Would there be any problems in copying files on my Linux system with ext4 filesystem to an external drive that is formatted in NTFS? I'm reinstalling my OS and intend to copy these files back to my Linux system once the new Linux OS is up and running.


2 Answers 2


No, with ntfs-3g you've got read- and write-support for NTFS formated partitions. Just additionally avoid the following characters: \ : * ? " < > |

You will maybe loose the permissions... If this is important for you (which I doubt), you have to create a tar-file first and then transfer it to the NTFS-drive.

If you are free to choose the file system of the external drive (for a further usage) I would recommend to use ext3/4 because it's more error-resistant (full journaling, fragmentation, file-system checks,...) than the NTFS-filesystem.

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    Why do you doubt that the file and directory permissions are not important to the OP? I would definitely use at tar archive for proper backups. One downside of tar would be the loss of POSIX ACLs, but those are not very common, so there I would say they are probably not important. @Tosh: You can check if you are using ACLs somewhere by looking at the output of ls -l. If you see a + at the end of the first column (e.g. -rwxr-x---+ you are using ACLs.
    – ph0t0nix
    May 4, 2015 at 8:32
  • Thank you both your input. Just to make sure, NTFS, ext2/3/4, are all case sensitive file systems right? That is, I can have files named "CASE.TXT", "case.txt", and "case.TXT" all in one directory and it would pose no problems, right?
    – Tosh
    May 4, 2015 at 23:33
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    yes, you are right. May 5, 2015 at 5:26
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    @DJCrashdummy, 1. I'm not saying that permissions aren't an essential security feature, I'm saying that mismatched permission (such as those lost moving from *nix 1777 style bits) are what will hurt you, precisely because such permissions are essential. 2. It is not nonsense, you simply don't know what you're talking about. A file/folder on NTFS can have any number of security attributes, many of them cascading and intertwined with the windows concept of groups. Dec 19, 2019 at 4:17
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    @DJCrashdummy, 3. VM's are extremely useful because it's simply not always about simply who owns what and you can experiment with each problem as it shows up. If you have (say) an ext4 setup with a series of folders with intertwined links and you're concerned about how they end up being represented in NTFS, you can experiment right then and there without futzing around with storage. Cygwin banged right up against many such problems and ended up with semi-crummy results. And of course: 4. Calm down, you're acting like a child. Dec 19, 2019 at 4:23

Permissions are what's likely to cause you the biggest headache. I've had some problems with links as well, but I tend to avoid such things on external drives.

As some of the comments point out, NTFS can be somewhat tricky as a storage filesystem when the permissions were originally from Unix.

This is a great article as to why there are such pitfalls that at first don't seem readily apparent: https://www.tuxera.com/community/ntfs-3g-advanced/ownership-and-permissions/


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