When it comes to talking about hard disk formats, we can find a multitude of types depending on the system and the function that the disk in question is going to develop. While in Windows the most common format is NTFS, in Mac and Linux systems it is best to use FAT32 and exFAT. But what differences are there really between NTFS vs FAT32 vs exFAT? What are its limitations? We see it below.
NTFS - Windows only
NTFS, an acronym that refers to New Technology File System, is a proprietary file system for Microsoft Windows systems. Its great advantage over other file systems is the size limit per file: no less than 16 TB with volumes up to 264 TB .
NTFS does not allow writing on Mac or Linux.
Another advantage that NTFS offers over other types of systems is the ability to encrypt files and set access permissions . It also allows you to create paths and files of up to 260 characters, although this limitation has been disabled after the latest Windows 10 updates.
But not all that glitters is gold. Beyond Windows, NTFS has multiple limitations on Linux and macOS-based systems. Unless we use third-party software, the format limits its functions to reading files , so if we are thinking of using a USB drive or a memory card on two systems at the same time (Windows and macOS or Windows and Linux ), it is best to opt for a format based on FAT, since we will not be able to write information of any kind .
FAT32: compatible with all systems but with limitations
FAT32 is, along with NTFS, the most popular format on Windows, macOS and Linux systems. The peculiarity of this format is that it allows both writing and reading in any of the systems mentioned above, which makes it ideal if we are going to use several at the same time (Windows and macOS, Linux and macOS, Linux and Windows, etc.). It is also compatible with most televisions, consoles, and mobile operating systems.
Unfortunately, the file system has limitations that arise from its age, since the system dates from 1995. The main limitation of FAT32 has to do with the size limit per file: only 4 GB with partitions of up to 8 TB .
Therefore, if we are going to use an external hard drive, a pendrive or a memory card to work with large files in read and write operations, it is best to choose a type of system without limits by size. FAT32 is also the most widely used format on Smart TV and proprietary systems , since NTFS is licensed by Microsoft.
exFAT: the best format for external hard drives or pen drives
As the name itself indicates, exFAT is a type of FAT system whose functions have been extended to offer better performance in terms of file size limits and compatibility. In fact, the partition and file size limit disappears with this new version of the FAT standard: up to 16 million terabytes , which is said soon.
exFAT allows reading, writing and formatting on Windows, Linux and Mac.
Like its namesake, it allows the reading and writing of files in any current operating system, although it is true that it has certain limitations in smart televisions, DVD and Blue Ray players and "old" digital cameras . On consoles, such as the Playstation 4 or Xbox One, exFAT works without any problem. Also on Android and other Linux-based mobile systems.