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Here comes the age old question. NTFS or FAT32?

The answer is not simple, not simple at all.

If you are using multiple OSs on the same computer (Windows XP and Windows 9x) and you want the two OSs to read the drive, FAT32 is the only way to go.

But, if you are planning on only using Windows XP, NTFS is the way to go.

There are several reasons why NTFS is the way to go.

One of the highlights of NTFS is the protection that it provides for files.

(Note that the text below is quoted from Microsoft)

To ensure reliability of NTFS, three major areas were addressed: recoverability, removal of fatal single sector failures, and hot fixing.

NTFS is a recoverable file system because it keeps track of transactions against the file system. When a CHKDSK is performed on FAT or HPFS, the consistency of pointers within the directory, allocation, and file tables is being checked. Under NTFS, a log of transactions against these components is maintained so that CHKDSK need only roll back transactions to the last commit point in order to recover consistency within the file system.

Under FAT or HPFS, if a sector that is the location of one of the file system's special objects fails, then a single sector failure will occur. NTFS avoids this in two ways: first, by not using special objects on the disk and tracking and protecting all objects that are on the disk. Secondly, under NTFS, multiple copies (the number depends on the volume size) of the Master File Table are kept.

Here are some links to Microsoft Knowledge Base articles on FAT and NTFS:•Overview of FAT, HPFS, and NTFS File Systems (Q100108)New Capabilities and Features of the NTFS 5.0 File System (Q310749)

This informative thread was created by user sechs:
FAT vs. NTFS MiniFAQ
When "FAT" is mentioned it usually means FAT32, which most people would use. When "NTFS" is mentioned it usually refers to versions 5.0 and/or 5.1, which are used by Win2k and WinXP, respectively. Win9x refers to Win95, Win98, and WinME. A "volume" is a data (primary, logical, or dynamic) partition.

What is FAT? What is NTFS?Which can I use? Can Win9x/2k/XP/DOS read FAT/NTFS?
    •Win2k/XP format FAT32 volumes larger than ~32gb; Microsoft recommends NTFS for volumes larger than that•Win9x cannot read NTFS; NTFS for Win98 will allow Win9x to read (demo) and write (full) on NTFS volumes Winternals - Windows 98 NTFS•DOS cannot read NTFS or FAT32; NTFSDOS will allow DOS to use NTFS volumes Winternals - NTFSDOS
Will all my applications work with NTFS?
    •The file systems used on volumes are irrelevant to most applications, including games; it matters for some utilities, however.
If I install with FAT/NTFS will I be able read the other file system?
    •A computer can have both FAT and NTFS on it, and Win2k/XP will be able to read them both; boot/system/swap drives can have either format.
If I use NTFS will I be able to use floppies/CD-ROMS/network drives?
    •Floppies are always formatted FAT in Windows; NTFSflp allows NTFS formatted floppies.•CD-ROMS are usually formatted ISO-9660 or UDF, never NTFS or FAT.• The formats of networked drives and network shares are irrelevant in sharing; your shared folders on NTFS drives can be used by Win9x systems.
Can I convert between NTFS and FAT? How do I remove NTFS?
    •Win2k/XP comes with the "convert" command-line utility to go from FAT32 to NTFS; this conversion tends to give the volume greater fragmentation of system areas and non-optimal cluster sizes (original size maintained).•Windows doesn't provide for conversion from NTFS to FAT; PartitionMagic from PowerQuest will do it.•Removing NTFS partitions by formatting is explained in this Microsoft KB article Q314052
What are the advantages of FAT over NTFS?
    •Performs faster on volumes ~10GB and less.•Works well with small disk cache and system cache (less than 96MB systems).
What are the disadvantages of FAT?
    •Gets slower as the number of files on a partition increases.•Slows as volume size increases, because drive must constantly reference the file allocation table at the beginning of the volume.•Tends to highly fragment files.
What are the advantages of NTFS over FAT?
    •Is the native file system for WinNT/2k/XP.•Allows indexing which improves file searching (mostly, faster); causes slight performance hit (can turn off).•Has better security -- such as file-wise encryption (not supported by WinXP home) and per-user access rules (you can stop your wife from seeing the porn folder!)•Supports user quotas (prevent the tykes from downloading too many mp3s)•Has file-wise compression.•Is journaled, decreasing data loss (ScanDisk at start up unnecessary).•Uses Unicode (allows foreign and extended character) file names and natively supports long file names.•Supports larger files than FAT (greater than 4GB).•Allows larger volume sizes (greater than 1TB) There is talk about a theoretical limit of 16 Exabytes, and up to 2 Terabytes.•Supported format on dynamic disks (no dynamic disks on WinXP Home).•Works well with large cache (greater than 96MB systems).•Performs better on volumes ~20GB and more.•Is more space-efficient on large volumes (greater than 8GB).•Resistant to fragmentation.
What are the disadvantages of NTFS?
    •Suffers with small cache (less than 96MB systems).•Suffers with slow disks and controllers.•Is less space-efficient on small volumes (less than 4GB).
Should I use FAT or NTFS? Which is faster?
    •Some people report FAT is faster than NTFS; others report that NTFS is faster than FAT. Compare your system specs and needs with the advantages and disadvantages of each file system.•Comfort level is important -- if you are apprehensive about using NTFS, then do not put your important files on it! You can always convert from FAT to NTFS later. Try NTFS on a spare partition first, if possible.
Consider FAT if you have:
    •Less than 96MB of memory•A "slow" disk (less than 5400RPM) and/or controller (slower than ATA/33)•A volume of 10GB or less•A volume you want to use with a Win9x OS
Consider NTFS if you:
    •Have a volume of 20GB or more•Have 128MB or more system memory•Will have a large number of files and folders (greater than 100,000 total)•Use files greater than 4GB in size•Use dynamic disks/soft RAID•Want faster file searches•Want greater file security•Want to control which files and directories users can see and use•Want to control how much disk space users can utilize•Want file compression•Want to improve data integrity•Want to use foreign/extended characters in file names
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by trparky See Profile edited by MSeng See Profile
last modified: 2003-02-11 21:24:40