FATXplorer 3.0 beta 14 introduced redesigned Formatting Tools, featuring OG Xbox formatting for the first time, and various improvements to Xbox 360 formatting. Beta 15 fixes various issues with the Formatting Tools and also adds a new feature: the ability to format/create a file.
Beta 15 is available to download right now. Use the in-app updater to get it, or download it here.
Why format a file?
There are a few reasons formatting a file is useful:
- It provides an easier avenue for testing the Formatting Tools. You don’t need an actual device to test it out now.
- The formatted file is fully usable/mountable in FATXplorer, meaning you can try out most of FATXplorer’s features without needing an actual device.
- For use with xemu – an Original Xbox emulator. xemu utilizes disk images, and you can use FATXplorer to create them now, in any size you want.
While it is possible to restore a file onto a device of the exact same size, it’s not recommended because it’s generally a waste of time and it’s much faster to format the device directly and then copy over your content.
When you open Formatting Tools in beta 15, it looks like this:
You choose from the same device types as before, but now you can indicate whether you want to format a file instead of a real device.
The next page, with the checkbox checked, looks like this:
Here you choose a location to save the file, and also how big you want the file to be. For convenience, Min and Max buttons are provided. When clicked, they will set the size to the smallest and largest respective device size for the chosen device type. For example, clicking Min when formatting an OG Xbox MU will input 12 KB, and Max will input 4 GB. Aside from Min and Max, you can input any size within that range as well. Just make sure you have enough space to store the file, as it is going to be created on your file system in the exact size you specify. There is no dynamic expansion/maximum size feature like there is with VHDs.
From that point the process is the same as if you were formatting a real device. You can customize your partitions, preload, etc. There is a small difference at the very end: the “Quick Format” option has been replaced with a different option: Create Clean File:
If you check this option, the entire file that is created will be zeroed out before it is formatted. This can be very slow, and generally isn’t necessary unless you plan on sharing the file with others, or just want a clean, zeroed file for whatever reason.
If you do not check this option (the default), the file will be created, but not zeroed out. What this means is that if, for example, you create a 1 TB file, 1 TB of deleted data from your PC may wind up in the file. Normally Windows does not allow this to happen for privacy reasons, but FATXplorer uses a special Windows API (SetFileValidData) to prevent the zeroing of data. Stopping Windows from zeroing out the file makes a profound difference in the time it takes to format a large file. For example, when formatting a 1 TB OG Xbox HDD file (as pictured above), it is the difference between writing 68 MB of data and 1 TB + 68 MB of data. With this option unchecked, creating and formatting a 1 TB OG Xbox HDD file is basically instantaneous. Here’s a gif showing the creation and formatting of a 1 TB file. It’s also being created on a hard-drive – not an SSD!
Various other fixes and enhancements were made to the Formatting Tools. A Restart button was added so the wizard can be restarted if a change needs to be made, and devices larger than 2 TB are handled correctly now. Click here for the latest release notes.
The next planned feature is formatting support for Xbox 360 USBs larger than 2 TB. This will require special xeBuild patches. The experience will be similar to the USB formatting/patching features FATXplorer had several years ago that extended the limit to 2 TB (until Microsoft did it themselves in a subsequent system update).
There is also a possibility of adding the capability of formatting internal HDDs larger than 2 TB for OG Xbox and Xbox 360. This is more complicated than USB (which was already pretty complicated). News on this isn’t expected anytime soon, and the consoles’ limited memory may make it infeasible. We shall see!
The highly anticipated Original Xbox Formatting Tools have arrived in FATXplorer 3.0 beta 14, which is available for immediate download.
The new Formatting Tools
FATXplorer has had formatting tools for years, but they are Xbox 360-exclusive. Support for Original Xbox hard-drives and memory units is now available. There is a wide range of formatting options for Original Xbox hard-drives depending on the BIOS installed on the console, and a lot of effort has gone into covering every scenario. Xbox 360 formatting options have also been enhanced with new features, and common annoyances have been addressed.
Supported device types:
Selecting a device:
Original Xbox Formatting
All of the common partitioning setups are supported, with extensive explanations for each option:
The blue button is a translate button that will let you translate the information to any other language (opens Google Translate in your browser). This is important information, so this was added to help with accessibility.
Your BIOS selection will impact partition customization on the next page. For this example, LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table was chosen:
You can configure partition cluster sizes on this page. When choosing LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table, you can change the size of the partitions too. Just double-click:
Some partitions are optional and you can specify whether to format them or not by checking “Format”. Do note that setting custom sizes is only supported for OG Xbox and the LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table option. In all other cases the sizes are set and cannot be changed. By default, FATXplorer applies a recommended configuration that makes the best use of the available space, so most of the time you can just click Next.
