Man discovers insight into digital file longevity.

What’s so formal about formatting?

Four out of five people who can somewhat remember life before the dawn of the tech age agree – It’s a task that must be done at some point in one’s life!

If you’re like me you probably have a sizable cache of personal electronic files on the PCs and other devices at home. I’ve been collecting and saving such files since about 1996 when I bought my first desktop PC. My personal files, i.e. the ones I want to keep indefinitely include digital pictures, scanned copies of diplomas and degrees, scanned copies of birth certificates, work-related files, tax returns, home and auto purchase documentation, banking and insurance files, and other similar type stuffs.

This electronic catalog of my life has gone from prehistoric floppy disks, to internal hard drives, to CDROMS, to DVD/DVR’s, to…well, back to internal hard drives and sometimes to a cloud based drive (Google Drive, P Cloud, Dropbox, etc..) I had stuff everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

I can’t recall specifically whether it was the fear of a foreign entity using an EMP on us, or the fear that the government would eventually seize control of all cloud based data centers, nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that I needed to back up all of my electronic files onto an external HDD.

Why I chose personal storage over a cloud based solution.

Two simple reasons: 1) I didn’t want to pay a one time or annual fee for someone else to house my data, and 2) yes, the remote fear that my cloud based files would either be compromised and/or inaccessible at some point. It’s not an unrealistic concern!

Why I chose an external HDD over a SSD solution.

Although there are pros and cons to both, I chose an external Hard Disk Drive (HDD) over Solid State Drive (SSD) because HDD’s are geared more for mass storage, which I need, while SSD’s are geared more for speed, which I’m indifferent about. Also, the lifespan of HDD’s are longer than SSD’s – So I’ve read.

What file system format option did I choose for my new HDD?

I run two different boxes at home: 1) is a typical HP tower running a Linux Distro – RedHat Fedora, and 2) my Dell laptop for work running Microsoft Windows 10.

At the time of this writing I chose to format my new Western Digital ‘My Passport’ 2 TB HDD to the exFAT file system as opposed to NTFS or FAT32. Main reason – Transferring files between the Linux and Windows operating systems I have. Essentially exFAT is “designed to be a lightweight file system like FAT32, but without the extra features and over head of NTFS and without the limitations of FAT32.” (

For more detail on formatting your HDD or SSD, please visit the B&H Photo, Video and Pro Audio.

January 11, 2019 Update: I found another great article on the types, differences, capabilities and limitations of the various file systems. Click here to check it out.

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