you could
  • one of these [calao-systems.com] running Samba or NFS?
  • by samjam ( 256347 )
    Before I abandoned windows pretty much forever, when I booted windows I would have my linux box run as a windows service and access my linux system disk using Samba.

    It wasn't fast but ti was compatible.

  • If you look at a FS that can be read anywhere, the only solution will be an open source one. This might however mean that it is not readily available everywhere out of the box.

    OTOH it will mean that drivers will be readily available if needed.

    If you want something that is read out of the box by each and every OS, then make up a simple spradsheet, horizontal the different OSses, vertical the different file systems en then start crossing which has what. Last look what is available on most by default.

  • Get the job done. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @04:51PM (#20026033) Homepage Journal
    Use FAT32. Yes, it sucks as a file system. But it's fine for your stated goals (backup and transfer), and it has universal compatibility. Don't discard an optimal solution just because it makes you feel uncool.

    • 4GB per file. If your backup job creates large tarballs, your hosed. At work, I was trying to backup a 20GB file to a USB external drive, and it told me the drive was out of space, even though it still had 700GB left. I had to format it NTFS for it to work.
  • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @05:35AM (#20030581) Homepage Journal

    That was discussed couple of years ago and there were no solution found. I mean FAT32 is no solution - more of a problem. Albeit being read by most if not all OSs.

    Many people in past had recommended for OS specific stuff to use ZIP archives (since they are also universally available). Additionally to preserve verbatim information from *nix/MacOS volumes you can create disk image (laying on FAT32 volume). All decent OSs allow you to mount such disk images. Formats are different so it is not portable solution to preserve not portable OS-specific information about files.

    Just to reiterate FAT32 is more or less only such solution.

    P.S. I have looked also into ext2 support. In MacOS 10.3.x there were no official drivers (nor such drivers materialized in 10.4). Second party solution (I found only one) crashed my MacOS during installation and didn't worked in the end. For Windows there are multiple working ext2 solutions. Though not nice, yet allowing you to extract your files from ext2 volume. Not fitting for usual everyday work - but passable.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?