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FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT are the three file systems users commonly use for Windows system. This article will illustrate to the differences between the three, analyzing their pros and cons, compatibility and usage in an all-rounded way.
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Jun 22, 2021 Two file systems compatible with Mac and Windows. NTFS is the default file system for Windows operating system and HFS for Mac operating system. If you want to make your drive compatible with Mac and Windows, you need to format it with a common file system for Mac and Windows. To format a flash drive with an exFAT file system, connect the drive to your computer. Right-click on the drive icon and select Format from the dropdown list. When the Format Drive box appears, click on File system and choose exFAT from the list. Select Quick Format under Format options if it isn’t already selected. Finally, click on Start. Select your external hard drive or USB flash drive from the list on the left. Click on the Erase tab. Select the format – Mac OS Extended (HFS+), MS-DOS (FAT32), or exFAT – then name the drive. Click the Erase button and the drive will start formatting. Be aware that formatting a drive deletes all of the files on it, so back up anything.
A file system uses a set of rules to control how data is stored and retrieved on a storage device. And FAT32, NTFS, exFAT are three different file systems commonly used in Windows. Each of the file systems has their own pros and cons. If you know them well, you can choose the correct file system for different needs.
If you don’t know the differences between NTFS, FAT32 and exFAT file system, don’t worry, this article will tell you what you should know for the three kinds of file systems and give you a brief comparison of NTFS vs FAT32 vs exFAT.
NTFS vs FAT32
NTFS File System
NTFS is short for New Technology File System, created by Microsoft and introduced in 1993 with Windows NT 3.1. Windows NT and Windows 2000 are the primary operating systems using the NTFS file system. Nowadays, NTFS is the most widely used file system in Windows, especially for its system drive and most internal hard drives.
As a modern and advanced file system, NTFS has many features not available to FAT32 and exFAT. For detailed information, you can refer to following contents to learn its pros and cons, compatibility and usage.
- Supports very large files and it nearly has no realistic partition size limit by changing cluster size
- Enables users to set file permissions and encryption as a file system with higher security
- Automatically restores the consistency of the file system by using its log file and checkpoint information
- Enables users to compress files, folders or the whole drive when they are running out of disk space
- Uses a change journal to help restore information quickly if power failure or other system problems occur
- Enables users to set disk quotas, limiting the amount of space users can consume
- No realistic file size or partition size limits
Cons: Not compatible with very old operating systems
- Compatible with all versions of Windows
- Read-only with Mac OSX by default, and may be read-only by default with some Linux distributions
- Only a few Linux variants are able to provide write support for NTFS
Usage: An NTFS file system is perfect for your Windows system drive and other internal drives or external hard drives with large capacities that will just be used with Windows.
FAT32 File System
The FAT32 file system is also called File Allocation Table file system, which was created in 1977 by Microsoft. FAT32 is an older file system that’s not as efficient or advanced as NTFS, but does offer greater compatibility with other operating systems and removable storage devices.
The biggest FAT32 file system limit is that it cannot store a single file larger than 4 GB. So, sometimes you may come across 'File is too large for destination file system' error when using FAT32 file system.
Pros: Compatible with all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, game consoles, HDTVs, bootable disk and practically anything with a USB port
- Cannot store a single file which is larger than 4GB
- Cannot create a FAT32 partition that is larger than 8 TB (Windows only recognizes 2TB)
- Lacks the permissions and other security features built into the more modern NTFS file system
- Modern versions of Windows are unable to be installed to a drive formatted with an FAT32 file system
- Compatible with removable flash drives and other forms of USB interface-based storage
- Compatible with all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, game consoles, and practically anything with a USB port
Usage: Flash drives will often be formatted with FAT32 for maximum compatibility. If you want to use it on removable drives, you’d better format the drive to FAT32. Be sure not to store a single file that is larger than 4 GB.
NTFS vs FAT32
Compared with NTFS file system, FAT32 is more compatible with old operating systems and all kinds of removable storage devices. However, it has limits on file size and partition size, which may cause inconvenience if you want to store large files.
NTFS has more advantages than FAT32 in security, partition size, and file permissions and so on. If you are using a modern Windows operating system, you’d better format internal hard drives to NTFS. Besides, recent Windows system partition must be formatted to NTFS file system.
Some of you may wonder: I want to use NTFS file system as it has so many advantages. However, I have formatted my file system to FAT32 and stored important files in it. How can I convert FAT32 to NTFS without data loss?
Well, I do have a free method for converting FAT32 to NTFS without data loss. For users’ convenience, here I will show you detailed steps and screenshots about how to convert FAT32 to NTFS with freeware – MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.
Free Convert FAT32 to NTFS Without Data Loss
MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition is a free partition manager trusted by tens of millions of users. As an expert in partition management, this partition magic can help you reconfigure hard disk, format partition, convert MBR to GPT without data loss, check file system, migrate Windows to HD/SSD, copy disk, perform disk surface test, wipe disk and so on.
