What is the full form of NTFS

Although today's operating systems are installed on NTFS partitions, the FAT32 file system is far from extinct. The file system, which is more than two decades old, is still used on USB sticks and memory cards. In this report we would like to show you some details worth knowing, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the two file systems FAT32 and NTFS.


As early as 2003, in our report “FAT32 or NTFS”, we identified the differences between FAT32 and NTFS explained to explain to our readers which file system to choose when installing Windows.

Since then has been in the world of ones and zeros much happend. Operating systems such as Windows 98 and Windows ME as well as Windows XP have disappeared from the market and are no longer supported by current software. After the unsuccessful attempt by Windows Vista, Windows 7 is already a discontinued model and has been successfully implemented Windows 10 replaced.

Since the introduction of Windows Vista, operating systems from Microsoft no more install on FAT32 partitions. It is imperative to choose NTFS as the file system. The reason for this is that the new NTFS file system is saved as a is much safer and many features of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 10 are only made possible by the NTFS file system.

NVMe SSDs achieve their best performance under NTFS on a Windows PC.

If you want to work with several operating systems, different partitions can optionally be formatted with FAT32 and NTFS. A Windows 98 or Windows ME installation will mandatory on FAT32 installed, while the user can decide for himself with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. NTFS is usually the right choice here, as the new file system offers more features and allows the computer to work more stably. Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 10 come out of the box with NTFS in tow.

Even today, thinking about Windows 98, ME and 2000 appears at first sight pointless. For some special situations, e.g. the installation of a virtual machine to run old software, even these old Windows versions can still use a Raison d'être to have.

What are file systems?

First of all, we want the Function of a file system explain. File systems are there to store files on a storage medium sensible to store and arrangeso that the user can access them quickly and easily. Files are stored as ones and zeros on a hard drive / SSD / memory card, but the user prefers the "file names" known to us.

That is why a filesystem lays down data structured on the storage medium and creates a kind Table of Contentsso that the operating system knows immediately where the selected file or its components are located when the user opens a file.

Modern SD cards are best formatted with exFAT if the host device supports it.

Microsoft has for its own operating systems different file systems developed. The most important today are FAT32, exFAT and NTFSwhich is why we want to take a closer look at them below. Other important file systems are available for various data carriers such as CDs, DVDs and flash memory.

The most important file systems from Microsoft

The following file systems were through the years Developed by Microsoft and are still in use today - albeit partly for a different device class than originally intended.

File systempublicationmax partitionuse
FAT or FAT12198016 MBMS-DOS, floppy disks
FAT16198332MB / 512MB / 2GB / 4GBMS-DOS, Win 3.11, Windows 95
VFAT1995-Extension for FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 for long file names
FAT3219978 TBWindows 95b, Windows 98, Windows ME
exFAT2006> 8 TBWindows CE, flash storage media
NTFS 1.0, 1.1, 21993> 8 TBWindows NT 3.1 to Windows NT 4.0
NTFS 3.0, 3.1, TxF2000> 8 TBWindows 2000, Windowx XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7


FAT stands for File allocation table and was first used in 1980 with the introduction of QDOS. exFAT is the latest filesystem from Microsoft and was primarily developed to replace FAT32 on flash data carriers and thus pave the way for large files. After exFAT, FAT32 is the youngest successor to the FAT file systems and now allows partitions with a maximum size of up to 512 TB (= 524,288 GB).

This makes exFAT a good choice, especially for mobile data carriers that are used with different operating systems. So can Linux and macOS devices usually also handle exFAT well without the need for special drivers.

Modern SSD storage are usually under Windows always with NTFS formatted. FAT32 only plays a role here, e.g. if the SSD as external storage is used on devices such as media receivers or SmartTVs.

Formatting a FAT32 partition under Windows 2000 and newer Microsoft operating systems allows maximum partition size of 32 GB, but this can be circumvented with a simple trick (report: create large FAT32 partitions quickly and easily). The maximum size of FAT32 partitions does not prevent you from continuing to use this file system.

A disadvantage of FAT32 is that files are small compared to NTFS a little slower to be written. For example, if you copy a thousand 1 KB text files, this takes significantly longer than copying a single 1000 KB file. NTFS can mitigate this effect a little. Especially when the file system is related to Flash memory is used.

