Microsoft Windows

A file system is best defined as a set of logical constructs that determine how disk volume space is utilized by an operating system. There are generally three file system choices that are available when installing Microsoft Windows: FAT, FAT32 and NTFS. However, as Windows NT and its successors came into operation, NTFS became a standard file system that was used in such operating systems. Nevertheless, FAT32 is still supported by modern versions of MS Windows. This paper compares and contrasts NTFS and FAT32.

FAT (stands for File Allocation Table) was created in 1977; under this file system, access to files on local partition that is formatted in FAT32 is available to Windows 95, 98, Millennium, 2000, XP and Windows Server 2003 family. NTFS, generally considered to be a more powerful system than FAT32, was originally created for Windows NT; Microsoft has the NTFS patent. A partition that is formatted in NTFS can be accessed on a computer running Windows 2000, XP, or Windows Server 2003.

Overall, for FAT32 there is no built-in security or recoverability. NTFS supports those features. FAT32 is the default file system for memory cards, flash players and mp3 players. It is simple in use while NTFS is more complex incorporating features that improve host volume performance as well as data security. NTFS allows controlling disk space on a per user basis. Moreover, for volumes that exceed 8 Gb, NTFS is more efficient in using disk space since NTFS creates smaller clusters. FAT32 volumes can be converted to NTFS without formatting them.

For NTFS, recommended minimum volume size is 10 Mb; thus, it cannot be used on floppy disks. For FAT32, recommended minimum volume size starts from a floppy disk (1.44 Mb). For different versions of NTFS, there are different maximum volume sizes that start at 2 terabytes and up. NTFS supports file compression. FAT32 supports volumes from 32 Mb to 2 Tb (only for Windows Server). Volumes up to 32 Gb can be formatted in FAT32. For NTFS, maximum file size is 16 Tb (however, the size of the file cannot exceed the size of the host partition). For FAT32, maximum file size is 4 Gb.

In a dual-boot scenario when it is necessary to operate the machine in MS-DOS, Windows 95/98 and one of the newer versions of MS Windows, it is necessary to format the hard drive in FAT32. However, it is necessary to use NTFS if it is necessary to support files larger than 4 Gb, hard drives that exceed 137 Gb, or when it is necessary to employ some of the NTFS security features (such as per user disk space allocation).

NTFS has some drawbacks that include slower operation due to security check-ups, file compression and encryption. However, on modern fast machines those drawbacks are negligible. What is far more serious is that there is little available software that allows effective cluster recovery under NTFS (some software packages such as Norton Partition Manager allow for partition recovery; however, the process is complex and requires prior technical …
Posted by: Amira Smale

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