Difference between fat32 and ntfs and exfat

We all know that nowadays the computer era is on. And the faster we run the computer, the better it will be for us. Whether your formatting an internal drive, external drive, USB flash drive or SD card. A window gives you the choice of using three different file systems: NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. The Format dialog in Window doesn’t explain the difference between NTFS, exFAT, FAT32, ext4 & More.

Difference between fat32 and ntfs and exfat and ext4 and what is File System

Explaining File Systems with example

This is the File system that is standards for organizing data on the hard drive, SSD or storage devices and applied when you format a drive a partition. Today different file systems in use with the choice available to you depending on the operating system you’re using and the type of drive you’re formatting

For example, in Windows, if I want to format the hard disk and offer the file system choices of NTFS or exFAT whereas in Linux if I want to format this hard disk the file system shows fat32, NTFS or ext4.

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What are the difference between file systems and ntfs, exfat, fat32, ext4 and which you should choose

1. FAT12 , FAT16 & FAT32

ntfs exfat fat32 ext4

File system divides the Storage space on a drive into virtual compartments known as clusters and maintains an index of where individual files are located and available free space

  • The Windws file system was known as File allocation table or `FAT`.
  • There are three major variant developed knows as FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32.
  • Each file variant can divide into an increasing number of clusters, and increasing maximu file size and volume sizes.
  • FAT32 remains popular due to wide OS compatibility.
  • Still widely used for removable media.


Max File SizeMax Volume Size
FAT1232 MB ( 8 KB cluster)*32 MB (8KB clusters)*
FAT162GB / 4GB **16 GB (256KB clusters)**
FAT324 GB32 GB (Windows format)
2 TB ( other OS)
16 TB (theoretical)
* 16MB with 4 KB  clusters 
** Different FAT16 versions were liited to a maximum volume size of 2GB, 4GB or volume size, with volumes limited to 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB depending on cluster $ sector size.


  • Today the most popular Windows file system is the new technology file system or NTFS
  • This was introduced in 1993 to overcome the limitations of FAT32 and has a File size limit of 16 exabytes(EB).
  • NTFS is also a Journaling file system which means that it maintains a record of changes so it can recover following a system crash or power failure.
  • FA32 and NTFS also support file permissions and encryption.
  • The modern version of Windows must be installed on a drive which is an NTFS drive.
  • Limited non-Windows OS compatibility. example: read-only in mac OS and older Linux distros.

3. exFAT – (Extended file allocation table)

  • exFAT was introduced by Microsoft in 2006 as a file system.
  • File system optimized for high-capacity USB flash drives and memory cards.
  • The maximum file size of exFAT is 16EB(exabytes) or effectively unlimited which makes exFAT the best choice for formatting memory cards for recording video.
  • It has been adopted by the SD Card Association as the default file system for SDXC memory card.
  • Broader non-Windows OS support than NFTS – including reading and writing on macOS.

4. ext2, ext3 & ext4

  • The “extended file system” (ext) was launched in the year 1992 for Linux.
  • The ext2 was released in the year 1993 which is an update of ext.
  • In 2001, ext3 introduces journaling.
  • In 2008, ext4 become the Linux default FS.
  • Files up to 16TB and volumes up to 1EB.
  • No native Windows or macOS support.

Related:- How to make Pendrive bootable

Choosing a File System

So which file system( ntfs, exfat, fat32, ext4) should you choose well for your system Drive.

  • For a system drive, use NTFS (Windows), ext4 (Linux), or HFS+ /APFS (macOS).
  • For USB drives and memory cards, use FAT32 for capacities under 32GB.
  • exFAT is the best choice for a flash drive or memory card of 32GB capacity or more or when you need to store files greater than 4 GB in size.
  • For other drives or SSD’s, NTFS is the best choice for anybody who is entirely or primarily windows-based while exFAT is the best choice that anybody who regularly shares file between a PC and Mac.
  • Subject to its file size and volume size limitation, FAT32 also remains an option for external drives that need to be accessed across a wide range of Windows, Mac and Linus System.

So these were some of the differences between fat32 and ntfs and exfat and ext4. Let us know in the comment section if you know any extra Difference of ntfs, exfat, fat32, ext4 & more. 

About Ashishkumar Vishwakarma

I am Ashish- a Developer live in Mumbai.

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One Comment on “Difference between fat32 and ntfs and exfat”

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