Using NTFS for USB Flash pen drives

USB Flash memory drives (also known as pen drives or memory sticks) are normally formatted using the FAT or FAT32 file systems, as are most removable drives. NTFS is generally considered to be a better file system if you use Microsoft Windows, so wouldn't it be better to reformat your flash drives so they use NTFS as well?

Write caching

It's perfectly possible to format USB Flash drives and memory cards using NTFS, but in Windows XP and Vista you must first enable write caching. This is disabled by default, with good reason. Caching means that data due to be written to the drive is held in memory, sometimes for a long time after the write took place. Many removable drives and memory cards were corrupted under older versions of Windows because people removed them without using the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon on the task bar, which forces any cached data to be written to the drive. So you should only enable write caching for removable drives if you're sure that you will remember to use the safe removal process.

How to enable write caching for removable drives

  • Open My Computer
  • Right-click the drive and click Properties
  • On the Properties dialog select Hardware
  • Select the physical drive (all drives will be listed) and click Properties
  • Select Policies and click Optimize for Performance
  • Click OK to close the property dialogs.

Disadvantages of NTFS for Flash drives

Once you have enabled write caching for your flash drive, you can go ahead and format it as NTFS. However, we consider NTFS to be the wrong choice for Flash memory drives drives for several reasons: