Understanding exFAT issues

Freedom of Choice

© Lead Image © Galina Peshkova, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Galina Peshkova, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 156/2013
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Just because you have two solutions for using exFAT doesn't necessarily mean you should use either one of them. We examine some of the issues – legal and technical – surrounding this Microsoft filesystem.

Sooner or later, the Linux operating system usually manages to support proprietary technology. However, the effort required frequently extends beyond the technical to include copyright and patent issues. A case in point is Microsoft's exFAT filesystem [1], which now has two free-licensed solutions – although whether you want to use them depends on what jurisdiction you are in and how likely you think it might be that you could be sued for patent violation.

exFAT is a filesystem designed for external and embedded devices. Basically, exFAT is intended as a replacement for FAT32, which has become the filesystem of choice for devices that need to communicate with a variety of operating systems, but whose disk and file size limitations are increasingly unsuitable for modern purposes. exFAT is designed to remove such limitations for the foreseeable future, supporting a recommended 512TB disk size, compared with the 2TB limit for a FAT32 partition with a sector size of 512 bytes, and a file size of 16 exabytes (16EB; 32x260 bytes) compared with the 4GB limit for FAT32.

Additionally, the latest version of exFAT uses free-space bitmaps [2] for allocating sectors, which reduces fragmentation. It also includes optional UTC time stamps and OEM-definable parameters. Releases of exFAT are often informally referred to by reference to the Windows releases with which they coincide, so developers might refer to exFAT Vista or XP.

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