Xbox 360 Formatting
Those who have used FATXplorer’s Xbox 360 formatting tools in the past will appreciate these improvements:
- The Device Selection page has been improved:
- It now shows more information to make it easier to select the right device. You can see this on the second screenshot on this post (above).
- Disk #0 is no longer filtered out. The original intent behind this was to prevent accidental formatting of the OS drive, but it is now apparent the OS drive is, in some cases, not disk #0.
- When formatting failed in previous versions with an “Access to the path is denied” error, the advice was to remove any existing Windows partitions. FATXplorer will now remove all Windows partitions for you, and other changes have been made that should significantly reduce the chances of getting this error in general.
- You can now preload files onto partitions (more on this below).
- The Security Sector page is improved. FATXplorer will now validate the Security Sector against information in the disk’s firmware, and let you know if the information matches or not. If no Security Sector, or a mismatched one, is provided, you will have to check a box confirming you understand the consequences.
These features apply to both Original and Xbox 360 formatting tools.
Preloading is a new feature that is primarily aimed at console shops and individuals who prepare and sell HDDs (or consoles with HDDs) to their customers. For each partition that will be formatted, you can specify either a zip file or a folder containing contents you want to load onto the partition during the format. For example, if you are formatting a new Original Xbox HDD, you can preload the C & E partitions with the necessary files that you have downloaded from the community somewhere. That way, once the format is done, you can put the drive into your console right away. You don’t have to copy anything over yourself.
The preloading process is very simple. You choose a partition to preload using the drop-down, and then specify a zip file or folder. You can specify 1 zip file or folder per partition.
If you select a zip file, there is also an option to calculate the checksums of the zip file so you can check to make sure the file is correct/correctly downloaded.
New: Full Disk Wiping
Right before you start the format, you can now specify if you want to quick format the disk. FATXplorer has always quick formatted disks by default. If you want FATXplorer to wipe the entire disk before setting up the Xbox partitions, uncheck this option. This can add hours to the format time, and it’s generally not necessary, but the option is now here for power-users who want it. There is also a Cancel button that can be used to stop the wipe operation.
Setting a name
You can still name your device. This is displayed on the console in various places. New: Support for OG Xbox memory units. There is no name feature for OG Xbox HDDs because the original Xbox has no concept of names for HDDs — only memory units.
Discontinued / Missing Features
Xbox internal memory unit formatting has been discontinued. In reality, no one used this, and it was an unnecessary feature that brought about confusion.
The “back” button is currently not present. Adding OG Xbox support brought in numerous code complexities that made supporting a back button more complicated compared to Xbox 360-exclusive support. It will probably return in the future.
A preview of new USB formatting possibilities was recently shared here. Beta 14 does not support formatting extra large USBs. Support will come in a future beta, assuming all goes well with further development and testing of the patch.
FATXplorer is still unable to lock and unlock OG Xbox HDDs. If you format an OG Xbox HDD and your console requires the HDD to be locked, you will need to lock it using your tool of choice. This is unlikely to change, but alternative options are being investigated.
Formatting is a destructive operation. Please take great care in selecting the right device. Previous FATXplorer versions may have failed to format disks with existing Windows partitions, but this new version will not. FATXplorer will confirm the disk name on the review page right before you click the Format button. If you accidentally format the wrong disk, and it was a quick format, you may be able to recover your data. Some file systems/partition layouts store backup information at the end of the disk. This information may aid in data recovery. A quick format without preloading doesn’t write a lot of data, so chances of recovery may be good if given the proper attention.
Other changes in beta 14 not related to formatting
- Improved disk size calculation. Several users reported issues that stem from USB bridges reporting an incorrect disk size. This improvement should fix all disk size related issues. (Mainly happened with Seagate hardware)
- Improved device detection. The detection process will no longer end prematurely if a read error occurs at some point in the process.
- If a disk is set offline (for example, through Windows Disk Management), FATXplorer will now attempt to bring it online (when not in read-only mode) so write operations will work.
- Removed the Load Special button. After further consideration, no additional special loading options are needed.
- Fixed all outstanding DPI/scaling issues. Most notably, new device icons have been added that scale better.
- Fixed an “Access to the path is denied” error that would occur when loading a read-only backup image file or Xbox 360 USB data directory with 1 or more read-only files. When these files are loaded in non-read-only mode, the read-only attribute on the files will now be removed. (Some backup programs set this attribute after finishing)
- Added a warning message box when improperly formatted Original Xbox partitions are detected/loaded.
