NTFS Vs ExFAT Vs FAT32 – USB Drive File System

ntfs vs exfat
ntfs vs exfat

Have you ever tried formatting an SD card, or USB drive, or an external or internal drive? Then, Windows must have presented you with the option of choosing three file systems. The file systems are NTFS, ExFAT, and FAT32. If you aren’t clear about the file systems yet, we have talked about it in today’s post. We will also compare NTFS vs ExFAT, ExFAT vs FAT32, and FAT32 vs NTFS.

First, let us clear our concepts of the file system, NTFS, FAT32, and ExFAT. 

What is a File System?

If you are looking for a way of organizing a drive, then the file system does it for you. File system properly specifies how the data is stored on the drive. It also states what kind of information can be attached, such as permissions, filenames, and other important attributes. 

Windows supports three kinds of file systems. NTFS is used in case of non-removable drives and system drives. Whereas, FAT32 is a standard and old file system and compatible with old operating systems. ExFAT is an improved version of FAT32 and highly compatible with different operating systems. 

Read along to know more about the varied file systems. 

Below we have compared – NTFS vs ExFAT – NTFS Or NT File System.

NT File System is a contemporary file system. Windows likely uses it as a default system. NTFS formats the system drive when Windows is installed. NTFS has a huge partition and file sizes. Hence, you will not run against them. 

NTFS first came with Windows NT. But, it first appeared in the Windows consumer version with Windows XP. NTFS has modern features that you won’t find in FAT32 or ExFAT. Therefore, Windows NTFS. 

NTFS supports hard links, encryptions, backups’ shadow copies, disk quota limits, aids file permissions for security, and does a lot more. These are some of the crucial elements of a file system. Therefore, a lot of people prefer NTFS.

If you are likely to use a secondary drive along with Windows and plan on installing programs, go for NTFS. If you do not face compatibility issues, then you must go for NTFS.


  • Firstly, the NT File System supports large files.
  • Secondly, to ensure higher security, users can set encryption and file permissions.
  • Thirdly, users can compress folders, files, and drives as well.
  • Lastly, no realistic partition or file size limits.


  • NTFS is not very compatible with old operating systems.

What’s its ideal use?

You can use NTFS with internal drives and Windows System Drive. They can be used with Windows. Hence, they are compatible with NTFS as well.

FAT32 or File Allocation Table 32

File Allocation Table 32 is one of the oldest of these file systems. It replaced the FAT16. FAT32 was introduced in Windows 95. FAT32 is old and is in reality standard. Moreover, flash drives come formatted with FAT32. Therefore, this gives maximum compatibility to modern computers as well as gaming consoles. 

For a longer time, FAT32 has been the default file system for hard drives and floppy disks. FAT32 volumes up to 8TB. It has a 4GB storage space. Therefore, if your file size exceeds 4GB, then you cannot save it. And, if your drive is 3TB, you cannot use either format it in a single partition. You must note that Windows considers up to 2TB.

FAT32 is best compatible with USB interface-based and flash drives storage. Moreover, it is also compatible with gaming consoles, Linux, Windows, and all sorts of devices with a USB port.

It is worth noting that FAT32 has more cons than pros. That is why not many users prefer FAT32. 


  • Compatible with Linux, all versions of Windows, bootable disk, etc.


  • Firstly, the inability to store a file exceeding 4 GB.
  • Secondly, the inability to create a partition larger than 2 TB.
  • Thirdly, the modern Windows version cannot install a drive formatted with File Allocation Table 32.
  • And lastly, it lacks the permission of security features.

What’s its ideal use?

File Allocation Table 32 is highly compatible with flash drives. To use it on removable drives, then format the drive with this file system. Moreover, do not forget that you cannot store a file of more than 4 GB. 

ExFAT or Extended File Allocation Table

In 2006, the Extended File Allocation Table file system was introduced. It was then added to the older Windows version and updated Windows Vista and Windows XP. It is best suitable for flash drives. 

ExFAT has a lighter weight file system similar to FAT32 without the limitations. Also, it does not have the overhead of NTFS. Therefore, ExFAT is an updated version of NTFS and FAT32.

