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Top 5 Considerations When Formatting Your Portable Hard Drive

Apr 15, 2008
Have I Backed Up My Portable Hard Drive?

The most important thing to consider when formatting your portable hard drive is whether you've backed up your data! Any other choice you make, short of dropping it in a garbage disposal, can be changed later on, but if you fail to perform a backup before you format, all information on the drive will be lost. Make sure to copy all of your files onto another drive before you start. This is not a consideration if you are formatting a new portable hard drive, as it is empty. Otherwise, always remember: BACK IT UP!

What Types of Computers Am I Going To Be Using?

One of the main benefits of a portable hard drive is its ability to be moved from one computer to another. This advantage needs to be considered when deciding how to best format your drive, because different types of computers support different file systems.

There are three major file systems to choose from: FAT32, NTFS, and HFS+

The following is a guideline to choose a file system that is compatible with all the different systems you will be using:

Windows 9x/ME - FAT32 (yes), NTFS (No), HFS+ (no)

Windows 2000 XP/Vista - FAT32 (yes), NTFS (yes), HFS+ (no)

Mac OS X - FAT32 (yes), NTFS (no), HFS+ (yes)

Linux - FAT32 (yes), NTFS (yes), HFS+ (yes)

Learn more about which portable hard drive is right for you by visiting http://www.iomagic.com/Products/show_all_results.asp?ProdID=I250HD35.

As you can see, some file systems are more portable than others. If you need to move files across many platforms, the FAT32 file system is your best choice. On the other hand, if you are only going to be using one type, you'll probably want to choose a file system that is specifically tailored to that type of system, due to performance and security issues.

What Kinds of Files Am I Going To Be Storing On My Portable Hard Drive?

You may decide to format in FAT32 because it is compatible across all the major platforms. Before you decide, you need to think about the types of files that you will be storing on your portable hard drive. FAT32 is very portable, but it has one major limitation: it can't hold files that are larger than 4GB. Because of this limitation, you may need to go with NTFS or HFS+ if you will be storing large files, such as video or backup image files.

Do I Need File Security?

Another thing to consider when preparing to format your portable hard drive is whether or not you need to secure your data. If your data is of a particularly sensitive or personal nature, you may want to choose a file system that provides file level security. If you use file level security only people with permission can access your files. NTFS & HFS+ both provide file level security, while FAT32 does not. Read more about portable hard drive benefits by checking out http://www.iomagic.com/Products/show_all_results.asp?ProdID=I1000HD35.

Should I Partition My Portable Hard Drive?

You may find yourself in a situation where you want to have two different file systems on the same drive. For instance, you may need to store large files, but still want to be able to use your portable hard drive on an older Windows machine. If this is the case for you, you may want to partition your portable hard drive into two or more parts and format one partition as FAT32 and the other as NTFS.
About the Author
Jim Hedgecoth is a veteran freelance writer who writes about computer storage hardware devices such as USB Hard Drives, Blu Ray Drives and other related products. He's a frequent contributor to I/O Magic Corporation, a leading Internet retailer offering data storage solutions.
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