What Is exFAT FileSystem? Compare exFAT with FAT32 and NTFS

exFAT or Extensible File Allocation Table is a file system introduced in 2006 by Microsoft. exFAT is mainly designed and optimized for flash memory, USB flash drives, and SD cards. exFAT can be used alternative to NTFS and FAT file systems to lift performance and size limits. Actually exFAT32 is an advanced version of the FAT16 and FAT32 file systems and provides fewer features than NTFS. Simply exFAT sits between FAT16/FAT32 and NTFS filesystems.

exFAT History

exFAT is created in late 2006 as a feature of the Windows CE 6.0 mobile and embedded operating system. Then other operating systems and platforms like Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7/8/10, Windows Server 2008, Linux, MacOS X 10.6.5 supported this file system.

exFAT Features

exFAT provides different features and limits than other Microsoft based file systems like NTFS and FAT.

  • The file size limit is 16 exbibytes which are very high for the current date.
  • exFAT support 2,796,202 files per directory even Microsoft specifies it as 65,534.
  • A partition like C: can hold 4,294,967,285 files without a problem.
  • Improved “Free-space allocation” with “free space bitmap”.
  • 10 ms timestamp granularity which is faster than FAT.
  • Better and higher file name formatting.
USB Flash Drive for exFAT

Advantages Of exFAT

exFAT provides a lot of advantages for different use cases. Below you can find major advantages of the exFAT file system.

  • exFAT is a lightweight file system that needs very low hardware resources and can be run restricted and low resource devices.
  • exFAT supports drive or storage up to 128 pebibytes which is very huge.
  • exFAT supports file sizes up to 16 exbibytes which is more than the partition size limit. So a file can be 128 pebibytes for a file.
  • exFAT is compatible with a lot of different operating systems, platforms like Windows Embedded CE 6.0, Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 (except Windows Server 2008 Server Core), Windows 10, and Mac OS X starting from 10.6.5, Android 6 and later versions. Also devices like cameras, smartphones, gaming console, embedded devices.
  • Faster than file systems like FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, and Ext4.
  • exFAT is optimized for Flash-based storage or disk drives where provides very high performance.
Game Console For exFAT

Disadvantages of exFAT

Even exFAT provides a lot of advantages there are some disadvantages actually which is not positive for the exFAT file system.

  • exFAT do not supports journalling which is a must for mainstream file systems which are used for enterprise systems. Journalling will stores actions about files and prevent accidential corruptions.
  • exFAT does not support encryption security feature which is a must for the enterprise-level file systems.
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exFAT Is Cross-Platform

exFAT is a simply file system which will result a better support for other operating systems and platforms than Windows. exFAT is supported by different operating systems and platforms like Android, Linux, Kali, Ubuntu, Debian, MacOSX, iPad, iPhone etc.

Linux provides the exfat-fuse and exfat-utils packages to work with exFAT file systems. These utilities can be installed for Ubuntu with the following command.

$ sudo apt install exfat-utils exfat-fuse

exFAT Device Support

exFAT is supported and used with the following devices and platforms:

  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista with Service Pack 1
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 (except Windows Server 2008 Server Core)
  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS X starting from 10.6.5
  • Android 6 and later versions
  • Cameras
  • Smartphones
  • Gaming console
  • Embedded devices
  • Smart TV
  • Smart Home Devices

Create exFAT FileSystem In Windows

We can create an exFAT filesystem easily after plugging the USB Flash drive we will right-click on it and click to Format . Following menu will be listed where we will select exFAT as “File system”. The last step is pressing the “Start” button.

Create exFAT FileSystem In Windows

Create exFAT FileSystem In Linux

Linux supports exFAT. In order to use exFAT with Linux the exfat-fuse and exfat-utils packages should be installed. We can then create an exFAT filesystem for Linux with the “mkfs.exfat” command like below.

$ sudo mkfs.exfat  /dev/sdb

exFAT Performance vs FAT32 and NTFS

As stated previously exFAT provides very good performance according to the FAT32 and NTFS filesystems. exFAT is especially designed for USB Drives, Flash Disk for higher performance. The biggest performance advantage for exFAT is not journalling which will make extra overload for other file systems FAT32 and NTFS. In general exFAT provides %20 better performance for write operating and very similar performance for read operation.

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exFAT Alternatives

Well, you may be looking for an alternative for the exFAT filesystem. But there is no better alternative for the exFAT file system which provides a lot of features compatibility and cross-platform is one of them. But alternative FAT32 can be used for exFAT even it can not better than exFAT.

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