Using this all-in-one partition manager to convert FAT32 to NTFS is very safe. Users can convert FAT to NTFS without causing any data loss.
Now, follow the steps as below to convert FAT32 to NTFS file system for free.
Step 1. Download MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition by clicking the following button. Install it on your computer and launch it to get the main interface.
Step 2. Choose the FAT32 partition that you want to convert and select convert FAT to NTFS from the left action panel.
Step 3. Click Start button to start the FAT to NTFS conversion.
Step 4. After the conversion is completed, you can click Close to exit the window.
By following the steps above, you can convert FAT32 to NTFS without any data loss.
exFAT File System
exFAT is the abbreviation of Extended File Allocation Table. It is a file system introduced by Microsoft in 2006, which is similar to FAT32 files system, but does not have the limits of FAT32 file system.
Designed to be a replacement for FAT32, exFAT is optimized for flash memory such as USB flash drives and SD cards, though some very older ones may only support FAT32.
- More widely-compatible than NTFS, but not quite match FAT32’s compatibility
- Allows users to store files much larger than the 4 GB allowed by FAT32
- No realistic file-size or partition-size limits
- Not as compatible as FAT32
- Lacks journaling functionality and other advanced features built into the NTFS file system
- Works with all versions of Windows and modern versions of Mac OS X
- Compatible with Linux, but additional software will be needed
Usage: You can use exFAT file system when you need to create large partitions and save files larger than 4GB and when you need more compatibility than what NTFS offers. And for swapping or sharing large files, especially between OSes, exFAT is a good choice.
NTFS vs exFAT
NTFS is ideal for internal drives, while exFAT is generally ideal for flash drives. Both of them have no realistic file-size or partition-size limits. If storage devices are not compatible with NTFS file system and you don't want to limited by FAT32, you can choose exFAT file system.
FAT32 vs exFAT
Both of them are suitable for removable devices due to their compatibility. FAT32 is compatible with more very old operating systems. However, FAT32 has limits on single file size and partition size, while exFAT does not. Compared with FAT32, exFAT is an optimized FAT32 file system that can be widely used for removable devices of large capacity.
After comparing NTFS vs FAT32 vs exFAT, you can choose a suitable file system for your drive according to your needs.
Free Format Your Drive to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT
If you want to switch a partition’s file system to exFAT, you need to format the partition, which is different from FAT and NTFS conversion. Here you can use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition to format your storage device to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT file system in one step. Let’s look at the detailed steps together.
Step 1. Download MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition by clicking the following button. Install and launch it to get its main interface.
Step 2. Right-click the drive you want to format and select Format Partition.
Step 3. At this window, you are allowed to specify partition label, file system as well as cluster size. You can format the drive’s file system to FAT32, NTFS, exFAT, Ext2, Ext3, satisfying all your needs. After resetting these parameters, you can click OK.
Step 4. Click Apply on the upper right corner to allow the pending operation.
You see, it is not so hard to learn the differences between NTFS, FAT32 and exFAT file system. And each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages. If you don't know which file system you should format for your storage device, you may refer to above information in this article.
If you have any question about how to make FAT32 and NTFS conversion or how to format partition to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT with MiniTool Partition Wizard, you can leave a message in the following comment zone and we will reply as soon as possible. If you need any help when using MiniTool software, you can contact us via [email protected].
NTFS vs. FAT32 vs. exFAT FAQ
- Download MiniTool Partition Wizard Pro Edition on its official website and install it on your PC.
- Choose the NTFS partition that you need to convert.
- Select Convert NTFS to FAT feature from the left action panel.
- Click Start button to convert NTFS to fat32 without losing data immediately.
- Click Close to exit after the NTFS to fat32 conversion is completed.
Sep 16, 2021 • Filed to: USB Recovery • Proven solutions
If you work in an environment where you constantly use a flash drive between a Windows and Mac computer, you may find that you constantly have to format USB drive. One way to permanently solve this problem is to format usb flash drive to exFAT, a platform-independent file system.
Best File System For Usb
Which Format to Choose? FAT32, NTFS, or exFAT?
Before we get into the actual process of formatting USB drive to exFAT, we need to understand exFAT and other files systems, specifically, FAT32 and NTFS.
- FAT32: FAT32 is the oldest file system. FAT is an acronym for File Allocation Table. FAT32 was introduced way back in Windows 95 and was the successor to the older FAT16 that was used on Dos and Windows 3. It currently works on all Windows versions, Mac and Linux. This is the reason it is also one of the most ubiquitous file systems and comes pre-installed on almost all USB you buy at a store. Unfortunately, FAT32 comes with limitations. One of the biggest drawbacks is a maximum file limit size of 4GB. In today's world where video files can often be larger than that, FAT32 is often impractical. FAT32 also limits partition sizes to 8TB.
- NTFS: NTFS or NT file system is the default file system used by Windows. NTFS has a huge file size and partition limits that are theoretically impossible to surpass. It originally debuted in Windows NT and later in Windows XP. NTFS is compatible with Windows but files can only be opened in read-only mode in Mac and some Linux distributions.
- exFAT: exFAT is an acronym for the Extended File Allocation Table. It was created by Microsoft to replace FAT32 and address its limitations. The system has a file limit size of approximately 16 exabytes (over 1 billion gigabytes!) and is compatible with both Windows and Mac. exFAT formatted USB drive has no realistic partition size limits.
From the above descriptions of the three of the main file systems, it becomes immediately apparent why you would need to format a flash drive to exFAT. The most common reasons include:
- Store large files. As already mentioned, the FAT32 file system has a file limit size of 4GB. In such a situation, you need to format the USB to exFAT to accommodate large file sizes.
- You continuously use a flash drive between Windows and Mac. In such a situation, your USB drives need to use a file system that is compatible with both operating systems. ExFAT formatted USB drive solves this problem beautifully.
- The nature of your work requires you to have large partitions for different types of data. For example, you may want to create a different partition for media such as images and videos.
How to Format flash drive to exFAT?
As mentioned earlier, the exFAT system is ideal for large files and partitions. If your USB is small, for example, 4GB, it may not make sense to format it to exFAT because you will never be able to store files larger than 4GB, unless you have the need to transfer files between macOS and Windows devices. For small USB drives of under 32 GB, you can format flash drive to either FAT32 or exFAT.
Method 1: Using the File Explorer
Step 1: Plug in the USB into the computer and wait for it to be detected.
Step 2: Once it's recognized, open Windows File Explorer and navigate to the disk location. Locate the USB drive under This PC. Right-click and select Format.
Step 3: Click on File System and select exFAT from the dropdown. Check the Quick Format checkbox if it isn't already ticked.
Step 4: Click Start to begin the process. You will get a pop-up warning you that, 'Formatting will erase ALL data on this disk. To format the disk, click OK. To quit, click CANCEL.' Click 'OK' and wait for the progress bar to finalize. If the format is successful, you will get prompt as shown below. Click 'OK' and begin using the drive or eject it safely.
Best File System For Mac And Windows Flash Drives
Method 2: Using Disk Management
Disk Management is a Windows utility tool that helps you manage all your drives from one area. It is packed with several features that allow you to format thumb drive, change drive letters and paths, add mirrors, extend, shrink and delete volumes, and much more.
Step 1: Plug in your USB drive and wait for it to be detected. Once detected, type Disk Management in the Windows Search bar and click 'Create and format hard disk partitions' to launch the Disk Management Utility.
Step 2: Right-click the flash drive and select the Format option.
Step 3: Type a name in the Volume Label field to help you quickly identify the drive in File Explorer.
Step 4: In the File System drop-down menu, select NTFS, FAT32， or exFAT, and tick the Perform a quick format option.
Step 5: Click OK and wait for the process to complete. Once complete the drive has been formatted to exFAT. You can now use it or unplug it safely from the PC.
The process to format larger drives, that is, above 32 GB is more or less the same. You can use both methods outlined above. But, to ensure you don't encounter any errors, the additional two methods below are recommended for larger flash drives.
Method 3: Using the Command Prompt
The Windows Command Prompt takes much longer but is the best way to format flash drive, and deal with any problems such as 'Windows was unable to complete the format'.
Step 1: As with Method 1, plug in the flash drive and wait for it to be detected.
Step 2: Once detected, type 'CMD' in the Windows search bar and launch the Command Prompt.
Step 3: All drives on a Windows computer usually have letters assigned to them. For example, the hard disk is almost always C. Any additional drives connected to the computer are allocated subsequent letters. For example, D, F, and so on. E is usually reserved for the optical drive (CD/DVD) if the computer has one. For this example, our flash drive is letter D. You can find out the letter allocated to your USB by navigating to This PC and taking note of the letter in brackets.
Step 4: Type 'format D: /fs:EXFAT' and press enter. Remember to make sure the letter you type corresponds to the letter allocated to the USB drive plugged into your PC.
Step 5: Press Enter when ready and the process begins. When complete, you will be asked to enter a Volume Label to identify the drive. Enter a name and press Enter to complete. Begin using the flash drive or eject safely.
Do you know that Command Prompt can even help you recover deleted files! ⬅ Learn more about this cool trick!
Method 4: Using Windows PowerShell
The Windows PowerShell is similar to the command prompt and is effective at quickly formatting large USB drives to exFAT. It also has an extra feature to force a full format.
Step 1: Plug in your flash drive and ensure it has been detected.