- Beta 14 has been tested on the Windows 11 Insider Preview build 22000.51 and no problems have been identified.
- Driver updated to v20.0.7836. File ID support has been improved. Driver updates may require a reboot.
- The expiration date has changed to September 28, 2021.
Over the past few months there have been significant problems with new comment email notifications. As a result, some comments made in the past ~3 months may have gone unanswered.
The comment queue will now be reviewed manually and more often to ensure everyone gets timely responses to any questions. Today, replies are being posted to any comments that have gone unanswered during this time period.
Apologies to anyone whose comments went unanswered! If you don’t receive a response in the comments, please use the contact form.
An update will be posted when this issue is fully resolved by the vendor.
FATXplorer 3.0 beta 12 is out now and brings with it a new feature and various fixes.
New Feature: Disk Health Checker
Beta 12 utilizes a new API introduced in Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update) to check disk health/status. FATXplorer will now tell you whether your disk is healthy or not, and if there is a problem, what the problem is.
Here’s what it looks like when there are no problems:
And when there are problems:
An alert will also pop up on the bottom right of your screen. You can click the magnifying glass to see a little more information:
Frequent users of the beta may be familiar with these messages:
Great news! These messages should no longer pop up – a fix has been implemented. These messages were most prevalent on Windows 7, but also popped up randomly on Windows 10. With the fix, the messages no longer pop up on Windows 7, but due to the random nature of the messages on Windows 10, it’s hard to know if the problem is completely solved. It probably is, but if you see it again in Beta 12 onwards, please reach out.
Beta 12 includes a host of memory-related fixes. Special thanks to Reddit user neakmenter for reporting the issues and helping test the fixes.
First, in general, memory usage has been reduced by 85% or more in some cases (like working with hundreds of thousands of files), and a bug was fixed where memory wasn’t being released after unmounting.
Second, a memory-saving strategy has been introduced in the form of a new toggle switch to help in cases where many folders are opened:
As described in the tooltip, if your want full performance without compromises, you should toggle on extra memory (the default). It will speed up file and folder creation, updating, and deletion. It is most noticeable when copying a lot of small files Do note that this has been the default behavior in all previous betas – the only thing new is being able to disable it. The amount of memory that will be used depends on how many folders are in the mounted partition, and whether you interact with/open them. To put this into perspective, if you have 50,000 folders, and then open them all by calculating the size of all of them, FATXplorer will use around 1 GB of extra memory on top of what it is already using. Basically, unless you are very memory-conscious and/or are working with 100,000+ folders that you open each time you mount a partition, you shouldn’t need to disable this feature.
As a simple test, copying both Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty: World at War (20,738 files, 295 folders, 16.8 GB) to the WD Black 3.5″ HDD used in the initial benchmarks yields the following results:
Copy: Extra Memory On: 00:04:03, Off: 00:04:50
Delete: Extra Memory On: 00:00:33, Off: 00:00:38
And on the WD Black 2.5″:
Copy: Extra Memory On: 00:05:35, Off: 00:05:50
Delete: Extra Memory On: 00:00:27, Off: 00:00:42
As you can see, allowing extra memory has some benefits. If you are copying hundreds of GB, the difference will probably be even greater.
Update to Beta 12 today to get all these fixes. Your RAM sticks will thank you!
It has been several months since FATXplorer 3.0 Beta 1 was released and since then, more than a thousand people from all over the world have given it a try! Before the year comes to an end, I thought I would give an update on how things are going.
Beta Program Statistics
In the past 90 days:
- Around 1k unique users have launched the beta, with 30-40 active daily. People from all over the world are using it!
- Around 7.1k devices mounted.
Beta 11 is available today. The last big beta announcement was #4 back in June. Since then, 6 more betas have been made available over the built-in updater, bringing various fixes and improvements. If you’re curious what’s changed, here is the release history document.
Beta 11 now runs on .NET 5, which is the next major version of the Microsoft .NET platform. It doesn’t bring anything truly groundbreaking for FATXplorer, but various tweaks have been made here and there to take advantage of new APIs and features. Performance should also be a bit better. You need to download and install the .NET 5 runtime before launching Beta 11.
You can get Beta 11 through the built-in updater, or the download links here.
HDD Locking/Unlocking Dilemma
Many have written in asking if FATXplorer will be able to unlock OG Xbox HDDs. Unfortunately, there is no good news to share on this front. It doesn’t look like this is possible due to Windows security features introduced in Windows 8, see here. Emails sent to that Microsoft address have gone unanswered. A workaround may eventually be found, but for the foreseeable future, you will need to unlock your HDDs through other means.
