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What is the best cross-platform file system, for Linux, Windows, MacOSX and FreeBSD?

NTFS would be the best option but isn't open source. FAT has important limitations like 4GB per file.

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I'd pitch in for ext3, don't understand why open source is important –  Sathya Dec 31 '10 at 14:47
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If you care about interoperability i'm sorry but fat32 or NTFS are the way to go, all the other FS i've checked are badly supported in one or more of the plataforms you mention. –  Guillermo Siliceo Trueba Dec 31 '10 at 14:54
    
@Sathya Because I don't like proprietary software. NTFS will be, probably, my option. Could you give me a good documentation of NTFS? –  Ricardo Dec 31 '10 at 15:12
    
@Sathya Does ext3 work well with Windows? –  Daniel Beck Dec 31 '10 at 15:41
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3 Answers

Sadly, FAT32 is still the only thing you can nearly always guarantee to work from any platform. There are tools for ext2 and ext3 for Windows and Mac OSX, that should be fairly stable, and there are numerous other file systems with varying levels of support, quality and stability.

I am not fully familiar with FreeBSD but expect similar support to that found on Linux, albeit perhaps omitting some of the more unstable drivers found on many Linux distros.

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There's no ext3 driver for windows -- there's only an ext2 driver. It can open ext3 volumes, but it isn't going to journal anything. –  Billy ONeal Dec 31 '10 at 15:42
    
Thanks, I had assumed that there would be a suitable driver by now, but it has been a few years since I last needed to read a Linux volume from Windows. –  IanGilham Jan 5 '11 at 14:59
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UDF (Universal Disk Format, primarily used for DVDs) can be used as a read/write filesystem on traditional harddrives and flash media. Read/write support is available on Linux, BSD, MacOSX, and Windows (Vista and later only).

Not all versions of UDF are supported on all systems, so more research will be needed to determine what version and options would be better to use for cross platform usage.

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Obligatory Wikipedia link on UDF format compatibility - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Disk_Format#Compatibility –  IanGilham Jan 5 '11 at 15:04
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NTFS is now supported by open source software, through NTFS-3G, on recent versions of Linux, OSX and FreeBSD.

Windows also indirectly supports (with a performance penalty, but hey, it's Windows anyway) any filesystem that Linux supports, if you run Linux in a virtual machine. The VM can be coLinux, for tighter integration that a generic platform VM.

All the systems you mention, except Windows unless you use coLinux, support FUSE, so any filesystem that has a FUSE implementation meets your criteria. In particular ZFS is a possible choice.

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