exFAT: Android 13 will finally support Microsoft’s system

Android 13 will support Microsoft’s proprietary exFAT file system. Previously, the only alternative to having access to it on mobile devices such as cell phones was by paying a licensing fee to the Windows developer. But now, according to the esper blog, the beta version of Android 13 on the Pixel 6 Pro mobile phone has accepted the connection with an exFAT formatted USB-C flash drive.

When trying to do the same procedure done with Android 13 beta using the same device, but with the Android 12L operating system, the blog esper says that the flash drive was not recognized by the cell phone. After this realization, an investigation began into why this was happening.

Formerly owner, but now open

The acronym exFAT stands for Extensible File Allocation Table and is the name of the system that succeeds FAT32. The difference between the two is in the file size limit, where one supports 16 exabytes and the other 4GB, in addition to the optimization for devices with flash memory, such as SSDs and SD cards. As exFAT is used in several portable storage units, it is interesting to have mobile devices (cell phones and tablets) that support the system. However, until now Microsoft, responsible for the development of the system, charged a license fee to use it.

Due to the charge, many Android phone and cell phone manufacturers ended up paying Microsoft so they could use exFAT on their devices. However, this situation began to change in August 2019, at which time Microsoft published an exFAT technical specification endorsing the addition of exFAT to the Linux kernel. Even though the Windows developer still owns the exFAT patents, the step taken means that several members of the Open Invention Network, of which Microsoft is a part, are now free to use the technology in their Linux-based products, that is, in the Android.

Previously on Android 12L, although the Pixel 6 Pro kernel with Android 12L says that exFAT is supported, a key piece is missing to actually be able to use exFAT formatted storage drives and that involves vold. Vold is short for “volume daemon” and is responsible for mounting and dismounting storage media. Since 2018 Volt has added basic support for exFAT on condition that it detects that the kernel supports it and that “helper binaries” are present.

The auxiliary binaries mentioned above are not present in any stable version of Android 12L, but appear in the beta version of Android 13. This is precisely why Android 13 recognizes exFAT-formatted storage drives and Android 12L does not.

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