March 3, 2024

What Format to use for External Drives and Sample Libraries

exFAT, NTFS, APFS, FAT32?

If you use external SSDs (and they should be SSDs and not HDDs because it’s not 2005) for music production and for installing your sample library content to, you probably aren’t quiet sure what format you should use for the SSD.

Most external drives will come pre-formatted as exFAT because that format works on both Mac and PC.

And while exFAT is great for ease of use, and it works just fine for many things, you shouldn’t use exFAT to store your sample libraries or sounds used in Virtual Instruments.

With exFAT, load times are MUCH longer for plugins/virtual instruments like KONTAKT, and exFAT is more prone to corruption since it doesn’t have journaling.

This is all backed up over at Native Instruments as well, they also recommend that you do not use exFAT for your external drives if you are using them for sample content.

What Format You SHOULD Use

Instead of using exFAT, which is probably the default format for your external drive, you should use:

  • Windows = NTFS
  • Mac = APFS

Whether you are using Native Instruments KONTAKT, Toontrack Superior Drummer, IK Multimedia SampleTank, Waves Virtual Instruments, etc… you will benefit from much faster loading times, and less of a chance of drive corruption.

If you don’t know how to format a drive, it’s covered in the video.

VIDEO

Once your drives are formatted correctly for your computer, you will notice a huge boost in loading speed for your sample libraries vs. exFAT.

*NOTE – when you format a drive it will ERASE ALL DATA on the drive! So if you are going to re-format a drive you are already using, then be sure to move that data to a different drive before you format. After the format is complete, you can move the data back.

The External SSDs I Use

The external drives I use and recommend are the Samsung T7 Shield SSDs.
They have the best price to size and performance ratio.

However, if you want the LATEST tech and don’t mind spending quiet a bit more, then the Samsung T9 external SSDs would be my choice. But the T7 is already blazing fast for sample content and recording, as long as you don’t format to exFAT.

*Note – If you have Native Instruments KOMPLETE 14 Collectors Edition and many other VI sample libraries, I would highly recommend you get a 4TB drive or two 2TB drives, because Komplete CE will take up almost all of a single 2TB drive.

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