NTFS or FAT32 Which File System to Use?

File system creates an environment that lets your operating system to read and organize stored files on the hard drive. Usually, each file system is associated with a specific operating system, no matter, which OS you are using it cannot read data from a hard drive without a support of file system. Thus always keep in mind that while initiating format on a disk, you are basically deciding what type of devices and operating systems your external drive will support. Therefore, it is important to format your hard drive with a right file system, especially if you’re using an external hard drive.

Nowadays, it is common to have multiple systems; there are users who own systems running OS X, Windows, Linux, etc. due to which portability has become a necessity. Today’s users need a portable disk that can move from one OS to another. Before suggesting a right file system that has the capability to provide that required portability, you should take a look at major issues that might cause problems while connecting drives from one system to another. Thus, it is hard to find out the right file system for your portable drives that can read your files on Mac, Xbox, and Windows Machine.

Here is the list of portability and file size issues that you might face with different file systems after format, find out a perfect portable drive solution that will work best for you.


NTFS, HFS+, and FAT32 are the most common file systems support Windows, OS X, and both respectively. You might be thinking that the latest OS systems most likely support each other’s file system, but actually they don’t. Mac OS reads an NTFS formatted drive but can’t write on it, where Windows 7 doesn’t even recognize HFS+ formatted drives. When we talk about Linux (like Ubuntu) systems supports NFTS and HFS+ formatted drives or start supporting with a download of some software packages. Like Linux, Windows and Mac machines support external downloads that make them read unsupported formats.

However, if you want to go a files system that natively supports almost all the operating system the FAT32 could be a strong choice. However, the only problem with FAT32 is the limited size of individual files, as well as the size of volumes. FAT32 is a common operating system for the flash drives or external hard drive that works with almost all types of computers you can have, as modern operating system are smart enough to support USB ports read and write FAT32. Therefore, FAT32 is default files system for all flash drives as it works everywhere, but it has some shortcoming as well that user has to face while working with it.

  • FAT32 doesn’t support files larger than 4GB; therefore, it is useless for those users who use large sized files.
  • If you are a regular user of files bigger than 4GB then ex-FAT would be the right file system for your external drive. It works on Windows, Linux, and OS X. This file system is the best choice for a shared hard drive that works on multiple computers to transfer large-sized files.
  • If you have windows system and adds files from Windows computer then to receive or transfer big files, then NTFS works the best for you.

Limited file sizes

Like FAT32 there are some other files systems available that also have limited file size issue such as EXT2 or EXT3 that supports 16GB files (up to 2TB files on some systems). However, EXT4 resolves this issue with huge file sizes. Similarly, Microsoft has also released the successor to FAT32 named as ex-FAT that resolves this file limitation issue of FAT32. Still FAT32 should always be your preferred choice unless you do not have file size greater than 4GB.

Note: This is actually a myth that the FAT32 supports small sizes, like 32GB, as it all depends upon the software downloads used to create partitions. Now, there are ways available to format your drive with FAT32 that it supports even up to several TB drives.

At the end after reading about all the popular files system you can conclude that FAT32 is the most prominent file format for USB devices that avails you the ability to move a drive between multiple platforms. But in case an FAT32 formatted drive is not recognized by any computer machine then it might be a case of physical damage of the hard drive or Hard disk failures that can be resolved by a reliable data recovery service provider. Many times file systems are not only reasoned a non-connecting drive; there might be hard disk errors that need to be treated by data recovery experts only.

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