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FAT32 vs. NTFS file systems: Advantages and Disadvantages

You might have come across these computer terms, including FAT32NTFS and much more. So what exactly is that? To make it simple both FAT32 and NTFS are file systems created for keeping track of files on the hard disk.

In this context, the file system is a set of rules used to decide how data is stored and fetched in a storage device.

What are FAT32 and NTFS? 

FAT is 'File Allocation Table' and the FAT32 is just an extension that data is stored in chunks of 32 bits. This is the oldest and the most experienced file system in the computing history.

This was initially released in August 1995, with Microsoft Windows 95 OS, where it allows the user to store files of size up to 4GB and can go up to a max of 16TB. This file system is good enough storage devices like flash drives, where it can't be used to install heavy apps. All versions of Windows, Linux support the FAT32 file system.

On the other hand, NTFS stands for New Technology File System, which is new and a well-featured version of a file system. It offers huge file size limits and in turn, helps you to store a large chunk of files. The NTFS file system supports backward compatibility with the previous versions. Moreover, it keeps track of any modifications to the file system and is used to recover the file system.



When it comes to security, the FAT32 file system provides very little security, whereas the NTFS uses NTFS Permissions. In this, case the folder and files can be controlled individually.

Space Efficiency

Talking about the NTFS, allows you to control the amount of disk usage on a per user basis. Also, the NTFS handles space management much more efficiently than FAT32. Also, Cluster size determines how much disk space is wasted storing files. Here, NTFS provides smaller cluster sizes and less disk space waste than FAT32.


When it comes to reliability, the FAT32 drives are more vulnerable to disk errors, as, on the other side, NTFS has the ability to recover from error state readily than FAT32 volumes. The NTFS also supports dynamic cluster remapping for bad sectors, which prevent them from being used again in the future.

Which is Faster?

While file transfer speed and maximum throughput is limited by the slowest link (usually the hard drive interface to the PC like SATA or a network interface like 3G WWAN), NTFS formatted hard drives have tested faster on benchmark tests than FAT32 formatted drives. Other factors will be in play, however, including drive technology (HDD vs. SDD, Flash vs. non-Flash, etc.) and file fragmentation (on spinning drives).
While your OS usually makes the choice of hard drive format for you ahead of time, you can choose which format when you're re-formatting a drive, particularly an external drive. If you need the drive for a Windows-only environment, NTFS is the best choice. If you need to exchange files (even occasionally) with a non-Windows system like a Mac or Linux box, then FAT32 will give you less agita, as long as your file sizes are smaller than 4GB.

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