Step 2: Launch Windows PowerShell by typing PowerShell in the Windows search bar. Launch the Windows PowerShell application by clicking on it.
Step 3: To perform a quick format, type in the following command 'Format-Volume -DriveLetter DRIVE-LETTER -FileSystem exFAT'. Replace 'DRIVE-LETTER' with the drive letter allocated to your flash drive by the PC. For this example, the command looks like this, 'Format-Volume -DriveLetter D -FileSystem exFAT'. To perform a full format, type 'Format-Volume -DriveLetter D -FileSystem exFAT -Full -Force'. Once again ensure the drive letter corresponds with your system.
Step 4: Press Enter. Once the process is complete begin using the USB or eject safely.
Part 3. Recover Lost Files from Formatted USB Drives
Finally, we need to address a common problem that you may encounter while format flash drive to exFAT. You may experience a situation where the format fails, the USB drive is accidentally ejected or there is an unexpected power shutdown. One of the things that may happen is that the disk may become corrupted and you lose your data. You may also format a flash drive and forget to make a backup or, mistakenly assume you have a copy of the files in some other place. The only to recover lost files from formatted USB drives is by using Wondershare Recoverit.
Wondershare Recoverit is a nifty data recovery tool that is compatible with both Windows and Mac. With Wondershare Recoverit, you can recover lost and deleted files in a few minutes from flash drives and all other types of external media, internal hard disks, recycle bins, and even crashed computers.
Step 1: Plug in the Flash Drive
Usb File Formats
Connect the flash drive that contains the data you want to recover. Ensure that the device is detectable. If Windows offers to scan and repair the device, proceed and do so until the device is detectable.
Step 2: Launch Wondershare Recoverit on Windows
Next, launch the Wondershare Recoverit app on Windows. Click the Desktop icon or type 'Wondershare Recoverit' in the Windows Search box, and click Open to launch it.
Step 3: Select the USB Drive
Next, select the USB drive from the External Devices section as shown below, and click the Start button to begin recovery.
Step 4: Scan the USB Drive
An all-around scan initiates on the USB drive. Give it a few minutes to complete. You can pause and continue the scan at any point. Once the process terminates, check the button against the files you want to recover. You can also select all files if needed by checking the box adjacent to the Name field.
Step 5: Preview and Recover
You can preview each file before clicking Recover. Once you click the Recover, you have the option of saving the files in another location on your computer.
Part 4. Common Errors That Lead to Format Failure
Before we explain how to format flash drive to exFAT, let's examine some of the reasons a flash drive will not format to exFAT on Windows. Understanding this will save you the unnecessary headache of having to troubleshoot later on.
Best File System For Mac And Windows Flash Drive Installer
Depending on the Windows operating system you are using, some of the most common errors you get when you can't format a thumb drive to USB exFAT include:
- 'There is a problem with this drive, scan the drive to fix it' – this usually happens if there was a problem due to unexpected power shutdown or removing the disk before it was safe to do so. A simple Windows scan usually fixes this problem. Simply follow the prompts to scan and repair if necessary, then proceed with the formatting instructions below.
- 'Windows was unable to complete the format' – there are several reasons you may run into such an error message. But, the main reason is usually that the thumb drive needs to be scanned and repaired.
- 'The disk is write-protected' – Some USD drives come with the option to write-protect the device. On some devices, this could be via a button, switch, or lever on the device. If your device doesn't have such a feature, you need to disable write-protect using the registry editor. Simply type 'CMD' on the windows search bar and open the command prompt. Type 'diskpart' and press enter. You should get a new window similar to the one shown below.
Next, type 'list disk' and press enter. This will list all the active disks on the computer. Note the flash drive number then type 'select disk' and select your flash drive. Type 'attr disk clear readonly' to remove the write-protect settings. You should get a confirmation message stating, 'Disk Attributes Cleared Successfully' as shown below. Type 'exit' to exit Diskpart.
All the methods described above assume you have administrator rights on the PC. If you don't, you will need to log in with an administrator user account or know the administrator password. We hope you learned how to format the flash drive to exFAT and recover any data in case the process doesn't run smoothly for you. Please do not hesitate to send us your comments or questions.
Usb Format File System
People Also Ask
- It depends on the file size that the SD card will hold. If your SD card is less than 4GB in size, you don't need to use exFAT. But if it is greater than 4GB then you may need exFAT formatted USB drive to store a single file of 4GB or greater.
- Yes, USB exFAT is the newer version of FAT32. It was created to address the file size limit problems of FAT32 without the bulkiness of NTFS.
- exFAT is the best file system for external media. NTFS is best suited for Windows internal hard disks.
4. Can Wondershare Recoverit recover lost data from USB on Mac?Yes, Wondershare Recoverit works on both Windows and Mac.
- Recover USB Drive
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