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What file system should you use for your external drive?

With the three top operating systems, it is hard to know exactly what file system your operating system will work with. One file system may be fully compatible (read and write) with your OS, while another may not be compatible at all. So here is a list of the various file systems and what operating systems they work with.

What file system should you use for your external drive?

Windows operating system

  • FAT (File Allocation Table) (FAT12, FAT16, FAT32) - FAT was initially developed for floppy disks and was soon adapted to hard drives and other devices. With the limited file size (4GB for FAT32) and limited volume size (32TB for FAT32), and the ever-increasing size of drives, FAT is now used only for smaller USB drives.
  • exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) - exFAT was designed as a replacement for FAT and optimized for USB flash drives and SD cards.
  • NTFS (NT File System) - Microsoft introduced NTFS in Windows NT 3.1, and is now the default file system for Windows.
  • ReFS (Resilient File System) - ReFS was created to overcome some of the problems NTFS had with data storage. It appeared in Windows Server 2012, and support for it has been removed from Windows 10.

MAC operating system

  • HFS (Hierarchical File System) - HFS was the original file system for the Mac OS. Over the years, support for HFS has been cut back to read-only in newer Mac OS versions. Starting with Mac OS 10.15, support for HFS was removed.
  • HFS+ (Hierarchical File System Extended) - HFS+ was the replacement for the HFS file system as it supported larger file sizes. HFS+ is still supported in the Mac OS but is no longer the default file system.
  • APFS (Apple File System) - APFS is now the default file system for Mac OS, iOS, and iPadOS.

Linux operating system

  • EXT (Extended File System) - EXT was the first file system designed specifically for Linux. EXT had a file system limit of 2GB and was soon replaced.
  • EXT2 (Second Extended File System) - EXT2 replaced EXT as the default file system for Linux in the mid-'90s. Many versions of Linux still use EXT2 for the file system for USB flash drives.
  • EXT3 (Third Extended File System) - EXT3 replaced EXT2 as the default file system for Linux in the early '00s. One of the main advantages of EXT3 is its compatibility (forward and backward) with EXT2.
  • EXT4 (Fourth Extended File System) - EXT4 replaced EXT3 as the default file system for Linux in the late '00s. There are several advantages to EXT4, including larger volume and file sizes and backward compatibility with EXT2 and EXT3.

Compatibly Index

File System Operating System
FAT Windows (1) Linux (1) Mac OS (1)
exFAT Windows (1) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
NTFS Windows (1) Linux (3) Mac OS (2)
ReFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
HFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
HFS+ Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
APFS Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (1)
EXT Windows (3) Linux (3) Mac OS (3)
EXT2 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
EXT3 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
EXT4 Windows (3) Linux (1) Mac OS (3)
1. Full read and write compatibility by default.
2. Read only compatibility by default.
3. No compatibility by default.

Note: There is third-party software that can give full read and write access to file systems that are not compatible with an operating system by default.

Conclusion

So if you are looking for a file system for your external drive compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS, look no further than FAT32. It has survived the test of time and is the only file system that can be used without additional software on all three operating systems.

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

Are you looking for an easy way to synchronize your files to another computer on your network? Or maybe you want to sync to an external drive or the cloud. If so, then take a look at Allway Sync by Botkind.

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

For years now, I have been using synchronization programs to make an exact copy of my files on network drives and external devices. Over ten years ago, Microsoft released a straightforward file synchronization program called SyncToy.

But Microsoft dropped support for SyncToy a few years ago, and eventually, it stopped working correctly. That is when I started looking for another synchronization application and found Allway Sync.

Windows 10 does have a built-in file sync program called File History, but it is pretty basic. With File History, you can sync to a network folder or external drive, but not to the cloud.

On the other hand, Allway Sync can sync to a local or network folder, FTP / SFTP server, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and several different cloud storage types. You can even sync to a single archive file.

The user interface inside of Allway Sync
The user interface inside of Allway Sync

The user interface is simple to use and easy to understand. The sync options are quite extensive and include data compression and encryption. You can set up multiple sync jobs and customize each job to meet your needs.

The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync
The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync

The options for sync jobs include synchronization rules, automatic synchronization, inclusion and exclusion filters, file versioning, error handling, and custom actions.

