NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT are popular file systems used in different operating systems and platforms. Actually all of these 3 file systems are related to each other where FAT32 is the first file system designed for Windows operating systems and extended with the exFAT file system but NTFS is designed for a complete replacement for the FAT and exFAT which provides a lot of new features. In this tutorial, we will compare these file systems from different viewpoints like history, compatibility, speed, features, etc.
What Is A File System?
The file system is a logical entity which is provided by the operating systems in order to store data properly in a different type of disks. Different file systems provide different attributes for different purposes like performance, reliability, endurance, efficiency, popularity, etc.
What Is the NTFS File System?
NT File System or New Technology File System simply known as NTFS is created as an alternative to the FAT file system. NTFS is the most recent file system provided by Microsoft for its operating systems like Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Windows Server series. The NTFS file system has the following attributes.
- NTFS has very high storage size limits which are impossible to reach currently.
- NTFS first appeared in the end-user version of the Windows XP and officially released for the Windows NT.
- NTFS provides security and permission features to increase file system security.
- NTFS provides quick recovery from errors.
- NTFS can create a backup while actively used by using shadow copies.
- NTFS can encrypt the files and folders.
- NTFS can create quotas in order to set limits about disk usage.
- NTFS can work all versions of the Windows operating systems and read-only for most of the Linux distributions and MacOSX.
What It FAT32 File System?
FAT32 is an old file system that is officially introduced with Windows 95. With the popularity of the Windows operating systems is gained popularity too. As an old file system, it provides simple features where it can be used for different low resource systems and platforms like modems, embedded systems, mobile systems, etc.
- FAT32 is created with the Windows 95 operating system where its predecessor is FAT16 which is used for MS-DOs and Windows 3.
- FAT32 has a storage size restriction where it can not handle more than 8TB.
- A FAT32 file system can not handle a file which is bigger than 4GB
- Modern Windows operating systems do not use FAT32 by default.
- As an old and simple file system, FAT32 is supported by all Windows operating systems as well as Linux distributions and MacOSX, game consoles and USB devices.
What Is exFAT File System?
exFAT or Exdeded FAT is a file system that provides advancements to the FAT file systems. exFAT is introduced in 2006 and supported with the updates for the Windows XP and Windows Vista file systems. exFAT is designed to be lightweight which sits between FAT32 and NTFS.
- the exFAT file system does not have limitations about the single file size like 4GB as in FAT32.
- exFAT is compatible with the modern Windows operating systems and MacOS but requires some additional drivers for the Linux distributions.
Compare FAT32 vs exFAT vs NTFS
In this part we will compare 3 file systems FAT32, exFAT and NTFS according to the different features.
File Size Limitation
FAT32 is the most restricted file system according to file size limitation. FAT32 and NTFS do has a very large limit which is practically limitless.
File System Size Limitation
FAT32 is also restricted and limited according to the file system or partition size limit. FAT32 supports up to 8TB file system or partitions size where exFAT and NTFS sizes are very high.
Operating System Support
FAT32 is an old and simple file system where it is support variety of the different operating systems, platforms and devices like all Windows operating systems, Linux distributions, MacOSX, Android, Game Consoles, etc. exFAT is newer then FAT32 and support by Windows operating systems, Linux distributions, and MacOSX.
FAT32 is designed to be simple and era where there are no security considerations so FAT32 does not provide any security mechanism. exFAT is also similar to the FAT32 where it has no security mechanism to keep it simple. NTFS provides different security mechanisms like file owner restriction, file, folder or partition encryption, etc.
Event FAT32 and exFAT has some features which create some reliability NTFS features are far more effective to make the file system reliable.
FAT32 and exFAT do not provide any internal backup feature but NTFS provides shadow copies features where the backup of the file system or partition can be taken even it is online or in usage.
FAT32 and exFAT provide basic recovery features that will work well most of the situations. NTFS provides more advanced recovery features than FAT32 and exFAT.
FAT32 and exFAT do not provide any quota mechanism to restrict user usage size but NTFS provides very detailed quota features to manage users disk usage.