It has a large partition and file sizes. Therefore, you will be able to store files exceeding 4 GB. If you are a MAC OS X user, then ExFAT is a great match for you. This is because MAC offers complete read-write support for ExFAT. Therefore, the ExFAT file system is highly profitable for you. 

If we go into the gaming sector, the PlayStation 4 supports ExFAT. Also, Xbox One supports it as well. Hence, ExFAT is a combination of all the good features of NTFS AND FAT32. 

ExFAT is compatible with MAC OS X and all Windows versions. It is compatible with Linux as well but needs additional software. 


  • Firstly, it is more widely acceptable and compatible than NTFS.
  • Secondly, users can store large files that are more than 4 GB.
  • Lastly, you get no realistic partition and file sizes. 


  • It somewhat lacks journaling functionality.

What’s its ideal use?

You can use it when you have to store larger files. Therefore, users prefer ExFAT more than FAT32. It is also much more compatible than NTFS. Hence, you are more likely to use this. 

So, now that we have known about NTFS, FAT32, and ExFAT, let us compare them to know a bit more in detail. We will also talk about FAT32 vs NTFS vs ExFAT.


FAT32 is chiefly compatible with older operating systems. NTFS is not much compatible with old operating systems. But, FAT32 has a minimal partition size and file size. Hence, users are more likely to use NTFS in such a scenario for its unrealistic partition and file size. 

Moreover, NTFS has comparatively more advantages than FAT32 in security, file permissions, and partition size. So, if you have a contemporary Windows system, then format your drive to NTFS. 

Hence, if you are looking for storing large files, then you must go for NTFS. Whereas, on the other hand, if you have an old operating system or floppy disks, then FAT32 is a brilliant choice. While FAT32 has its own shortcomings, it is still used by many users. 


Let us now compare NTFS and ExFAT. ExFAT is ideally suitable for flash drives whereas NTFS for internal drives. Both of them constitute large file and partition sizes. ExFAT is a good choice when sharing or swapping large files. 

We recommend that you use the NT File System for internal drives. If you plan on installing programs on the internal drives, then you must go for NTFS. Moreover, the security permissions of this file system will help to protect against malware and malicious software.

Even if it is an external drive, then also you can go for NTFS. NTFS also supports SD cards and portable hard drives. If you are facing a space issue, then you can even use the built-in compression feature of NTFS. It also has reliability journaling fractures that protect your data during file crashes.

Now, if you want to use your external device for an operating system other than Windows, opt for ExFAT. ExFAT is highly compatible with MAC OS X, Android, and Linux. In MAC OS you will also get the full read-write support.

When compared to ExFAT vs NTFS speed, then NTFS is much faster than ExFAT. NTFS can read files three times faster than ExFAT. 

ExFAT vs FAT32

ExFAT as well as FAT32, are compatible with removable devices. FAT32 is highly compatible with older operating systems. The one big shortcoming of FAT32 is its limited partition and file size. You cannot store a file exceeding 4 GB and a partition exceeding 2 TB in Windows. Therefore, a lot of users do not opt for FAT32.

On the other hand, ExFAT is an optimized and improved version of FAT32. It has a larger partition and file size. Hence, it can be used in place of FAT32. 

Well, it completely depends on you whether you want to use NTFS for its security measures, or FAT32 for its compatibility with older operating systems. You may also go for ExFAT for its unrealistic file and partition size. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between FAT32, NTFS, AND ExFAT?

NTFS is the perfect file system for internal drives. By using the NTFS partition, you can even install Windows OS. FAT32 is the oldest file system out of the three. For its great compatibility to external drives, floppy disks, and older operating systems. ExFAT is an improvised version of FAT32 without the shortcomings of FAT32. It is not that compatible with older operating systems like FAT32, but, it is highly compatible with Android, Linux, etc.  

Which one is better: NTFS or FAT32?

The former file system is ideal for internal drives. Whereas, FAT32 has greater compatibility than NTFS but has a smaller partition size and file size. It supports individual files not exceeding 4 GB and partitions up to 2 TB in Windows. NTFS is a much more advanced file system. 

Summing Up!

I hope this article helped you to understand the different file systems in a much clear way. A file system is essential in organizing a drive. Hence, you must choose the right one. In a debate on NTFS vs ExFAT, let’s see who wins and works better for you when you plan to use these file systems. 


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