I have several clients that use synchronization software for backing up files. The primary reason is that files can be recovered quickly, as they do not have to be decrypted. Just copy the file you want to be recovered back to the original folder.

Allway Sync is free for personal use, with a limit of 40,000 files per 30 day period. But for unlimited file synchronization, purchasing a Pro license is recommended. FYI - A pro license is not that expensive (under $30).

There are a couple of different editions of Allway Sync, a desktop edition for installing on desktops, laptops, and servers. There is also an edition, Allway Sync 'n' Go, a portable version for installing on external drives.

Allway Sync comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions compatible with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. They even have versions that will run on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

For more information on Allway Sync by Botkind, click on the link below.

Allway Sync by Botkind

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

When it comes to editing text-based files, everyone has used Windows built-in text editor Notepad. But it is pretty basic and has very few features. If you are looking for a program that can do more than edit text files, take a look at Notepad++.

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

Notepad++ (Notepad plus plus) is a text/code editor based on the open-source editing component Scintilla and can be customized to a user's needs. It has an impressive list of built-in features like syntax highlighting, code folding, and extensive find and replace functions.

It includes support for over seventy (70) programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, and Visual Basic. Notepad++ can also record macros so that it can speed those repetitive commands.

Now one of the great features of Notepad++ is its customizability. You can completely change the way it looks and feels, from the font used to the background color; you can make it just the way you like it.

Screenshot of Notepad++ with the black board theme
Notepad++ with the black board theme

You can edit the shortcuts for the pull-down menus, macros, run commands, plugin commands, and Scintilla commands with the shortcut mapper. You can even edit the right-click context menu.

Screenshot of the shortcut mapper inside of Notepad++
Notepad++ shortcut mapper

But the best feature is the extension capacity using third-party plugins. Over 90 (ninety) plugins are available for Notepad++, including all sorts of coding tools and a spell checker.

Notepad++ comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions, and there are two ways to install it; the automatic installer or the portable stand-alone version. You can even modify the registry and use Notepad++ instead of Notepad, but you will have to go through the user manual to find the code.

And the best thing about Notepad++ is that it is free, but you can donate to the author to help support future releases. For more information on Notepad++, follow the link below.

Notepad++

How to clone the drive in your Windows computer

Are you running out of free space on the drive in your computer? Or are you thinking about getting a faster drive for it? If so, cloning the drive in your computer might be just the answer, and here is how to do it.

How to clone the drive in your computer

Note: Drive cloning is a procedure that computer technicians perform regularly. If you do not feel comfortable doing any of the following procedures, please contact a local computer service company like Geeks in Phoenix.

When installing a new drive in your computer, you have two (2) options; you can perform a fresh installation of the operating system and all the programs. Or you can clone the current drive to the new one and preserve the installed operating system and programs.

Since many people do not remember how they installed their programs or where the installation media/software keys may be, cloning their existing drive is the best option. The complexity of cloning a drive depends on the type of drive, the form factor, and the current and new drive interface.

There are several types of drives; the most popular are SSD (Solid State Drive), HDD (Hard Disk Drive), and SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive). There are also several different drive interfaces; the most popular are SATA (7 pin connection cable) and M.2 (keyed socket). HDDs and SSHDs use a SATA interface; SSDs can use either SATA or M.2.

Different types of computer drives

There are several different form factors (physical size) of drives; HDDs and SSHDs come in 3.5" and 2.5" (width), SSDs come in 2.5" (width) when using a SATA interface, and 30 to 110 MM (length) when using an M.2 interface. Drives that come in 2.5" form factor can also have different heights (thicker); 9.5 MM is standard, and 7 MM is used in ultra-thin laptops.

 
Drive types
 
SSD
HDD
SSHD
Form Factor
3.5"
X
X
2.5"
X
X
X
M.2
X
Interface
SATA
X
X
X
M.2
X

If you are upgrading a laptop drive (2.5"), check with the manufacturer on what size is recommended. If you are upgrading an M.2 drive, check with the manufacturer (system/motherboard) on what interface (SATA 3, AHCI, or NVMe), key notch (B, M, or B & M) and length is supported.

Now the first thing you need to do is find out the model number of your current drive. Once you have the model number, you can search on Google and get all of its specifications. You can find the model number in Computer Management.

