Thursday, January 16, 2014

micro SD cards: exFAT to NTFS

A form has two boxes so that respondents can enter "Age in years", which works fine until the 102 year old person comes along.

That's the idea behind different file systems. In the beginning, there was FAT16. As disks got larger, there were more files than FAT16 could handle, so FAT32 was invented. Disks got larger still. Welcome NTFS. But, wait! Microsoft doesn't own NTFS! So, there is also exFAT!

I like to use the Everything Search Engine utility from Voidtools. It works only with NTFS disks. I just got an Asus T100TA Transformer Book with 64 GB of its own storage and a micro SD slot that can accommodate a 64 GB micro SD card. I got a 64 GB micro SD card, which came unformatted. However, when my computer asked if I wanted to format the card, the only choice I was given was exFAT.

The solution:

  • Attach unformatted card to computer.
  • Go to Device Manager. (Win-Pause/Break followed by clicking on Hardware, is one way to get there.)
  • Right click on SD card. Choose Properties.
  • Policies tab. Choose Optimize for Performance.
  • Go to the Command prompt. Assuming Z is the drive letter (but be sure you get it right or disaster could strike!), type
    format Z: /fs:NTFS

This helped me better understand when and why one has to be careful removing USB drives.

Drives can be set up two ways:

  • Optimize for Quick Removal: This setting disables write caching on the disk and in Windows, so you can disconnect the device safely without using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon.
  • Optimize for Performance: This setting enables write caching in Windows to improve disk performance. To disconnect this device from the computer, click the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the taskbar notification area.

NTFS is optimized for performance. exFAT is optimized for quick removal. While no drives should ever be removed while an operation is in progress, it's easier to be sure there's nothing waiting in the wings if a drive is optimized for quick removal. Since I expect to rarely be removing this card from the tablet, the advantages the NTFS system provide more than outweigh the convenience of quick removal.

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