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Q&A

What partition type should be used for cross-platform FAT partitions?

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Question

What partition type should I use for FAT partitions such that Linux and Windows systems both recognize the drive?

Notes

I am partitioning the drive with fdisk and making the filesystem with mkfs.fat /dev/sdx. Linux seems to recognize anything I throw at it. Microsoft is the problem.

Is there a modern replacement for the W95 FAT32 (LBA) partition type? A new drive I recently bought comes with this type and it is recognized by both Linux and Windows systems.

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1 answer

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The only real usable FAT options are FAT32 and exFAT. FAT32 is probably the file system with the widest cross-platform support possible, but it has a 4GB file size limit. If you want the option to store files larger than that, you would need exFAT. exFAT is another Microsoft file system format which was added to Mac OS X in 2009 and to Linux in 2019. It lacks FAT32's redundant file allocation table, so it is more prone to catastrophic disk corruption in case of unexpected shutdown, but it avoids the archaic limitations on disk and file sizes, and it has full Unicode support in filenames.

A better alternative would surprisingly be NTFS, which is supported by all major operating systems. It might not work on specialized devices like a console, phone, or camera, but any personal computer should support it fine with more features than any FAT file system.

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What partition type for NTFS? (3 comments)

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