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I've had this problem for a long time and can't find a solution. I switch between the 3 OSes all the time and use a 1TB USB Drive to do so. I can't seem to find a format that is compatible across all systems that handles large files (at least 8-9 GB).

Does anyone have a solution for this? Recently I've tried exFat but that messes up the filesystem when trying to read on windows after adding files from Ubuntu (using the fuse driver).

The OSes currently I'm using are Windows Vista/7, Mac OS X (10.6.5) and Ubuntu 10.10

update: I've decided to go with ntfs for now. The download for ntfs-3g for mac can be found here.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Have you tried NTFS? You'll need to install driver ntfs-3g for linux (and im not sure about mac) This seems to work fine.

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would have to install the ntfs-3g for mac too, but that may work. thanks for the suggestion –  wajiw Dec 28 '10 at 19:50
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I would go with Ext2 - since there are IFS drivers for Ext2 filesystems on Windows and also for Mac.

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What about just the vanilla vfat? Isn't that accessible across all OS. Also, most thumb drive aren't that large. It's not like the usual FS features like journalling etc would really come in handy.

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Partition the drive, a partition for your data (exfat, ntfs3g, whatever) and a smaller fat 32, which is fairly universal and load it up with drivers, executables for reading your filesystem on the main partition on the various paltforms you use.

So if you are ever caught short, you will hopefully have something to load up from the fat drive to get you through.

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I have used Gparted for 8Gb USB flash drive NTFS formatting. It works fine. I am not sure, but I heard that non-FAT format may have influence on a lifespan of USB flash drive (decreasing it :) ).

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A workaround for this problem that requires no reformatting of the flash drive is to use the UNIX/linux split and cat utilities. The utilities are on all UNIX and linux systems and are in the default cygwin package for Windows. I don't know what the situation is on the Mac.

An example usage is:

split -b 100000000 filename

That splits up the file into one billion byte chunks that can be copied to the flash drive and recombined at the other end.

By default the files are named xaa, xab, xac, xad, and xae.

To combine them again:

    cat xa* > filename

I've used this often and it works fine. It leaves your flash drive in a state that will continue to work in any computer you insert it into.

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You can also use exfat. It is Microsoft proprietary filesystem. It does not work under Windows XP and earlier, but it should work on Mac OS 10.6.5 and newer.

In Ubuntu it worked under FUSE, but needs installation.

In kernel 3.8.11 and later, it should have native support. More info here.

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