How to open Computer Management

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu
  2. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Administrative Tools
  3. Left-click on Computer Management

or

  1. Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu to bring up the Power Users menu
  2. Left-click on Computer Management

Once you have the Computer Management console open, left-click on Disk Management and locate the disk that has the partition with the drive letter C:. Right-click the disk number (usually Disk 0) select Properties from the context menu. On the General tab, you will find the drive model number.

Once you have your existing drive specifications, it is time to decide on a replacement drive. Are you going to replace it with one that has the same form factor and interface or not. Your decision will determine how you clone your drive, and there are two (2) ways to do it.

Now it is just a matter of getting another drive with the same data capacity as your existing drive. You can get one with a smaller capacity, but you would have to shrink the partition(s) on the drive before cloning it. You can get one with a larger capacity (recommended), but you may or may not have to manually expand the partition(s) after you are done. Some drive manufacturers (WD, Seagate, and Samsung) cloning software will automatically do that.

There are two (2) different scenarios, upgrading your existing drive to the same form factor and interface or upgrading your existing drive from SATA to M.2. Doing an upgrade that involves just SATA drives is relatively simple; M.2 drives are a bit more complicated.

If you decide to upgrade to an M.2 drive, you will need to find out what type of M.2 drive your motherboard can support before purchasing it. You need to find out the local interface (SATA3, AHCI, or NVMe), width/length, and keying. You will also need the hardware (standoff and screw) to mount it to the motherboard.

SATA drives can be connected to your computer using internal SATA and power cables (desktop) or external USB docking stations / external drive enclosures (desktop or laptop). Since M.2 drives use sockets with PCI-e buses for power and transferring data, they have to be directly connected to the motherboard.

There are M.2 to USB adapters, but they can be expensive and only support specific key notches. For cloning SATA to M.2 or M.2 to M.2, I recommend using the drive-to-image method (see below).

  • Drive-to-drive. This is the method you would want to use if you are cloning your existing drive to another drive with the same interface (SATA to SATA).
  • Drive-to-image. This is the method you would want to use if you are cloning your existing drive to a different interface (SATA to M.2)

Drive cloning software

A few drive manufacturers have the software you can download to clone your drive, but at least one of the drives (source or destination) has to be one of theirs. And a few of the programs you can use to create bootable media. Here are a few of the drive cloning programs available.

Western Digital - Acronis True Image

Seagate - DiskWizard

Samsung - Data Migration

Ultimate Boot CD (bootable media)

R-Drive Image

Hardware required for drive cloning

  • Docking station
  • External hard drive
  • Flash drive for creating bootable media

Different hardware you might use when cloning a computer drive

Drive-to-drive cloning

This is probably the easiest way to clone a drive. The first thing you have to do is install the cloning software on the computer with the source drive you want to clone. If you decide to use the UBCD, you will need to create the bootable media.

Then connect the destination drive by either attaching using a docking station / external case (laptop or desktop) or shutting down the computer and installing it (desktop).

Once you have both drives attached to the computer, you can boot the system normally or use bootable media and start the drive cloning program. Follow the software instructions and be ready to shut down your computer as soon as the software completes cloning the drive.

You will need to remove or detach the source drive from the computer, as both of the drives will have the same boot signature. If you cloned a SATA drive to another SATA drive, connect the destination drive to the connection that the source drive was on. You should be ready to boot your computer on the new drive.

Drive-to-image cloning

This procedure does require a few more steps to complete, but it does also have more options. One of the advantages of this type of drive cloning is changing your computer's primary drive interface. The disadvantage is you may have to expand/recreate partitions manually.

The first thing you need to do is install the cloning software on your computer and then create bootable media using it. You will need the bootable media to restore the disk image or disk backup to the new drive.

The next thing you will need to do is use that same cloning program to create a drive image / drive backup of your primary (boot) drive to an external hard drive. Once that is complete, safely remove the external hard drive from your computer and shut it down.

Now that your computer is turned off, uninstall the existing drive and install the new drive. Once the new drive is in place, boot your computer using the bootable media you created and proceed to restore the disk image / disk backup to the new drive.

