Windows File Systems: Differences between FAT and NTFS

When a disk is formatted, it is usually done with either of the two available windows file systems knows as FAT and NTFS or File Allocation Table and New Technology File System respectively. These file systems define the way in which data is stored and managed on a hard disk drive. However, there’s a lot of buzz about which windows file system to choose or which not for ensuring successful formatting. On one hand FAT is senior to NTFS and one the other, NTFS is an improved version of FAT file system. It offers a fair platform for storing data over network channels. Here’s a little information that confirms about the big difference that the two file systems have in common:

“FAT file system is used on hard disks that run on older operating systems such as DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 98 or ME while NTFS is used with XP, Win 2000, Windows NT 4.0 or above versions, however these also supports FAT file system but prefer NTFS due to enhanced storage and accessibility.”

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NTFS and FAT: Major Differences

What is the difference between windows file systems, i.e. FAT vs NTFS or FAT32 vs NTFS?

FAT divides hard disk into storage compartments which stores data accordingly. It goes about creating tracks which surrounds the disk boundary. These tracks are then divided into sectors according to the size of hard disk. However, inspite of fully drawn tracks and sectors, hard disk uses clusters for storing data. The clusters are minimum space occupied by Operating Systems for storing data.

Unlike, FAT the built-in feature in NTFS file system prevents accessing of disk data without entering username and password which makes it more secure in terms of damages. The bad sectors on disks which are formatted using NTFS system are usually redirected to healthy sectors without running any disk check utility. This makes it a better choice over FAT file system.



  • FAT uses 8.3 Characters for File Naming
  • NTFS uses 255 Characters for File Naming
  • Maximum file size for FAT can extend up to 4 GB
  • Maximum file size for FAT can extend up to 16 TB
  • It allows no encryption for files or folders
  • Encryption of files/folder is allowed
  • Offers no support for Fault Tolerance
  • Offer auto repairing as a reply to Fault Tolerance
  • Ensures only network related security
  • Secures local as well as network platform
  • Not at all compression friendly
  • Open for compression at anytime
  • FAT32 allows conversions
  • Conversion is restricted
  • Win 95, 98, 2K, 2K3, XP
  • Win NT, 2K, XP and above

Corruption Issues Related to FAT and NTFS Windows File Systems

There can be a lot of issues related to FAT and NTFS file systems which if ignored may lead to corruption or failures on hard disk drives which may further add to data loss. Here’s a list of such issues:

Unknown Shutdown: This leads you to exit from the system in the most unexpected manner. Major causes of unknown shutdown may include:

  • Sudden power failure
  • Inappropriate shutdown
  • Irresponsive applications that leads to shutdown

Hardware Failure: If related hardware doesn’t perform in an appropriate manner, it causes data loss on hard disk drive. Few of the responsible factors are:

  • Reduced CPU fan performance
  • Over heated motherboard or hard disk drive
  • Interrupted RAM speed or function

Storage errors on hard disk: This may cause due to defects in hard drive. If the storage location contains errors, it further adds to affecting FAT and NTFS file systems. Probable causes for these errors could be:

  • Failure in BIOS
  • Crash in hard disk’s head
  • Bad sectors

The above listed issues lead to major corruption errors on hard disk drives. Thus, it is advised to always keep a timely check on hard disk performance. Do not overdo things with FAT or NTFS files as these works under certain limitations and over experimenting or improper handling may cause crucial data loss.

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