FAT32 vs exFAT vs NTFS – What’s the Difference?

What is a File system?

File system is a collection of algorithms and data structures that perform the translation from logical file operations to actual physical storage of information. In computing, a file system determines how data is stored and retrieved.

Without using the file system, information placed in a storage medium would be one large body of data with no way to know where one piece of information stops and the next one begins.

Key Takeaway:

FAT32 is an older type of file system that is not as efficient as NTFS, whereas exFAT is a modern replacement for FAT32, and more devices and OS support it than NTFS, but it is not as widespread as FAT32, and NTFS is the most modern file system. Windows uses NTFS system drive and, by default, for most non-removable drives.


What is FAT32?

FAT32 is one of the oldest of the three file systems available to Windows. It is introduced this system in Windows 95 to replace the FAT16 file system used with older OS systems like DOS and Windows 3.

Individual files on a FAT32 drive cannot excessed 4 GB in size, which is maximum.

A FAT32 partition should be less than 8 TeraByte (TB). The FAT32 contains four bytes per cluster inside the file allocation table.

What is exFAT?

The exFAT file system was introduced in 2006 and was added to older versions of Windows with updates to Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems.

It is known as the most updated file system from Microsoft for Windows OS. This system is compatible with flash drives, thumb drives, or memory cards. The full form of exFAT is an extended file allocation table. It has large limits on file and partition sizes. It optimizes exFAT for flash drives.

What is NTFS File System?

NTFS is a modern-day file system that is used by default used by Windows. When you install Windows 10 into your PC or laptop, it formats your system drive with the NTFS file system. This file system has the file size and partition size limits, which are so huge that you are not likely to run up with disk space.

NTFS file system made it’s first debut with Windows XP. It supports file permissions for security, a change in a journal that allows you to recover when your computer crashes, reach disk quota limits, shadow copies of your backup, etc.

NTFS File System

Difference between FAT32 and exFAT and NTFS

Here are some important differences between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS File System:

FAT32 is a file system that was first introduced with Windows 95. ex-FAT was introduced with Windows XP and Vista operating system. NTFS was first introduced with Windows NT, but it is widely used after Windows XP.
Easy to use and quick to access format. It is best suited for Flash drives. NTFS supports file permissions, shadows copies for backup, provides encryption, disk quota limits, etc.
It works fine with all versions of Windows. Mac, Linux, etc It works with all versions of Windows. Compatible with all versions of Windows
You do not need a special configuration to use with Mac devices. exFAT file system works with all versions of Windows, Mac OS X, needs additional software on Linux. It is read-only with Mac and some version of Linux.
Maximum file size 4 GB and partition size 8 TB. It also does not have any particular file size or partition size limits. Not have any specific file size or partition size limits.
FAT32 is an older type of file system which is not as efficient as NTFS. exFAT is a modern replacement for FAT 32, and more devices and OS support it than NTFS, but i not as widespread as FAT32. NTFS is the most modern file system. Windows use NTFS system drive and, by default, for most non-removable drives.

Advantages of FAT32

Here are the pros/benefits of FAT32:

  • FAT32 file system can contain 268.173.300 files as long as it is using 32 KB clusters.
  • This file system supports drive sizes up to 2 TB or as high as 16 TB with 64 KB clusters.
  • This system also relocates the root folder in which you can use the backup FAT table copy.
  • FAT 32 file system can boot record on FAT32 drives can be expanded.

Disadvantages of FAT32

Here are the cons/drawback of FAT32

  • It cannot store a file which is larger than 4GB
  • You cannot create a FAT32 partition that is larger than 8 TB.
  • It lacks the permission and other security features built into the more modern NTFS file system
  • In the FAT32 file system, you cannot install current versions of the file windows that is difficult to install to a drive formatted with a FAT32 file system.

Advantages of exFAT

Here are the pros/benefits of the exFAT file system:

  • exFAT can restore deleted files after unintentional deletion from the exFAT file system.
  • Restore formatted exFAT file system on Windows
  • It helps you recover data from a hard drive, USB drive, memory card, memory stick, etc.
  • Retrieve files from exFAT like document, photo, image, video, music, email, etc.
  • Helps you to store files much larger than the 4 GB allowed by FAT32
  • No realistic file-size or partition-size limits

Disadvantages of exFAT

Here are the cons/disadvantages of the exFAT file system:

  • Not as compatible as FAT32
  • It does not offer journaling functionality and other advanced features built into the NTFS file system

Advantages of the NTFS system

Here are the advantages/benefits of the NTFS system:

  • You can back up the boot sector.
  • Allows you to set disk quotas format volumes up to 2TB.
  • You can use the NTFS file system with Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.
  • This file system helps you to minimize the number of accesses to find a file.
  • It supports large files, and it nearly has no realistic partition size limit.
  • Allows the user to set file permissions and encryption as a file system with higher security.
  • Restores the consistency of the file system by using its log file and checkpoint information.
  • It helps you to compress files, folders, or the whole drive when they are running out of disk space.
  • Uses a change journal to help restore information quickly if power failure or other system problems occur.
  • Enables users to set disk quotas, limiting the number of space users can consume.
  • No realistic file-size or partition size limits.

Disadvantages of the NTFS file system

  • NTFS file system is not applicable for MS-DOS, Windows 95, and Windows 98 systems.
  • The NTFS file system is slow with a small disk size.