If the new drive is larger than the old one, the cloning software may prompt you to expand the primary partition. If it does, let the software do it. If not, you may have to expand it manually using Disk Management inside of Windows.

Windows creates a hidden recovery partition right behind the primary partition. If the cloning software does not put that hidden partition at the end of the new drive and expand the primary partition, you will have to do it manually.

I use R-Drive Image for drive cloning, and it allows me to restore a complete drive image or individual partitions. When I run into the hidden recovery partition, I usually will restore all of the partitions except for the last one, the hidden recovery partition.

Since the system does not require the hidden recovery partition to operate, I boot it up on the new drive and expand the primary partition using Disk Management to fill up almost all of the remaining free space.

I leave a little more than enough free space to restore the hidden recovery partition. I then boot the computer back up on the R-Drive bootable media and restore the hidden recovery partition into the remaining free space.

For more information on upgrading computer drives. click on the following links.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

How to clean up and reset Microsoft Edge

Keeping your web browser clean and free of adware and junk can be a daunting process. With malicious extensions and corrupt website ads, maintaining the safety of your browser can be tough. So here is how to clean up and reset Microsoft Edge.

How to clean up and reset Microsoft Edge

Microsoft recently decided to revamp its Edge browser and start all over completely. Well, kind of. The original Edge browser was not well received and did not get very much support from third-party developers. It had problems all the way around.

Everyone has heard the phrase "If you can't beat them, join them," and Microsoft did just that with Edge. Since Google is using the open-source browser project Chromium as a base for Chrome, Microsoft decided to the same thing with Edge.

Cleaning up and resetting Edge

Some of the settings inside of Edge are the same as Chrome. You can even use extensions from the Chrome Web Store (more about this later in this article). But there are some differences between the two browsers.

All settings for cleaning up and resetting Edge are located in the Settings and more pull-down menu in the upper-right hand corner (three horizontal dots).
The Settings and more menu inside of Microsoft Edge
The first place we want to go to is Settings. You will find fifteen (15) categories; Profiles, Privacy and services, Appearance, On startup, New tab page, Site permissions, Default browser, Downloads, Family safety, Languages, Printers, System, Reset settings, Phone and other devices, and About Microsoft Edge.

The first category is Profiles and is where you set up synchronizing your data across devices. As with other browsers, you can sync your data like passwords, payment information, address, etc. You can also import data from another browser here.

The second category is Privacy and services and has several essential sections. These include Tracking prevention, Clear browsing data, Privacy, Help improve Microsoft Edge, Personalize your web experience, and Services. Let take a look a each separately.

Tracking prevention. This is how Edge handles cookies, and the default settings are recommended. You can turn off tracking prevention or completely block all cookies; it is your choice. You can also view the sites you block / allow tracking and enable or disable tracking prevention when using InPrivate mode.

Clear browsing data. As the name implies, this is where you clear the data from Edge. Like other browsers, you have a choice of what to delete immediately and when you close Edge.

On the right-hand side of Clear browsing data now is a button labeled Choose what to clear. When you click on it, a dialog box appears with several choices.
The Clear browsing data dialog box inside of Microsoft Edge
I go here when a customer calls and tells me that they are having issues with a website not displaying correctly.

On the top is the Time range, and below it are all of the different options. I usually set the time range to All time and leave the default selections checked. That often gets a website to working correctly again. Remember that if you clear any passwords or autofill data, it is gone for good, so be careful.

When you click on Clear browsing data on close, you bring up a page with several selections. These are personal preferences, but I like to clear out the cookies and cache when I close a browser. It is your choice.

Privacy. There are three (3) selections here; Send "Do Not Track" requests, Allow sites to check if you have payment methods saved and Manage certificates. Again, these are personal preferences, but I would enable the Do Not Track and disable the payment feature. The certificates are part of Windows, not Edge, so just leave that one alone.

Help improve Microsoft Edge / Personalize your web experience. The settings in these sections allow Microsoft to collect data from Edge. They are disabled by default, and I would keep it that way.

Services. The default settings for almost all of these sections should be perfectly fine. The only one I would look at is the Address bar. Malicious websites and extensions will try and change the default search engine used by a browser. If you do not recognize the search engine being used, or just want to change it, go into the Manage search engines section and make the changes.

