[sf-lug] filesystem for a 3TB external USB drive

Josh Greenland joshuag1 at mindspring.com
Tue Jan 3 05:43:38 PST 2012

Sameer Verma wrote:
> Any recommendations on a 3TB Western Digital external USB drive? Came
> natively with a NTFS. Access will be via Linux only and will be used
> for backup.
> cheers,
> Sameer

Sameer, I don't have any professional Linux experience, but I've been a 
home user for years.  Here are some thoughts:

I don't know why EXT2 has even been mentioned as a possibility.  Unlike 
maybe just about all the other file systems people are talking about in 
this thread, it's not a journaled file system, which I understand to 
mean that it would be a lot more likely to be corrupted if it's shut 
down in a bad way, for instance power is cut off before dismounting.  I 
wouldn't even consider it.

I've personally had trouble with JFS that I've had with no other file 
system.  (I've used EXT2,3,4, XFS, JFS, ReiserFS, ZFS, a number of other 
Unix ones, maybe a one or two Linux ones I'm not remembering, FAT, HPFS 
and NTFS.)  JFS has lost whole directories on multiple occasions for no 
good reason, and they were unrecoverable.  After some websearching I 
found an article by two or three guys with impressive-looking 
credentials comparing Linux file systems that said this was a known 
problem with JFS.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the 
article again, but it might still be out there.

All this was a few years ago, so things may have changed with JFS in the 
meantime.  Still, my experience was unsettling enough that I've avoided 
it since.

EXT4 has been accepted as a stable, usable file system relatively 
recently.  Before then, it wasn't considered totally trustworthy.  It's 
newer than EXT3, which some conventional wisdom considers the gold 
standard of Linux file system stability.  EXT3 is not considered to be a 
speedy file system, but then who cares how fast reading or writing are 
or how fast its fsck is if you are recovering years of precious data?

As to ZFS:  accessing it through Linux is a hassle in my experience.  
It's more complicated than using any of the Linux file systems I've 
mentioned.  It seems to me you don't want to mess with something that's 
unusually complicated and that has extra hassles attached to it if 
you're in a recover situation.  But if you think its advantages make it 
worth it, I suggest strongly that you get to basically understand ZFS.  
It's its own little world.  You want to become comfortable with the 
Linux software that accesses ZFS <<before>> you are in a recovery 
situation.  But I dunno, the Linux software for ZFS seems kinda kludge-y 
to me.   I suppose it's reliable, but it might be a factor to consider 
in addition to ZFS's virtues when it's run in a purely Unix environment.

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