Saturday, 21 June 2014

Copying Files Without Properties?

I wanted to move files between PCs using a flash drive, and Windows 7 asked me ‘Are you sure you want to copy this file without its properties?’. Does that mean I will lose data if I copy files that way?

No, you won’t lose data. Most likely, your source disc (the one where the files reside on your PC) is formatted with the NTFS filesystem, and the target disc (the flash drive) is formatted with FAT32. You can check this by clicking the Start orb, then ‘Computer’, then right-clicking a disc, and finally ‘Properties’.

Files have properties like ‘is the file read-only?’ and ‘has the file been changed since the last time it was backed up?’. These two examples are standard properties that apply to any kind of file, and that are present on all Windows filesystems and most - if not all - others. (You could say that a filesystem is the way Windows internally organises the files on the disc)

When a disc is formatted as NTFS, files (those containing images are a typical example) can have additional properties that aren’t available on the older, but more widely supported (i.e. by operating systems other than Windows) FAT32 filesystem. Flash drives usually come formatted as FAT32.

If you didn’t assign such specific properties to your files, such as ‘tags’ or ‘date taken’ to your pictures, you can just go ahead and copy the files: you won’t suffer any loss. If you did assign such properties, you could first format the flash drive as NTFS and then copy the files to it: then, you won’t get the warning regarding lost properties any longer. You can of course also go ahead; in that case, your files will be copied without data loss (e.g., your pictures won’t be affected), but those additional properties will be lost (e.g., your pictures’ ‘date taken’ property won’t be available any longer).

Caution: formatting the flash drive (or any disc, for that matter) erases all its contents. Also, if you format the drive as NTFS and want to use it on operating systems other than Windows (or e.g. in a digicam), you might need to reformat it again (which will erase its contents) to FAT32 before it becomes usable there.

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