I'm currently filling up an empty 16GB flash drive which gives me a lot of time for imponderables. It's formatted as fat32 or whatever it came with (and I'll probably leave it that way for ease of portability). I'm just wondering if it would make any difference in write/access times if I had formatted it to ext2 or 3.

  • Bear in mind you may well be rate-limited by the USB transfer rate, which would also depend on your version of USB... Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 22:05
  • For slow media like a USB flash drive, any speed difference between filesystems would be hard to notice.
    – Jim Paris
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


A copy operation involves updating/adding a node in the filesystem's datastructure.This involves reading,processing and finally inserting the info node for the copied file.If your device and port(Remember port throughput is determined according to the slower one) is fast enough then the problem lies in the filesystem.

You may be victim of one of the two situations:

  1. Large number of files:
    In case there are many small files to be copied then the filesystem matters.Look Here , its associated link and Ext vs FAT, where they discuss about various filesystems performance.
  2. Corrupted File System:
    This is more common problem where we misunderstand our Flash drive as slow and even sometimes we end up with half/less capacity on drive then specified.The obvious solution to this problem is using disk utility or dd to clear partition (Freeing whole drive) and then repartition.
  • Lots to digest in those links. It looks like it does make a difference, but as both answers so far point out, the effect is probably much smaller than throughput constraints.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 6:28

Your usb flash drive wont be more affected by filesystem perfomance than by your usb interface speeds. USB 2.0 interface speeds are very low and flash drive write speeds are very low, so slow that heavy write operation would slow the process to crawl.

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