The biggest disadvantage of FAT32 nowadays can be found elsewhere. Have you already tried a large file (e.g. DVD image or HD video)with over 4GB to copy to an 8 GB USB stick? That will not do! At least not as long as the stick was formatted with FAT32.

This is not because the memory in the USB stick has been “divided into two parts”, no, it is simply attached the limitations of FAT32 Filesystem. There is a maximum file size of 4 GB (= 4,294,967,295 bytes) for FAT32.

The only way to solve this problem is to use NTFS or exFAT - to stay in the Microsoft universe. Unfortunately, the same problem also occurs with HDD and SSD partitions that are formatted with FAT32. Long HD recordings and DVD or even BlueRay image files are there no chance.

The manufacturers of Consumer electronics this does not seem to bother, because to this day many devices that work with one Memory card (e.g. SDHC, Sony Memory Stick, ...) or a USB stick can handle FAT32 or even FAT. The fact that no NTFS is used here is mostly due to the fact that many of these devices are on Linux based work.

With large USB sticks, which are only used together with relatively new computers, this is worthwhile Reformatting on NTFS or exFAT. To do this, go to My Computer or under “Computer”, click the USB drive with the right mouse button and select “Format…”. Then select “NTFS” or “exFAT” under “File system:”. When formatting all data on the data carrier deleted! Be careful not to accidentally select the wrong drive and to back up The data on your storage device before formatting.

Formatting USB sticks and memory cards with NTFS and exFAT is only possible under Windows Vista SP1 and Windows 7 and Windows 10. Windows XP computers can also handle NTFS, but exFAT requires a Microsoft update.

Advantages of FAT32:

  • Almost all operating systems can access it
  • Almost all devices use FAT32 (digital camera, receiver, MP3 player, ...)

Disadvantages of FAT32:

  • maximum file size: 4 GB


As mentioned briefly above, Microsoft has brought another file system onto the market with exFAT. The abbreviation stands for Extended file allocation table (ie "extended FAT").

exFAT is designed to address the Limitations of FAT / FAT32 in terms of the Single file size and the maximum Partition size while maintaining compatibility with many different host devices as far as possible.

In theory, exFAT files can be up to a size of 512 TB to save. It is also the intended file system for flash memory cards of the SDXC specification and up.

The complete implementation in Windows (native from Windows Vista SP1) and Apple macOS from 10.6.5 ensures a high compatibility from exFAT formatted data carriers. Under Android there are also corresponding drivers that use exFAT drives.

As an additional feature compared to FAT32, exFAT also allows extended access rights at the file level via ACL (A.ccess Control List). For some devices it is necessary to purchase a corresponding exFAT license in order to use exFAT.


Since Windows XP, Microsoft NTFS 3.1 and has only slightly adapted it to the newer operating systems since then.

The New Technology File System offers the user many advantages: One of the most important is the "journal", which error in the file system even in the event of a crash greatly reduced and makes the annoying error checking of the hard drive almost unnecessary.

In addition, small files in particular are written faster compared to FAT32. Further advantages are the maximum size of partitions and individual files that can be saved with 256 or 16 TB should also be sufficient for the years to come.

Disadvantages are primarily in the compatibility with most devices outside the Windows PC, as well as with old Microsoft operating systems.

Apple's macOS can at least in the standard access to NTFS data carriers for reading. Under Linux, access is no longer a problem in most current distributions, even in write mode. Nevertheless, the better supported exFAT should be used for permanent use.

Another benefit of NTFS is the ability Encrypt files. Microsoft BitLocker technology, for example, can be used for this purpose, which covers the entire disk protect unauthorized access can. If such a hard drive falls into the wrong hands, it cannot be read without the corresponding secret key.

Advantages of NTFS:

  • new operating systems can be installed on it
  • higher data rates
  • File sizes up to 16 TB possible
  • Partition sizes up to 256 TB
  • writes files “intelligently” to avoid fragmentation
  • logs file changes in the event of a crash in order to avoid data loss
  • security attributes can be set
  • Files can be encrypted
  • Compression of files and data carriers possible
  • faster defragmentation
  • File access can be monitored
  • Storage quotas can be assigned to users

Disadvantages of NTFS:

  • full support only on Windows operating systems
  • Cannot be read by many devices (smart devices, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs)