Hello there Attackr.com readers and welcome to another one of my articles. Today I’ll explain how to coax the most out of your USB flash drive.
Just a quick note before beginning: this guide has been written for Windows XP (my operating system) and therefore the names of certain options or menus might be different.
Almost every single USB flash drive comes formatted with the FAT file system by default, which allows them to be used by virtually any version of Windows that supports USB.
Although Microsoft doesn’t make it either intuitive or straightforward, you can format a flash drive with the NTFS file system. This gives you the added benefit of a robust file system and a smaller allocation unit, which makes smaller files occupy less space on large flash drives (why NTFS is better than FAT).
In addition, you can take advantage of NTFS compression to create additional effective space on the flash drive or enable the Encrypting File System for added security.
Unfortunately, all good things come at a price and this statement is no different for the NTFS file system. The price you will pay for NTFS features is slower copying times (about 1.5x for USB 1.1 and 2x for USB 2.0), even without encryption or compression enabled.
To enable compression for the entire flash drive:
- Open My Computer, right-click the flash drive and select ‘Properties’.
- Tick the box that says ‘Compress drive to save disk space’ in the bottom box and click OK
- In the ‘Confirm Attribute Changes’ dialog box, keep the default ‘Apply changes to [drive letter]:\, subfolder and files’ and click OK.
You can also enable or disable compression for single files and/or folders, which is the only option for encryption.
To start either procedure:
- Right-click the file or folder and select ‘Properties’ and then click the ‘Advanced’ tab
- You can now tick either Compression or Encryption. Make your choice, click OK and see step 3 above.
Although you can’t enable both compression and encryption on the same file or folder, you could compress one set of files or folders and encrypt a different set.
With Windows XP’s default settings, NTFS isn’t included on the Windows format tool’s list of file systems, but you can add the option by changing the default on the ‘Policy’ tab for the flash drive from ‘Optimize for quick removal’ to ‘Optimize for performance’, as illustrated here.
Although you must have ‘Optimize for performance’ ticked to add the ‘NTFS format’ option, if you wish you can change back to the default after formatting. However, either policy gives the same time for copying files to the flash drive because apparently XP only enables the write cache for fixed USB drives.
If you frequently swap files on and off your flash drive(s), you should check out Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager. This freeware program requires the .NET Framework 1.1, but won’t install if you have .NET Framework 2.0 or later (weird, eh?).
The solution/workaround to this problem is to temporarily uninstall the later version of .NET Framework, install version 1.1, install USB Flash Drive manager and then reinstall the later .NET Framework.
And so ends this article on Fine-tuning your flash drive.
If you have any questions, comments or something was unclear, leave a comment or contact me on my site.