Licensing and Beta Program End Date
Questions have been received regarding license keys in the beta builds. Each build has a hard-coded expiration date (90 days from the day of release). There is currently no licensing in the beta builds, thus no option to enter a key. The beta program will run into 2021 until it has reached feature parity with v2.5. When that day comes, then you will be able to enter a license key to make the build work indefinitely.
License keys you purchase today will work in v3.0 when it’s out of beta.
The next big feature to be introduced in 2021 is the new formatting tools. For Xbox 360 users, there won’t be anything particularly new here, but FATXplorer will gain the ability to remove Windows partitions, which will resolve most cases of formatting errors. For OG Xbox users, there is considerably more customization that can be done compared to Xbox 360. More details to be forthcoming in the new year.
Work is also ongoing on a redesigned and faster website.
Keep the feedback coming – have a Merry Christmas and see you in 2021!
A new KB article has been posted: OG Xbox F & G Drive Help
Many beta testers have written in asking why FATXplorer doesn’t handle their F drive correctly. After investigating each case, 3 primary problems have been identified. Read the above-linked article for detailed descriptions of these problems and how to fix them.
The moment everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: full read/write support for original Xbox devices! With FATXplorer 3.0 beta 4, you can mount any partition on your original Xbox HDD or MU and explore it like you would as if you plugged in an external USB drive.
It has taken a while to get here, but as you will soon see by the performance comparisons below, it was worth the wait!
Since FATXplorer v2.5 doesn’t support original Xbox, we’ll be using drives that are formatted with an Xbox 360 Content Partition. You can expect the same performance between original Xbox and Xbox 360. Two WD Black-series HDDs will be used, connected to a desktop PC via direct SATA III connection:
- WD Black 3.5″ 7200rpm HDD, Model WD2003FZEX (2 TB)
- WD Black 2.5″ 7200rpm HDD, Model WD5000LPLX (500 GB)
2020 Warning: There are reports that some WD5000LPLX drives do not get flashed properly by HDDHakr, resulting in the drive not working in Xbox 360 consoles. The drive used in this test, which works fine, was manufactured August 16, 2018. If you intend to purchase this drive for use in an Xbox 360, make sure you check your retailer’s return policy.
Here are the relevant specs of the PC these test were run on:
|CPU||Intel® Core™ i7-6700K|
|Storage||Samsung SSD 970 EVO Plus 1TB (NVMe SSD)|
|RAM||16 GB DDR4 @ 3333 MHz|
Your PC specs combined with your Xbox disk specs may result in different performance than what is shown below.
Each test was performed at least twice to verify performance consistency. The copies and deletions are done on a mounted Content Partition using Explorer.
The larger the partition and the smaller the cluster size, the longer it takes for FATXplorer to load it. Improvements made in v3.0 have reduced the loading time for the largest disks and partitions to just a few seconds. For this test, we will be using the 3.5″ 2 TB HDD (the performance gap isn’t as noticeable with 500 GB), and the cluster size was reduced to 8K (all tests after this use the default 16K cluster size).
Many Small Files
Several customers expressed frustration in the past in regard to v2.5’s performance when it came to copying many small files. Improving performance here was a focal point during the redesign. After asking these customers to try out v3.0, they confirmed that it is indeed significantly faster. For this test, 4096 single-byte files were created and copied to the disk.
Next, let’s delete all those files:
That synthetic test looks great, but let’s test a real-world scenario. Mass Effect 3 has 4,005 files and is 10.5 GB in size. The large number of mixed-size files makes this game a great test case.
As you can see, in some cases the improvements to file copies in v3.0 can be measured in minutes, not seconds!
Deleting all those files looks like this:
Now let’s try a different game: Call of Duty: World at War. This is a 6.32 GB game with 16,732 files.
Just like with Mass Effect 3, the speed improvement can be as much as 2 minutes!
FATXplorer v3.0 brings improvement in every area and performance may improve even more in the future!
As a token of appreciation to beta testers who are not already license-holders, download and try FATXplorer v3.0 beta before June 24, 2020 and you can find a $5 coupon in the status bar of the application (at the bottom). The license will work on v3.0 when it is officially released.
At long last, original Xbox support in FATXplorer is in a very usable state! Below is a video showcasing the mounting of my HDD image, and the mounting of a HDD image that has a custom partition table on it that someone generously provided. This is being done on a Windows 7 VM – even though Microsoft has recently ended support for it, it will still be a FATXplorer 3.0-supported OS.
Beta 1 is very near! Just a little more bug fixing is needed before emails go out to those who have shown interest in testing.