Windows: External Storages and File Systems

In this series I want to share my experiences of using Windows on a private device again.

Yesterday I ordered an external SSD to have a bit more storage on the go when using my Surface Go, but also to exchange files between my devices (it has an USB C cable, so it should even work with my phone). I have a huge (4TB) external HDD already, but that needs more power than what comes out of the USB C port on the Surface, so when I want to use that, I have to use a charging cable and that's suboptimal.

I ordered the Samsung Portable SSD T5 with 500GB. It's surprisingly small. Even smaller than internal SSDs I used in the past. Before purchasing it I also considered buying a standard 2.5 inch SSD and use an enclosure, but in the end decided against it, because that's not cheaper and can probably break more easily.

But what I realized today and already found annoying when I tried to make my external HDD work with the Surface, is the state of file systems.

Using external storages cross platform is a pain.

Linux supports ext4 and also NTFS, but not exFAT yet (due to licensing reasons). Windows doesn't support ext4. My Android device however supports neither ext4 nor NTFS out of the box, but only FAT32. But FAT32 has some limits (4GB for files) that aren't very practical for an external 500GB SSD.

In the end I went the NTFS way. It's natively supported on Windows, works okay on Linux and using an app (where I needed to do an 5€ in-app purchase) I was also able to mount it on my phone.

Jan-Lukas Else
20 years old student who writes about everything he cares about.