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I just had some major data loss on my Windows machine where the automatic disk checking just completely deleted all of my virtualbox virtual machine files (.vdi), so I'm trying to take something positive out of this by correcting my backup habits and methods.. I'm not using RAID or anything like that, its just for personal work and my programming projects, but I have about 5 hard drives I plan to use for the backups.

I have access to both linux and windows so I'm wondering what would most likely be the best filesystem format to use (or I've heard you can not even use a filesystem, so would this be better)? I've obviously had some terrible experiences with windows and the automatic things it does to hard drives that are connected.

Basically, I'm having trouble finding reliable info sources on this topic as the things I find in google seem to be spammy in nature.. I would greatly appreciate any advice.. thanks

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

It actually does not matter. A filesystem is a filesystem. I would recommend NTFS since it can be opened natively by windows and is in most distro's.

If your wanting to do archiving and are worried about support, don't worry about the filesystem, worry about the media. Hard Drives are all mechanical, and could break over time.

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yeah that makes sense... however, I used to write to NTFS with linux and then it seemed to have some issues where it caused problems in the filesystem to where I had to repair it in windows to be able to use it – Rick Jul 9 '10 at 8:17
As well, if your data is static (like pictures, MP3s, etc), you could save money by writing to DVD's in few copies, keeping the M5 of the files separately, and storing each copy in different locations. – jfmessier Jul 9 '10 at 14:29
Re Linux NTFS shared with Windows - Linux is more permissive about filenames, and Windows disk checking has a truly nasty habit of "recovering" (renaming and moving) all files with invalid names. – Iiridayn Nov 26 '14 at 20:58

I use this kind of system for some time already. I do not use any special backup software, just a plain file manager, such as Explorer under Windows, or Nautilus under Ubuntu Linux. I have several IDE and SATA hard disks that are plain ones, not in any fancy enclosure. I use a USB-SATA/IDE connector, which costs about $30, or less. The disks that I use for the backups actually fir in the smallest safety boxes at my local bank. Also, using non-USB hard disks saves me on the money. I just bought this USB-IDE/SATA adapter once and i have few cables to setup before doing the backup.

The file system you use depends on the OS where the data will eventually be restored. If you are to restore on a Linux-based file system, I would go with ext3 partitions. If this is under Windows, I would go with NTFS. However, I found that if you create an NTFS or a FAT32 partition using GParted under Linux, Windows is unlikely to be able to read it. You are better creating the partition under Windows. Once the partition is created, you can use Linux or Windows to transfer the files.

As you are copying the files, keep an eye on the copying process to ensure there is no error message. You can also choose to tar/gzip a directory structure if you are to transfer it to an NTFS/FAT32 partition, as a tar file should retain the ownership and access rights information under Linux. And you can create an MD5 of the .tar.gz file to ensure its integrity. Under Windows, FastSum is a great little MD5 utility.

Have fun :-)


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First of all: is it changing data you wish to backup, or static archival? (Yes, I see that the subject says "longterm"). Do you need to access the "backups" frequently or conveniently?

If you are looking for advice about "stable" filesystems, I don't think there are any problems using the "default" filesystem on the OS you're using. NTFS isn't particularly buggy, and ext3 is okay on Linux.

What you need is "redundant" backups. Disks are cheap and easily handles large amounts of data compared to optical disks. A harddrive that is not plugged in use can typically store its data for a very long time, and its very easy to copy its contents to another disk.

Also, don't forget online backup service offerings.

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