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What are the very big differences between ext3 and ext4 from a generic user's perspective? I heard, sticking with ext3 is wiser. Is it true?

EDIT: One thing I want to note that, I am a dual user (Windows & Ubuntu), so not being able to mount a drive (ext4) from Windows is a big -ve for me. But, ext3 has this privilege.

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up vote 28 down vote accepted

A few years ago I'd say stick with ext3 but nowadays ext4 is better. A recent (May 16, 2011) round up from sums it up rather nicely:

  • Supports huge individual file size and overall file system size.
  • Maximum individual file size can be from 16 GB to 16 TB
  • Overall maximum ext4 file system size is 1 EB (exabyte). 1 EB = 1024 PB (petabyte). 1 PB = 1024 TB (terabyte).
  • Directory can contain a maximum of 64,000 subdirectories (as opposed to 32,000 in ext3)
  • You can also mount an existing ext3 fs as ext4 fs (without having to upgrade it).
  • Several other new features are introduced in ext4: multiblock allocation, delayed allocation, journal checksum. fast fsck, etc. All you need to know is that these new features have improved the performance and reliability of the filesystem when compared to ext3.
  • In ext4, you also have the option of turning the journaling feature “off”.

A very good comparison from 2009 on has a graph about write performance with 4Gb:


and also has some other information on ext4.

I myself have had zero problems with ext4.

If you need to share a partition with Windows you will need ext3. I myself have given up on Windows so I have everything set to ext4 and use a USB stick to tranfer data to a Windows machine (mainly at work).

What you can do for a setup is the following:

/ ext4
/home  ext4
/datapartiton_with_windows ext3

Then you can make the last one a shared partition for both OS's.

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This being said - there currently are no ext4 drivers for Windows, whereas Ext2&3 can be mounted from Windows. – Marco Ceppi May 24 '11 at 13:41
True. I tend to use a USB stick for that. Copy to stick and data is available on other OS'es. – Rinzwind May 24 '11 at 13:48
@marco-ceppi Yes, I forgot to mention that, I am a duel(win & ubuntu) user, and not being able to mount a drive from windows is a big -ve for me. – iamcreasy May 24 '11 at 17:10
ext4 can be mounted with ext2fsd I believe. It works well for my dual boot situation. – zookalicious May 24 '11 at 19:16
Another options is to make the data partition NTSF. This works by default on both Windows and Linux. – Bart Jun 9 '11 at 6:58

The only reasons I can think of at the current time not to use ext4 are compatibility with older systems, and, last time I tried it, ext4 had problems with losing data when used on flash media (ie. Thumb drives et cetra.) That second one I haven't tested in about six months, so it may have been fixed. Otherwise, the performance and reliability are large improvements over ext3.

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That "loosing data" problem may occur if you unsafely remove the media. That's not an issue limited to ext* but other filesystem as well. It's comparable with the "Optimize for performance" feature in Windows. – Lekensteyn Jun 9 '11 at 6:56
nowadays it is possible to read ext4 in Windows. Use the utility called ext2read. so is there any other problem left with ext4 FS/ – CR2 Feb 27 '14 at 9:11
That "loosing data" problem, unless it's been fixed, has nothing to do with unsafely removing the medium and everything to do with ext4 taking some assumptions about how the storage device works that aren't true with cheap flash drives. You don't have to remove the medium at all. Just do a big pile of data transfers like, say, installing linux to an ext4 flashdrive. Last time I tried it you'd start getting corrupted and missing files almost before the installation was complete. And no, there was nothing physically wrong with the drive. It worked fine with ext3. – Perkins May 7 '14 at 19:45

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