Differences between FAT32 and NTFS File System

FAT32 and NTFS File System

This article describes the benefits and drawbacks of Windows file system and the difference between FAT32 and NTFS.

You must select a file format before reformatting a flash drive, memory card, or HDD (Hard disk drive). The following information will help you decide between NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32 if you’re unsure which to use.

What is Windows File System?

A kind of framework so that a drive can be organized using a file system. Its main function is to define the data storage format on the disc and the kinds of file-related metadata, including characteristics, permissions, and filenames.

On other ways we can say, an operating system stores, arranges, and controls files and directories on a storage device using a file system.

[What is Windows Operating System and Its History?]

The three file systems that are majorly Windows supported are FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS. To understand how each differs from the other, you should read this article carefully.

The most used Windows file systems nowadays are described below:

FAT32 – File Allocation Table-32

exFAT – extensible File Allocation Table

NTFS – New Technology File System

Note: An operating system uses two different file systems: NTFS and FAT32.

What is FAT32?

Of all the file systems that Windows NT supports, FAT is the most basic.

FAT32 is an abbreviation of File Allocation Table-32. Stored data in 32-bit blocks, FAT32 is an expansion of earlier file systems.

Larger media is supported by FAT32, an improved version of FAT16 that was created to address FAT16’s shortcomings.

For example, older operating systems, such as Windows 95 through Windows XP, used FAT32.

Nevertheless, there are limits to the FAT32 file system. Reason being, it’s old and you can’t even save more than 4GB of individual files in size to the drive formatted using the FAT32 file system.

What is exFAT?

exFAT stands for extensible File Allocation Table, is a file system designed specifically for flash memory devices, such as SD cards and USB flash drives, and released by Microsoft in 2006.

In the FAT file system family, the exFAT file system replaces FAT32. It plays an important role between the older FAT32 and the modern NTFS file system.

exFAT boot is natively supported by Windows 8 and later versions, which also facilitate system installation in a specific manner for operation in the exFAT disc.

Additionally, NTFS is read-only on a Mac, however exFAT is compatible with macOS in both read and write modes.

What is NTFS?

NTFS, also called as “New Technology File System”, is used in modern Windows operating systems by default.

With its multi-user access control, ACL’s, and other features, NTFS is a more reliable and efficient logging file system that is best suited for use with an operating system that offers security.

Unlike FAT32 and exFAT, it is a journaling file system, which means that it keeps note of changes prior to writing them in order to facilitate data recovery in the event of a system failure.

NTFS features include file systems, UNICODE names, fault tolerance, data recovery, multi-streaming, and security.

difference between fat32 and ntfs

Major Differences between FAT32 and NTFS File System

The following table will help you to understand more easily the major differences between FAT32 and NTFS:

FAT32 – File Allocation Table-32
NTFS – New Technology File System
The full form is file allocation table-32 NTFS stands for new technology file system
FAT32 uses a very simple structure NTFS comes with a complex structure
Maximum individual file size is 4GB using FAT 32 16GB is the maximum file size for NTFS
The characters supported in the file are 83 maximum 255 max characters can be used in a file name with NTFS
Comes with only network security NTFS has both network and local securities
FAT32 doesn’t provide fault tolerance (refers to the system’s ability to continue operating despite failures or malfunctions.) NTFS has automatic troubleshooting options
FAT32 doesn’t have encryption This does support encryption as it comes with EFS – encryption file system.
FAT32 doesn’t allow compression You can compress the files in NTFS
Lower access speed NTFS has comparatively higher access speed
Supported Windows operating systems are – Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows 200, Windows XP, etc. Compatible with Windows NT, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 2000, Windows 8, Windows 10, Linux, macOS, etc.
Lower disk utilization in FAT32 NTFS has higher disk utilization and can manage disk space more effectively
Read and write speed is less Faster to read and write speed in comparison to FAT32
More suitable for smaller capacity storage devices such as flash drives, memory cards, etc. Suitable for large capacity devices. For example, hard drives
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