July 11, 2018

FAT, FAT32, NTFS and exFAT file system : Explained

If you use a computer then you definitely use any type of external storage device. If you format such device or you have checked the properties of any computer drive in the PC/Laptop, then you might have noticed a File System. Namely, FAT, FAT32, NTFS and EXFAT. Now, do you know what is the difference between them?

FAT, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT file systems explained

You might find a lot of file systems but the most popular happens to be these three. FAT and FAT32, NTFS and exFAT. But do you know what these three file systems are? Before knowing about their differences we need to know what ex is a File System?

What is File System?

In computing, a file system controls how data is stored and retrieved. Without a file system, information placed in a storage medium would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins.

File Systems
Courtesy: Microsoft

Example: Let me explain with you an example of what the file system is like. You open a drive on your computer and it has a folder and you are opening that folder and inside it is a folder and inside it you're pasting a file and saving it. So you can locate the same file under the folders next time when you're searching it and this is possible only because of the file system. If any storage device doesn't have any File System then you won't be able to locate any file in your system, what folder is it in. All sort of management of these files are facilitated by File System. File system is very important part of a storage device, so let us now know about these different file systems.

Difference between FAT, FAT 32, NTFS, exFAT:

FAT File System: Originally designed in 1977 for use on floppy disks, FAT was soon adapted and used almost universally on hard disks throughout the DOS and Windows 9x eras for two decades. The full name is File Allocation Table. FAT file systems are still commonly found on floppy disks, flash and other solid-state memory cards and modules (including USB flash drives), as well as many portable and embedded devices.

Important information about FAT File System:
  1. The maximum file size in this file system is only 8MB.
  2. Write once and Read forever type storage device.
  3. Records binary file rather than sequential order.
  4. Not at all secure.

FAT32 File System: The full name of the FAT 32 file system, File Allocation Table 32, which came in 1996, and till date happens to be most popular file system. This file system is also called universal file system. Almost all operating systems support this file system. Mostly used in pen drive, the default file system of PenDive is FAT32.

FAT32 File System
Courtesy: Wikimedia

Important information about FAT32 File System:
  1. The maximum file transfer size in FAT32 is up to 4 GB, and you can not transfer capacitive files than that in the FAT32 file system. If you save a 4.5 GB movie in your PC, inspite of having a blank Pendrive of 16GB capacity, at a time 4.5GB movie will not be transferred.
  2. The FAT32 file system is not considered secure, that's why it is not recommended that you get security option in the file system FAT32 storage devices. Right click on your pen drive and click on the properties and you will not get Security tab.
  3. You can't compress the storage device in FAT32.
  4. Lastly in FAT32 if you want to encrypt any file, unfortunately you won't be able to do so.

NTFS: The full name of the NTFS file system is the New Technology File System, which came with Windows NT in 1993, these file systems are much more popular and is widely in use throughout almost all versions of Windows. You can right-click on any drive on your computer to go to the properties where you will see the file system by default NTFS.

NTFS File System

Important information about NTFS:
  1. In NTFS the maximum transferrable file size is up to 16TB i.e. you can send/recieve a file up to 16TB at a time.
  2. The NTFS file system is considered to be more secure because you will get the security option in the NTFS file system. Right click on any drive of your Windows and then go to the Properties, you will get Security tab.
  3. You can compress the storage device in NTFS.
  4. NTFS supports encryption. You get an encryption option inside this file system.

exFAT File System: exFAT is the latest file system so far that has full name named Extended File Allocation Table, which came in 2006.

Courtesy: Embedded-access

Important information about exFAT:
  1. Within the exFAT file system you can transfer and store up to 128PiB size file.
  2. This file system is most commonly used in the flash drive storage device.
  3. exFAT supports all versions of windows.
  4. You can use exFAT when you need more file size and partition sizes than FAT32 and NTFS.

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