I have a 2TB seagate extension drive formatted to NTFS. I have been using it for read and write purposes in Windows and read only in Linux. Now that I have decided to get rid of windows, I need to decide on it's format. I have researched online to find out that it may not always be safe to write into NTFS drives from Linux. So should I format it to ext4, considering I may plan on using it in a windows system in the future?
Most of the data I have is documents and multimedia only. My present Linux distro is mint. PS: I am open suggestions ranging from using tools like ntfs-3g or using it through windows VMs.

  • "So should I format it to ext4, considering I may plan on using it in a windows system in the future?" We can't really answer this, since only you know the likelihood of using it on Windows in the future. – Sparhawk Feb 18 at 22:39
  • Hey Sparhawk! I was wondering if it's safe enough to continue with NTFS, or is it worth to format it to ext4. – yobro97 Feb 18 at 22:43
  • It's unclear whether you want to be able to use the same partitions on the drive for both Linux and Windows. There is nothing stopping you from having a Windows-only bit and a Linux-only bit of the drive... – Kusalananda Feb 18 at 22:57
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    Personally, I'd use the same format as my main drives and reformat later if necessary, if that weren't too much trouble. From skimming the web, some people complain that NTFS uses more CPU, has issues with some characters in filenames, and is just slightly fiddly in terms of mount options. I personally wouldn't trust it for something as important as backups. – Sparhawk Feb 18 at 22:58

You might be using it again for Windows and Windows cannot (easily) read and only with commercial software write to EXT2/3/4 drives:

Stay with NTFS

The days that Linux couldn't safely write to NTFS are long gone.


Safety aside (which as other users have established should unlikely be an issue), you must keep in mind that the permission system on NTFS and ext4 is different and cannot be "carried over" from one file system to another without loss of information.

For instance, if you mark a script as "executable" on your main ext4 drive and then copy it to the NTFS backup and back, it will no longer be marked as such. Similarly, files marked as "read only" will become accessible to everyone if you mount the NTFS partition with the standard 644 file permissions (i.e. everyone can read the file, but only the owner can write into it).

All this means that while restoring media like videos or photos from a backup should be absolutely fine, restoring an app may require you to tweak permissions and ownership for its executables. Likewise, if you restore a file that was meant to be read only by you (400), everyone will be able to read it unless you remember to re-set its permissions.

One workaround to the problem above might be be putting all your backed-up data into a UNIX-native container such as tar that will preserve such information. Doing incremental backups with tar is difficult, however, and you may end up with the same file taking hard drive space in multiple tarred snapshots.

Considering the above, I would suggest formatting the drive to your system-native file system, in your case ext4, backing up your data with rsync, and reformatting it back to NTFS if you need to repurpose that drive later on for Windows.

If you feel a little bit adventurous, you may want to take a look at the Btr(fs) file system due to its built-in copy-on-write optimization and snapshots that may come in handy for backups. Last time I checked it had issues, but also looked very promising.

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