NTFS vs Fat32
March 12, 2004 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Mac head formatting a partition on my Windows 2000 Prof box - What's the difference between NTFS and Fat32? Which should I choose?
posted by jalexei to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
FAT32 is a reasonably simple filesystem, which is directly based on the msdos era FAT16 and FAT12 filesystems. Good for interoperability with other OSes due to its simplicity, but don't expect too much. NTFS has journalling, extended metadata, all the stuff you probably want. If you don't have strong reasons to choose for FAT32, choose NTFS.
posted by fvw at 4:40 PM on March 12, 2004

Incidentally, something tells me you didn't try googling this first…
posted by fvw at 4:42 PM on March 12, 2004

Response by poster: Sort of - in my haste I googled "NTSF" - Thanks, and I hearby pledge never to Ask Mefi in a panic moment without a 5 minute cooling off period...
posted by jalexei at 4:48 PM on March 12, 2004

The chief reason to format FAT32 these days is for dual-booting to a Win9x OS, which I assume you don't need. Windows NT/2000/XP all "prefer" NTFS, and NTFS is not bound by the same upper limitations on disk size.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on March 12, 2004

In Mac terms, think of FAT as HFS, and NTFS an HFS Plus. (Although they're somewhat less related to each other than the Mac filesystems.)
posted by kindall at 1:55 AM on March 13, 2004

Another good reason to choose NTFS over FAT 32 is the stability of the file system. It is easier to recover lost files and your computer can have data all over the place, but you won't need to defragment it. Not to say defragging doesn't help if you have data everywhere, but we are talking about a 1 percent speed difference. Do Macintoshes have an option to defrag?
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:54 AM on March 13, 2004

If you want to be able to apply any type of security to files on the machine, NTFS is the only way to go.

It's superior to FAT32 in most ways - security, reliability, recoverability and speed.

...you won't need to defragment it.

Not true. You still need to perform maintenance on an NTFS drive. Regular scandisks and defragging will increase your system reliability and speed.

I recently defragged my XP Pro machine (formatted with NTFS) after noticing some system sluggishness. The drive was 25% fragmented. The speed increase after the defrag was very noticeable. More than 1%, that's for sure.
posted by hawkman at 9:42 AM on March 13, 2004

I read a recommendation somwhere for sticking with FAT32 for smaller capacity drives because it consumes less processing overhead. At larger HD capacities, the scale tips in favor of NTFS. It didn't specify what "smaller" and "larger" are. FWIW, I've kept my 6 GB notebook drive with FAT32, but my larger desktop drives are NTFS.
posted by pmurray63 at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2004

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