Exploring exFAT performance..

I frequently copy DVD images (ISO files) around that are generally pretty large, normally to one of my many thumb drives I have laying around.  I was kindof put off by the speeds I was getting.. waiting hours to copy these files sometimes was a drag if I was in a rush to get somewhere. I ended up purchasing an expensive high end USB 2.0 32GB thumbdrive (Patriot Xporter XT) speeds are better with this higher capacity drive, but I am still interested in achieving quicker copy times.  FAT32 is generally considered quicker on thumb drives than NTFS, but FAT32 can only support up to 4GB sized files. Sure I could zip up my ISOs into separated zip containers, but that would take even MORE time. Enter exFAT…. designed with external flash drives in mind, this file system has less overhead than NTFS and supposedly should perform better ( See Here ) I had considered exFAT in the past, but I used my thumb drives with a lot of older computers and Vista or higher OS was required in order to read exFAT and it wasn’t practical. I also realize that this post may seem a little long in the tooth, with USB 3.0 drives becoming available and MLC flash storage improving performance in these products, but with windows 7 becoming more and more mainstream, exFAT might start to make more sense.

Here is the kicker though….. is exFAT really faster than my NTFS formatted thumb drive? Here is where we get to the meat of this post. I will be testing performance of my commonly used file sets to see how much quicker (if at all) an exFAT formatted USB drive is than the same drive formatted with NTFS.

All tests were run using a custom script that I wrote to both time and copy the files on a Patriot Xporter XT 32GB USB drive. (email me if you are interested in getting a copy of the script). Files were copied to and from a very fast Intel X-25M SSD to minimize any potential impact that a slower mechanical HDD might have on the results of the test.

NTFS TESTS (Default 4096bytes Allocation Size):

Large Movie ISO Test (7.32 GiB, 1 File)
READ: 225.25 Seconds  ~33.27 MBps
WRITE: 374.98 Seconds ~19.99 MBps
DELETE: negligible (very quick)
Random Images/Documents (7.45 GiB, 2,812 Files)
READ: 276.20 Seconds ~27.62 MBps
WRITE: 830.05 Seconds ~9.19 MBps
DELETE:62.99 Seconds

exFAT TESTS (Default 32 kilobyte Allocation Size)

Large Movie ISO Test (7.32 GiB, 1 File)

READ: 239.11 Seconds ~31.35 MBps (5.7% Slower)
WRITE: 360.34 Seconds ~20.8 MBps (4.05% Faster)
DELETE: negligible (very quick)
Random Images/Documents (7.45 GiB, 2,812 Files)
READ: 272.03 Seconds ~ 28.04 MBps (1.5% Faster)
WRITE: 1067.95 Seconds ~7.14 MBps (22.3% Slower)
DELETE: 688.62 Seconds (1093% Slower)
Hmm seems like we have a problem here…. while exFAT does improve results slightly in some areas, it is also much slower at writing lots of random files. The real killer here is delete time!!!! exFAT is almost 11 times slower at deleting files than NTFS! Ridiculous…. I think I’ll stick to NTFS for now. You probably should too.

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