Thumb Wars

One day I was saving another document to my flash drive and got an error message telling me that my disk was full. I took a look at the properties and no, that disk was nearly empty, 400 mb of 512 mb free. What the heck is going on here!

These great new devices, thumb drives, have a mysterious limitation. The root directory or folder, can only hold 244 file names, providing the file names are short. The longer the name, the less file names in the root directory.

Lets take a simple look at the problem. In oder to store data on an electronic device you have to have a file system, like storing paper files in the office, to manage the data. The root directory on every disk is a fixed size, like a file cabinet, and like a file cabinet there is only so much space for files. In the early days when files names were only 8 characters to a name 244 entries were normally enough. Now that there is support for long file names and the drives are larger in size, the fixed amount of space fills up sooner.

In the office, when there is no room in the cabinet we get another cabinet. The file system on the thumb drive or disk is similar. In order to store more files we make directory’s, folders to some of you. Folders can have an unlimited number of file names in them.

So, if you find someone trying to save to their drive and the get a message that the drive is full but have lots of space free then this is likely the problem.

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