Difference between FAT32 and NTFS

A file system provides the way of organizing a drive. Its primary operation is to specify the way the data is stored on the drive and the types of information attached to files such as filenames, permissions, and other attributes. Windows supports three different file systems namely FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS. The transition of these file systems was as follows:

  • 8-bit FAT (Original 8-bit FAT)
  • FAT12 (8-bit File Allocation Table)
  • FAT16 (Initial 16-bit File Allocation Table(with 16-bit sector entries))
  • FAT16B (Final 16-bit File Allocation Table(with 32-bit sector entries))
  • FAT32 (File Allocation Table-32)
  • exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table)
  • NTFS (New Technology File System)

FAT32 and NTFS are the types of file systems used in an operating system.

1. FAT32 :
FAT32 stands for File Allocation Table. FAT32 is an extension of previous file systems in which the data is stored in chunks of 32 bits. FAT32 is an upgraded version of FAT16 designed to overcome the limitations of FAT16 and add support for larger media. FAT32 was used in older versions of operating systems like Windows 95 up until Windows XP.

Advantages of FAT32 –

  • FAT32 efficiently work under partitions of 200 MB.
  • FAT32 provides compatibility with different operating systems.
  • FAT32 is frequently used as a primary partition on multiboot systems.

Disadvantages of FAT32 –

  • The partitions in FAT32 of size over 200 MB can degrade the performance.
  • FAT32 is insecure because of lack of encryption.
  • FAT32 is susceptible to fragmentation.

2. NTFS :
NTFS stands for New Technology File System. First introduced in 1993, it is used in newer versions of operating systems such as Windows NT and 2000 and later versions of Windows. NTFS is a more robust, high-performance logging file system with multi-user access control, ACLs, and many other things that make it appropriate to work with an Operating System that has protection. NTFS includes characteristics such as data recovery, multi-streaming, fault tolerance, security, extended file size, and file systems, UNICODE names. exFAT is used where NTFS is not feasible, due to its data-structure overhead, but a greater file-size limit than the standard FAT32 file system is needed.

Advantages of NTFS –

  • NTFS is highly secure because it prevents unauthorised access to file contents by enforcing Encryption File System(EFS).
  • NTFS performs well even in the partitions of size over 400 MB.
  • NTFS is less susceptible to fragmentation.

Disadvantages of NTFS –

  • NTFS is not extensively supported.
  • Performance in NTFS file system degrades under partitions of 400 MB.

Difference between FAT32 and NTFS :

Characteristics FAT32 NTFS
Structure Simple Complex
Maximum number of characters supported in a file name 83 255
Maximum file size 4GB 16TB
Encryption Not encrypted Encrypted with Encrypting File System (EFS)
Security Network Type Only Both local and network type
Fault tolerance No provision for Fault Tolerance Automatic troubleshoot is present
Compatibility with Operating Systems Windows 95/98/2000/2003/XP Windows NT/2K/XP/Vista/7/8/10, macOS X, Linux
Compression Compression is not allowed Supports file compression
Accessing speed Low Relatively higher than other File Systems
User level disk space Not present Present
Conversion Allowed Not allowed

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