best formatting for external ssd storge drive for storing images


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Montgomery_Minds
Montgomery_Minds
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I have a new external drive for storing images I make in Macrium Reflect of my PC (C system drive).

It came formatted as exFAT. I can't find anywhere after searching here for 1 hour in forums or knowledgebase what the best recommended formatting is.I seem to remember NTFS but can't confirm.

This external drive will actually be a technicians portable multi-boot with a active MR Win RE partition and a partition for storing all the drive images, in case that makes a difference.

Thanks!

jphughan
jphughan
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NTFS is a somewhat more robust file system in terms of resilience and recoverability, in addition to supporting other features that wouldn’t be relevant to this use case. But it’s only writable on Windows without resorting to third-party tools; otherwise it’s read-only or not supported at all. By comparison, exFAT isn’t as advanced, but it’s the only file system that both supports files larger than 4 GB and is supported for read/write on all current OSes.

If you will only be using this volume with Windows systems, I’d go NTFS. Then create a small FAT32 partition for your Rescue Media files.
Montgomery_Minds
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Thanks for the reply.

Does Macrium have a recommendation as to which one is faster to write images to? This writing single large files to the external drive, not many thousands of small files. I have heard that NTFS is faster for writing many small files, but that does not seem to be this case--what Macrium does.

Seekforever
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I've found lots of references that claim the opposite - NTFS is slower for many small files but I think this is somewhat irrelevant for imaging.
In simple terms, when an image is created Reflect looks at the file structure to determine which clusters on the disk are being used. Reflect then opens the file to receive the image on the destination drive and copies the "in-use" clusters to the destination drive. It is not using the file system to open and copy individual files, it is just running at a lower-level moving blocks of clusters. (If a File and Folder backup is being made instead of an image, the filesystem is used and is a lot slower than imaging.)
The image data writes to the destination drive is done at a very high-speed and is why a destination disk with a good sustained write-speed is desired - not the often quoted short-term higher burst speed.
Of course, if you have a huge number of files there is more overhead in getting the image started and possible recording other information in the image but that has little to do with NTFS. One might assume that since NTFS has some error correcting information included that it takes some time to do that compared to say FAT32 that doesn't.


jphughan
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Unless your destination device’s write speed is higher than your source device’s read speed, then the difference isn’t going to matter. But when you format a partition, you are given a choice as to allocation unit size. Larger sizes are generally better optimized for larger files because more data can be read and written with fewer I/O requests, which is why they’re sometimes used for volumes that will host databases. The tradeoff is that they can be less efficient, because the minimum footprint of any given file on the volume will be a single allocation unit, and you also can’t have multiple files occupying a single allocation unit. So if you have a 64 KB allocation unit (for example), then a 4 KB file will consume 64 KB, and a 65 KB file will consume 128 KB. The result is that you end up with more space lost to “slack” compared to smaller allocation unit sizes.

All that said, again I don’t know if tuning the allocation unit size will make much difference even if you don’t have the write speed constraint I described above. And I haven’t seen an official Macrium recommendation. Until recently, Image Guardian could only protect backups on NTFS volumes, but it now supports exFAT too.
Edited 26 November 2023 1:46 AM by jphughan
Montgomery_Minds
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I just imaged a system with an NVMe system drive, via usb 3.0 port, going into a Samsung T7 which is USB-C. I used the USB-A 3.0-to-USB-C cable that came with the drive. I had reformatted that drive to have NTFS file system. It came with exFAT. (It's a technicians portable so the first partition is FAT32 bootable macrium portable, and the rest is in a second partition formatted NTFS.) I left the AllocationUnitSize as default and it used 4096.

Macrium Reflect reported it was writing at 4-5 Gb/s consistently.

Macrium Reflect at the end reported it finished in 1:26 (1 minute 26 seconds).

In that time it wrote 20GB which is the resulting file size of the image created.

The original size on disk was 60GB so that's like a 3x compression rate.

20GB is 160Gbits in 86 sec calculates out to 1.86 Gb/s which is lower that was reported, but that time reported might be elapsed and include other stages besides writing.

Macrium reflect when done also reported Read 7.7 Gb/s - Write 6.2 Gb/s.

Writing 20GB at 6.2Gb/s should take 25 sec. I didnt time it separately but this could very well be close.

I don't know what the T7 buffer size is. It could be 20GB. It's a 2TB drive. If so, it might slow down for a larger image.

But so far this is very fast and I'm very happy.

Seekforever
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If you have a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port on you computer and the corresponding Type C cable (C both ends) you might try it for a speed test since your T7 drive supports USB 3.2 Gen 2. This gives a theoretical max of 20 Gbps instead of 5 or 10. Of course, it may not be the interface that is controlling the speed but it might be interesting.
jphughan
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20 Gbps is USB 3.x Gen 2x2, so named because it uses the high speed lane pairs on both sides of a USB-C connector. USB 3.x Gen 1 (5 Gbps) and Gen 2 (10 Gbps) both use only a pair of high speed lanes on one side. Gen 2x2 is not very widely supported at all though, since most vendors simply went to USB4.
Edited 26 November 2023 2:53 PM by jphughan
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