Ext2 vs Ext3 vs Ext4 File System: Which One Should You Use?

Ext2 vs Ext3 vs Ext4

Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4 are all extended file systems created for Linux. But they have differences in many aspects like file size limit, default inode size, journaling, and so on. Now, we will explore the differences of Ext4 vs Ext3 vs Ext 2 in detail.

Ext2

Ext2 is the second extended file system that was initially designed by French software in 1993. As the first commercial file system for Linux, Ext2 breaks through some limitations of Ext. Its maximum individual file size can be up to 2TB and file system size can be from 4TB to 32TB depending on block size.

  • Volume file system size: 4TB to 32TB
  • Maximum filename length: 255 bytes (characters)
  • Maximum number of files: 10¹⁸

Ext3

Ext3 stands for the third extended file system introduced in November 2001 with Linux 2.4.15. It is a journaling file system that can be used on many popular Linux distributions. Compared with Ext2, the main benefit of Ext3 is journaling where all changes can be tracked, which improves reliability and reduces the possibility of file system corruption due to system crashes or power failures.

  • Volume file system size: 4TB to 32TB
  • Maximum filename length: 255 bytes (characters)
  • Maximum number of files: variable
  • Filenames: Supports almost all characters except NULL(‘\0’) and ‘/’
  • Three types of journaling available: Journal, Ordered, and Writeback
  • File system conversion: converts Ext2 to Ext3 file without backup and restore
  • Time Stamp: Second
  • Pre-allocation: In-core reservation
  • Multiple Block Allocation: basic
  • Feature: Lacks some advanced features like extents, dynamic allocation inodes, and block sub-allocation.
  • Undeletes: Since the Ext3 driver deletes files by wiping file inodes, it is hard to recover the deleted files.
  • No checksumming in the journal when writing to the journal on a storage device with the extra cache.
  • No snapshots support

Ext4

Ext4 is also a journaling file system that was a series of backward-compatible extensions to Ext3. It is the file system for most Linux distributions. Besides, Ext4 is supported by some other operating systems, including Windows (read and write with ext2fsd), FreeBSD (version 12.0 and later), macOS (read-only with ext4fuse and full with ExtFS), and KolibriOS (read-only).

  • Volume file system size: 4TB to 1EB
  • Maximum filename length: 255 bytes (characters)
  • Maximum number of files: 4 billion
  • Filenames: Supports almost all characters except NULL(‘\0’) and ‘/’
  • File system conversion: An Ext3 file system can be converted to Ext4
  • Advanced features: Extents, Directory Indexing, Delayed Allocation, and Defragmentation
  • Subdirectory: Unlimited
  • Time Stamp: Nanosecond
  • Pre-allocation: for extent files
  • Multiple Block Allocation: advanced
  • Data security: doesn’t support security deletion
  • Snapshot: it’s harder to create a consistent snapshot of an application on different volumes
  • Disk space: it uses slightly more disk resources

Which One Should You Use

Ext2 vs Ext3 vs Ext4: which one should you use? A lot of people are still confused about this question. If you are not sure, the Ext4 file system is an ideal choice. At present, Ext4 is the default file system for most Linux distributions including Debian and Ubuntu. It provides more flexibility for storing large files and boasts more advanced features than the other two extended file systems.

Bonus: How to Create an Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 File System on Windows

There are a lot of users who want to have dual boot Windows and Linux or create a Linux USB with persistent storage. At this time, you may need to create an Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 partition on Windows system. How to do that? It is highly recommended that you use MiniTool Partition Wizard.

What’s Your Opinion

Here comes the end of this post. Now, you should have known the differences between Ext4 vs Ext3 vs Ext2. If you are not sure which one to choose, we recommend you use Ext4. You can also use MiniTool Partition Wizard to create an Ext2/3/4 partition on Windows.

Ext2 vs Ext3 vs Ext4 FAQ

Can Windows read Ext4? Can Android use Ext4?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Position: Columnist

--

--

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store