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FAT vs. FAT32 format on USB devices


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#1 Ellypho

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 05:40 PM

Hello world!
I has a question about file formats on my pendrive. I got a new pendrive today and reformatted it to be FAT32 instead of FAT the reason for this being that FAT32 manages clusters better then FAT enabling me to put on a little more data onto my pendrive. However the drive was so slow for transferring data it wasent worth having the better system.

Why is it so much slower?
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#2 DemiReticent

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 06:37 PM

FAT stands for File Allocation Table (think like table of contents). From what I understand, the number is the bit length of each individual memory address used to store data. Because there are more addresses available, a smaller cluster size can be utilized for storage of data (or more data allocated, depending on the size of the drive being formatted), but because the addresses are longer and there is more data to sift through to find (read/write) your files to the drive and write those locations to the allocation table, speed of file transfer operations will be slower. On newer hard drives this is hardly noticeable because of the access speed they offer and the benefit is that we can have our terabyte hard drive cake and eat it too; but on smaller, less powerful devices, such as external flash memory (flash drives like your pendrive), these primary advantages are almost entirely moot (unless you have a 32GB pendrive) and the slight advantage you gain from being able to store slightly more data is (as you have noticed) not worth the loss of speed.

Probably the reason you are attempting to use this format is because you are copying a lot of small files (like text files with very little data in each one) to the drive at a time and because of the cluster size you were losing a lot of potential storage space.

Here is a solution to your problem no matter how you go about it: use ZIP (or other compressed format) archives to transport your data.

Why?
- Because it is a single file, the pendrive will not need multiple entries in the FAT in order to access that data, thus copying is faster.
- Compressed files are smaller and will reduce the size of your total data anyway (possibly many of your files can fit in a single cluster).
- Copying a single file to the pendrive is easier on you and on your pendrive.

If you leave it in the current FAT format, you will still benefit from the smaller cluster size without sacrificing time. If you revert to the old format then you will have slightly higher cluster sizes (as you have noted), but use a lot less of them.

Good archivers:
WinZIP (not fully compatible with some formats, slower)
WinRAR (extract from most archive formats, compress into ZIP and RAR formats, very fast)
7-ZIP (compresses into more formats than RAR, does not extract from as many)

Edited by DemiReticent, 23 October 2008 - 06:38 PM.


#3 Ellypho

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 09:54 PM

Thanks a bunch
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