Filesystem for External HDD?

Good Evening.
I’ve had a disk failure back in May of this Year, on a 1.5TB Drive. At the time I had run PhotoRec to recover files from it and moved it onto a new 4TB Drive I bought back then. However said drive has failed out of nowhere once again. It was going rather slow last time I plugged it in (via USB3) and after that (despite being ejected proper) it has failed and I’m currently in the process of recovering files from it.

Both drives had NTFS on them cause, well, that’s what they shipped with. But now I really wanna ditche NTFS due to it’s sheer ammount of small annoyances (notably fragmentation and speed) Please bear in mind this is an External Hard Disk Drive.

I’ve been looking into other filesystems that can deal with powerloss and corruption, frankly I was thinking of using ext4 and be done with it, but considering the options, I’m kinda lost on them.

Which would you think is a good Filesystem and why?

Thanks in advance and I hope you have a great day.

Since you are using a mechanical hard drive, and worried about power failures, I would stick with NTFS.

The Linux file systems are just prone to screw up from a power failure. However, I have noticed I have not had a single issue with a Linux file system screwing up on an SSD, and I have dealt with a lot of systems using them. I really do not know whay that is.

Really? Have you had any experience with said issues?

With power failures then corrupt file system with ext4, and power failures? A lot.

I was considering ZFS and BTRFS at first prior to knowing about more options

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If the external HDD is going to be used on other OSs (Windows) then it had better be formatted with somethings Windows can cope with. If only used with Linux then I’d personally just use ext4 but some of the gurus out there may recommend zfs, btrfs or something else and be able to by explaining the advantages they have and point to details in an easy to follow guide of how to use those features.

I bought 2 x 2GB USB3 external hard drives a couple of years back for doing backups, I formatted then ext4 and I’ve never had a problem, but then I’m never unplugged them while powered up without doing a sync and ejecting/safely removing them.


NTFS and EXT4 will have the same problems, because they are the same type of 20th century journaling filesystem. If you problem is power-fails, I would buy a surge protector! I have 5-10 power-fails/week and I stopped loosing disks and motherboards after that investment.

Secondly I would move to BTRFS or ZFS to avoid file corruption, many of my music files were corrupted using both NTFS and EXT4. Both BTRFS and ZFS protect against file corruption by Copy-On-Write and both support snapshotting. In these 21st century filesystems creating and deleting snapshots take a second, while a rollback will take a few seconds. Both systems support compression like LZ4, LZO or GZIP and that is selectable per folder. ZFS also supports encryption.

ZFS is more robust and it can be used to exchange data with other OSes, like FreeBSD, FreeNAS and any Solaris or Unix-BSD based distro. Somebody is working on porting ZFS to Mac and Windows. Of course you will have to install zfsutils-linux on all systems, that require access to your disk.

BTRFS has the advantage, that it is part of the Linux kernel, so you do not have to install it. It is less robust, but reliable enough for the simpler drive configurations. The disadvantage is, that it is only supported by Linux.


I wish I could do surge protection over usb… I ended up opening the enclosure hoping I could connect the drive via SATA but it’s controlled by the USB connector :broken_heart: so there’s that…

That aside BTRFS is Linux exclusive? There’s no port or driver for other OSes? ZFS does sound neat. I’ll look more about it, but I should say again that this is not a stationary storage. I move it few times when necessary and is unplugged most of the time.

Of course there are no USB 3 surge protectors, but you could protect your desktop or laptop with a surge protector. Just see the USB 5-Volt line as coming almost directly from the power supply itself.

I used ZFS with an USB drives for some time for back-ups, no problems.

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On my external HDD I use ext3. I have no problems and it survived two power outages. It is an old drive and was formatted in NTFS but this house is only powered by Linux and I chose ext3 because it was a long time ago and Debian defaulted to it. Nowadays I would probably choose ext4.

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