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I recently purchased a Western Digital External Hard Disk. My computer has only Ubuntu 11.04 runnning on it. The disk also seems to be working fine. I can mount it, store and copy files to and out of it.

However in the user manual it says that

The My Passport drive is preformatted as a single NTFS partition for compatibility with all updated Windows operating systems. To use the drive with Mac OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard operating systems, and to use Time Machine, if you want, you must first:

  • Reformat the drive to a single HFS+J partition
  • Restore the WD SmartWare software and disk image

It does not say anything about Linux. Is this a cause for concern? Should I change the partition to make it "suit" Linux better?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There's no particular need to worry.

The problem with OS X is that it can't write to NTFS-formatted disks out of the box, and this is one of the reasons Time Machine needs an HFS+J formatted partition to even work at all. So, if and only if you ever need Time Machine, reformat the drive.

Otherwise: If you use it on your Ubuntu machine without problems, leave it at that. NTFS support for Linux is quite stable since a couple of years, so you don't have to do anything fancy. You could theoretically format it to (for example) ext4, a file system that is somewhat more "native" to Linux systems, but that would mean you'd have serious problems even reading the data from a Windows machine without additional drivers.

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Considering that you're only running Ubuntu, and that you have not indicated you need Mac or Windows support, you have two options:

  1. Leave it alone. Everything is working great, right? NTFS support, as slhck's answer indicates, is pretty stable and has been around for a while.
  2. Format it ext4. You'll get support for extents, delayed writes, pre-allocated writes, and other nifty ext4-specific features, and it's a Linux-native filesystem. The NTFS drivers are stable, but they disallow operations to the disk that can be prone to cause corruption; you may have fewer repair options under Linux if your volume goes corrupt with NTFS. (Chances of that are pretty slim, though.)

However, if you format it, you're going to need to back up your data first. Since that's usually the point of an external drive, it is somewhat silly to reformat it if you are having no issues.

(My external drives are ext3 - but I made the decision to do that before I started using them.)

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