Difference between FAT & NTFS File System and When to Use Either

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File System is the most popular and widely used techniques to store  data on different type of storage media devices such as Hard drives, memory card, flash drive, USB, CD’s, DVD’s etc. Every storage media devices uses this technique to write data on its blocks and sectors so that the data can be modified, accessed, deleted, distributed at the time of need. Every operating system uses some kind of file system to write data on hard disk and can be upgraded or degraded while formatting the system.

There are various types of file system are used by different operating system but Windows uses only the two most famous file system that is FAT (File allocation table) & NTFS (New Technology File System). Instead of this, Linux & MAC operating system uses Ext4, Ext3, Ext2 and HFS, HFS+ File system respectively in place of FAT or NTFS. Moreover, here is a huge list of file system provided by wikipedia.

So you are quite confused that what are they, when they can be used and why the various operating systems uses different type of file system. Well you don’t need to go anywhere and I will described all these details in rest part of this article. But first you have to assure yourself that you do have a basic knowledge of hard disk structure, storage techniques and similar. If yes, then move on to the next part of the article:

FAT File System

FAT is an acronym for File allocation Table that is handy and robust. FAT file system was first created by Microsoft in 1977 and used in the old operating system like MS DOS and continued to use through Windows ME before the introduction of New Technology File System (NTFS). FAT is still being popularly used in portable storage media devices like floppy disk, flash drive, memory cards and many others. Due to the technology advancement and increased need to have more space to store more and more data, there are various versions of FAT file system are evolved. Some of them are mentioned below:

FAT 12:- FAT12 was the first file system introduced after the invention of FAT file system and having storage capacity of upto 32MB. FAT12 uses 12-bit entries for the cluster addresses in the FAT and that’s why it’s called FAT12 File System. It was mainly used in floppy disk, Microsoft operating system of up to MS DOS 4.0 to store & access data.

FAT16: Introduced in 1988, supports upto 2 GB of data storage capacity and used in the operating system Windows 95 through Windows 2000. Followed by FAT12, It uses 16 bit of cluster address to store data.

FAT32:  Third and latest invention under FAT file system was FAT32 file system and widely known for the efficiently allocating disk space on hard drive. It was developed in 1996 and supports up to 8 GB of data storage capacity.

NTFS File System:

NTFS file system is the most famous file system introduced after FAT file system and used in all the latest versions of Windows such as Vista, Windows 7, XP, 2000. It was developed in 1993 and was first used in the operating system Windows 3.1. It supports the data storage capacity up to 256TB.

It’s having advanced data structure & sectors writing technique, improved security, high capability of space utilization. Instead of this, NTFS has several improved features over FAT file system and I have spread light about it from the below points:

  • More stable and reliable
  • Supports automatic recovery in case of hard disk crash and record the information after every crash on Windows Minidump folder
  • High speed to read & write data from the hard drive
  • High security over individual files and folders
  • Supports dual booting system
  • NTFS File system’s data can be shared and accessed over the network
  • File Encryption

Which is better: NTFS or FAT?

Based on the explanation I have provided above, it’s far more clear that NTFS comes with high security and data safety non followed by the FAT file system which uses low security on data and the data on FAT  can be easily modified and shared by eavesdropper. Moreover, It is easy to brake any security measures authenticated by FAT file System.


Oliver is a computer hardware/software geek and would love to explore the information about latest technologies, PC tips and tricks.  He is currently working with Stellar Data Recovery which is the most famous and trusted name in the field of Data Recovery .

You can follow Oliver on twitter @powellstellar, or join his Google+ page.

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