Frustrating FAT32

Since Monday morning, I have been trying to copy some files (about 2TB) to a RAID I set up in my office. My supervisor instructed me to diff. (compare these files) with some other files on another drive (stored on the network) and ascertain the differences. I initially thought that copying the files from the 2 1TB drive was going to be very easy. But I was gravely mistaking!

FAT32….. Why does FAT32 still exist? Do people ever use this again? Who made this format in the first place? End of Rant.

As I already said, I started working on transferring these files to the RAID since Monday. I had no much problem with transferring files from the first hard drive. That was really encouraging. My morale for work was boosted. As I began transferring the files from the second drive, the whole system “sort of” crashed. Even, the Mac program “Finder” crashed. It issued an error: “The application Finder cannot be opened”. And it displayed a cryptic error code, something like “1009-“. I have no idea what that means! I opened the terminal so that I can kill Finder and restart it. Surprisingly, even the terminal said it was busy running another process. So I left it alone. The whole system was down. I was perplexed and worried. I wandered why this could be happening and tried to look for a solution online (luckily, firefox didn’t crash). I found none relating to this problem.

Having tried to resurrect my programs again without any success, I decided to restart the whole system quitting all the programs using CTRL-OPTION-ESC. This worked! The system restarted but I couldn’t read any files from the second 1TB drive. I was on the hot sit!

I tried repairing, ejecting safely, and even ‘resurrecting’ (some complex repair processes I made up) but none worked for me. The OS didn’t just recognize the disk. Then out of serendipity I checked the disk information to discover that the drive was a FAT32. I suppose that that might have been the problem all along. I discussed this issue with a technical personnel in the ITS ‘basement’ and he confirmed my suspicions. He said that Macs aren’t on good terms with old FAT32 and that could have accounted for the weird behavior of my drives.

Don’t get me wrong. FAT32’s aren’t that bad. They are good to windows but kind of BAD to Macs. FAT32’s have some enviable characters. FAT32’s allow you have a root folder that is an ordinary cluster chain. Plus, you don’t have any superfluous files that *nix files sometimes put in the root folder of a drive anytime it writes to that drive. In addition, this format is safer than many others because the boot sector of FAT32 drives is automatically backed up at a specified location on the volume so FAT32 volumes are less susceptible to single points of failure than a lot of *nix formats including its predecessor FAT16 (pls. don’t use this).

On the other hand, FAT32 has a lot of demerits. The file format does not have any built-in file system security or compression scheme with FAT32. Also, it is more susceptible to viruses (this is something associated with all Windows platforms). I don’t have proof for this but I’ve noticed that viruses are more prevalent in FAT32 volumes than on any other non-FAT volumes.

Now, I should get back to trying to copy files from my *Wonderful* FAT32 drive to the Mac RAID that I set up. Peace.


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