The difference between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS can be confusing to most people.

There is no best format as each of them has its pros and cons but with the recent changes in technology it’s now easier than ever to choose the one that suits your needs. Keep reading if you want to learn more about FAT32 vs exFAT vs NTFS!

First, what are file systems?

A file system is pretty much the format in which information is stored when you save a file on your computer. But when we say file system, it’s really only referring to the way the data is organized and saved—what actually composes these files can vary greatly depending on what kind of operating system or device you’re using.

So file systems are used by your computer’s operating system (OS) to keep track of files located on storage media like an SD card, USB flash drive, or even an external hard drive.

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What is the FAT32 file system format?

FAT32 is a file system that was developed by Microsoft and IBM in 1995.

File Allocation Table (FAT) is the name of the data structure used to store information about files and folders on a FAT32 partition.

This format supports up to 2 TB for storing files and has security features such as permissions, access control lists, encryption, and data redundancy. However, FAT32 is not as efficient as other file systems when it comes to file storage.

What are the benefits of using the FAT32 format?

The biggest benefit of using FAT32 is that it can be read by most operating systems. It doesn’t matter if you are running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux – you can easily read files from a FAT32 partition.

It is also one of the most compatible file systems because it can be recognized by several major operating systems and devices such as digital cameras, camcorders, portable media players, and video game console.

What is the exFAT file system format?

The exFAT file system format is a newer file system that was designed especially for flash storage such as USB drives or SD cards (external hard drive and memory cards can also be formatted to this standard).  

Most devices support the exFAT file system, which means it’s quickly becoming more popular than both FAT32 and NTFS.  

What this means is that you can store most types of files on an exFAT file system, including HD movies and photos with no issues.  You cannot store certain files on the FAT32 file system, which is why some devices do not support it.

What are the advantages of using the exFAT format?

The benefits of this file system are that you can store just about anything on them, including high-definition movies and photos.  An exFAT USB flash drive will also allow for quick transfers between devices with support for the exFAT file system.  

You will not need to reformat the device every time you want to transfer data.  However, some devices may require software drivers to support exFAT on the flash drive.

What is the NTFS file system format?

NTFS is the New Technology File System that was created by Microsoft. It has been around about since 1993 and here are some benefits of using it over a FAT32 file system:

It can support larger storage capacity than a standard FAT32 drive, so if you have a drive with 5TB or more this will be beneficial. NTFS supports unlimited files per folder. FAT32 is limited to 255 files in one folder, which can be a problem for some people, especially if they are using it to store movies or any type of large media file.

You can manage NTFS permissions by allowing individual users different access rights to files and folders on an NTFS drive whereas the FAT32 file system does not support this.

What is NFTS better for?

NTFS is better for handling larger files, with a maximum theoretical limit of 16 EiB (which is 16×1027 bytes). Note that it’s impossible to create or write such large file on most platforms (Mac OS X included) because they impose their own limits.

It also has additional features that may or may not be useful to you, such as the Master File Table (MFT), security access control lists (ACLs), and file-level encryption.

To conclude

FAT32 is the best option if you are using an SD card, USB flash drive, or external hard disk. However, exFAT and NTFS work better for internal drives because they provide more space on them.

The decision of which file system to use should be based on what your needs are; if you want a lot of storage but don’t need large files then FAT32 might be the way to go.

If you need larger files like videos that take up lots of space fast, then exFAT would likely be better suited for your needs.

About the Author


Julia is a programmer by day and geek by night. She joined in 2021 after meeting Matt. She writes about softwares and applications.

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