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I have a 500GB external drive I want to use on a couple of Linux systems, and looking for a filesystem for it. External drives are frequently formatted in FAT32, but I don't need to interoperate with Windows and would rather avoid the ugly limited kludge that is FAT.

Since I only need to use it on Linux, I would use ext4 or XFS, but they store ownership information. Ideally, I'd use a proper Unix file system that doesn't track ownership (files are owned by whoever mounts the device, like they are when mounting a FAT32 partition), but I do not know of any file system that does that.

What would be a good file system for this disk?

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You didn't mention anything about speed, but if you are concerned about it, then I recommend ext4. It is starting to mature nowadays.

I would only use XFS on a large drive with large files.

If you want stability and compatibility, then ext3 is the way to go.

These articles and their comments may be of some use:

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=linux_2632_fs&num=1

http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/388

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FAT / FAT32 is typically only used for flash devices. These days FAT / FAT32 is a poor choice for any device compared to other available choices, and I often find the 4GB file size limit of FAT32 (less for FAT) very constraining. Don't use FAT / FAT32 unless you must (i.e. on a jump drive).

Linux plays nicely with NTFS and EXT file systems, but Windows doesn't play nearly as nice with EXT. If you are 100% sure you will not need Windows interoperability then I would say go with EXT4, but if you think you may some day need to read the contents of your external hard drive from a Windows machine I would go with NTFS, other wise you will need a EXT viewer like EXT2READ.

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    Another advantage of NTFS over EXT4 is that the latter stores uid/gid that usually are different between linux systems. All files in NTFS are automatically owned by whoever mounted it, thus eliminating all permissions problems. Nov 27, 2014 at 13:32

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