Whenever you are formatting an internal hard drive, external hard drive, or USB and SD card, the Windows operating system gives you 3 options: NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. Which one should you choose? FAT32 VS exFAT VS NTFS, what’s their difference?
This is what we are going to talk about today.
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File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32) #
FAT32 is the oldest operating system of the three and is usually preinstalled in the USB drives you buy. FAT32 has great compatibility and you can use it across Windows, Mac, and Linux without read-write issue limits.
For FAT32, the biggest disadvantage is that it does not support individual files larger than 4GB, that is to say, you won’t be able to transfer large files to a hard drive formatted to FAT32. Additionally, the recent Windows operating system refuse to be installed on the FAT32 hard drive. Instead, NTFS is required.
Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) #
exFAT is regarded as the upgraded version of FAT32. exFAT breaks the FAT32 file size limit and can hold a maximum file size of 16 EB so you should have no worries saving large files. Fully supported by both Windows and Mac computers, exFAT is a good way to go if you switch between the operating systems often.
Also, exFAT is widely supported by the game console. For instance, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can read/write data to an external hard drive formatted to exFAT.
NT File System (NTFS) #
To Windows users, NTFS is much more familiar as it is the default file system when formatting. For NTFS, the partition size and file size allowed are theoretically huge you won’t reach up to.
NTFS combines the advantages of FAT32 and exFAT, and it supports file compression and long file names. Further, you can set up file access control for server administrators. In a Windows household, NTFS is really a nice choice.
The catch is, that NTFS is a read-only file system in Mac OS. So, it is not a good choice for flash drives switching from Windows to Mac and vice versa.
FAT32 VS exFAT VS NTFS: How to Reformat? #
Tip: Before hard drive formatting, back up anything important on your drive.
For Windows users, follow this guide:
- Press Win + R to invoke the Run box.
- Type “diskmgmt.msc” and run it. This will lead you to the disk management console.
- Select the volume to format and choose “Format” from the context menu.
- Choose the file system you prefer and follow the wizard to complete.
If you are running Mac OS：
- Head to Applications > Utilities where you’ll see the list of available drives on the left panel.
- Choose the drive you’d like to format and you’ll see an Erase option on the upper menu.
- Click Erase and you will see the Format option.
- Drop down the Format menu and choose (MS-DOS) FAT, (MS-DOS) FAT32, or exFAT.