I just bought a new 4 TB hard disk for my photographies and I would like to prepare it to copy all my photos there. This hard disk will ONLY consist of photo file (CanonRAW *.cr2; >20MB each file) (maybe a few jpg's as well some MByte filesize) and folders. There will be no other files, especially no files under several megabyte file size!

I use Windows 8.1 or later on maybe o newer Windows OS. I edit my photos with Adobe Lightroom. This hard disk is not a backup, it will be my archive. I'll back it up some where else.

My questions are: What disk format shall I use and why? ntfs, fat, etc..? Maybe there is a disk format predestined for this kind of usage?

Which disk cluster size shall I choose? Since that disk will consist of bigger files (apprx. 10-30MB per file) only, a bigger cluster size might be better?

  • 4
    I think this sort of thing used to be more important. There is so much more that impacts large datasets other than the media format or even the controller that for most applications you can ignore low level stuff like this. The filesystem type only you can answer, because this is driven by all the apps and systems that might want to mount this data set. If you use Windows, just use NTFS unless you have a reason to use FAT.
    – user31502
    Jun 15 '16 at 11:45
  • 1
    vtc b/c This is a computer technology question that only incidentally involves image files. The answer depends on the user's operating system, not the content that will be stored on the drives.
    – xiota
    Aug 30 '19 at 8:44

Use NTFS unless you plan on connecting this drive to a system which only supports FAT.

Also, set the Allocation Unit Size as high as possible per http://www.howtogeek.com/136078/what-should-i-set-the-allocation-unit-size-to-when-formatting/

For a media disk where you photos, music and videos are stored, every file is at least 1MB I use the biggest AUS.

One more thing: if this disk is going to connect via SATA and not USB then see if you can enable AHCI mode through the BIOS. Normally the BIOS defaults to IDE mode but I've seen newer motherboards and systems defaulting to AHCI but it doesn't hurt to check.


'Photography files' are no different to any other kind of file. Use NTFS (because it allows for larger files and is generally the newer, better system) and the default allocation unit size - a larger size will make virtually no noticeable performance difference in a modern hard drive.


Extended FAT is now one of the most adopted format for external disks that have to deal with different operating systems as Mac and Linux


Format the drive using any file system that can be read and written by the operating systems you intend to use to access it. Consider using exFAT. It has widespread support across devices since it was adopted as the default file system for SDXC cards by the SD Card Association.

Other file systems that can be used across operating systems include FAT32 and NTFS. However, NTFS is read-only on some systems, and operating systems other than Windows may be unable to fully correct file system errors.

Some file systems that are supported on different operating systems:

  • Windows: NTFS, FAT32, exFAT

  • MacOS: APFS, HFS+, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS (read-only)

  • Linux: ext2/ext3/ext4, FAT32 (vfat), exFAT, NTFS, ...

  • IMHO its not wise to use FAT,NTFS on linux. If you want something odd use XFS Sep 12 '18 at 15:55
  • How many home users need to access the files switching between Linux, MacOS and Windows? Sep 12 '18 at 16:00
  • No, this answer must stay. And moreover with last changes in Microsoft actions about exFAT it will be free for Linux also :) Aug 30 '19 at 9:24
  • 1
    MIcrosoft will create kernel module for exFAT support. And will include patent for this filesystem in the special pool (for protection). You can read more here: cloudblogs.microsoft.com/opensource/2019/08/28/… Aug 30 '19 at 10:16

It seems like FAT32 is a good choice, but I recommend NTFS

When it comes to photography, FAT 32 is probably the most compatible file system. But it has limitations. It does not support a partition larger than 2TB You would have to split the disk into two. (this is not a problem I assume). The maximum size of one file is 4GB. Does not contain a journal, so if you disconnect it during the recording (accident) the file will not be able to be repaired. (and I understand correctly)

NTFS will come to me as a better choice.

VIZ: https://www.mauromascia.com/en/blog/thoughts-best-cross-platform-filesystem-external-hard-drives/


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.