The third category is Appearance and is mainly for personal preference. The only area I would look at is the URL under Show home button in the Customize toolbar section. If there is a web page you do not recognize there, Edge may have been hijacked. Go ahead and remove any unwanted URL's.

The next category is On startup. Here we have some more personal preferences. The one place I would look at for browser hijacking is the Open a specific page or pages section. Again, if you do not recognize or remember adding a page listed there, delete it.

The next category is New tab page. You can customize the new tab page here—another personal preference.

The next category is Site permission. This where you set the default actions for different media (Flash, JavaScript, etc.), hardware (camera, microphone, etc.), and other miscellaneous settings. The default settings are recommended.

The next category is Default browser. As the name implies, you can set Edge as your default browser here. Two settings might be of interest if you still use Internet Explorer (IE); Let Internet Explorer open sites in Microsoft Edge and Allow sites to be reloaded in Internet Explorer mode. A lot of people still use IE because a website they go to requires ActiveX and since Edge has an IE mode built-in, you just have to enable it.

The next category is Family safety. This is part of the Microsoft Family Safety program. You can find out more about it in the blog I wrote; How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts.

The next two categories are Languages and Printers. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff here. Personal preferences again.

The next category is System, and there is one significant setting here. As with Google Chrome, Edge can continue to run in the background even after you close it. It can also run background apps when Windows starts up. I have seen adware/malware use this setting to run the browser when Windows starts up.
Enable or disable Edge from running after being closed
I recommend you turn off the Continue running background apps when Microsoft Edge is closed feature until you get prompted by an app to enable it.

The next category is Reset settings. With a couple of clicks, you can reset Edge back its original default settings. Everything but your favorites, history, and saved passwords will be deleted. Remember, if you reset the settings, you will have to go back and do all of the customizing all over again.

The second to the last category is Phone and other devices. This just elaborates on the synchronizing feature discussed in the Profiles category.

The last category is About Microsoft Edge. When you open this category, Edge will check for updates. Other than what version Edge you are running, that is all in this category.

The last place we want to check for browser corruption is the Extensions. Go back to the Settings and more pull-down menu and select Extensions. This will open a new tab. Extensions extend the functionality of Edge and usually are perfectly safe. You can install extensions from either the Microsoft Store or the Chrome Web Store (you have to enable Allow extensions from other stores).

But there are malicious extensions that want to use your browser for other things, like crypto-mining, for example, behind your back. If there are any extensions listed the Installed extensions that you do not recognize or do not remember installing, go ahead and disable them. If you find you do not need or want them, you can click on the Remove link under the extension name.

The last option to get Edge back to default and work correctly is to uninstall and reinstall it. I only use this option when all else fails to get it back to full functionality. It can take a little time to do, but if you need to get Edge fully reset, this may be the only option. There are two (2) ways to uninstall programs in Windows 10; the Settings app or the Control Panel.

Uninstall a program using the Settings app

  1. Click on the Start Windows logo menu, then Settings (the gear icon), then Apps, then Apps & Features.
  2. Scroll down the list of apps in the right-hand column until you find Microsoft Edge.
  3. Highlight Microsoft Edge and click on the Uninstall button.

Uninstall a program using the Control Panel

  1. In the search box next to the Start Windows logo button, type Control Panel, and click on it from the results.
  2. Select Uninstall a program (if viewing by category) or Programs and Features (if viewing by icons).
  3. Highlight Microsoft Edge and click on the Uninstall button.

Once Microsoft Edge is uninstalled, restart your computer. When your computer has rebooted and you are logged back in, you will need to remove any traces of Edge before reinstalling it. There are two (2) places where you will need to look for any leftover files; inside your user profile and inside the program files directory. The files inside your user profile are hidden by default, but you can get there quickly by bringing up a Run dialog box (Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R) and typing or copy / paste the following code:

%userprofile%/AppData/Local/Microsoft

This will open the File Explorer to the location of your Microsoft user settings. If there is a folder named Edge, go ahead and delete it. Next, you will have to navigate to the location of the Program Files directory and check under the folder named Microsoft. Its location is usually C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft, but it may be different if you installed Edge on a different drive. Once you get there, if you find a folder named Edge, go ahead and delete it. Now you can download and reinstall Microsoft Edge.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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