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What is exFAT FileSystem? Compare exFAT with FAT32 and NTFS

The exFAT file system is also known as the Extended File allocation Table. This file system is a proprietary product of Microsoft and is mainly used for use with SD cards and USB Flash drives. exFAT is an ideal option to manage audio and video files comprised of large file sizes. It also facilitates the seamless and hassle-free exchange of files between the devices, which uses removable storage, irrespective of the operating system or the device being used. A file system has an important role in determining the storage as well as retrieval of data. A file system could be considered a collection of algorithms and data structures capable of converting logical file operations to physical storage of information. Check the link if you want to know the key differences between APFS vs. macOS extended. In this article, we will be discussing the key attributes of an exFAT file system and how it compares with FAT32 and NTFS.

What is exFAT FileSystem? Compare exFAT with FAT32 and NTFS

Content Summary

Key Highlights of exFAT File System
Differences between exFAT, FAT32 and NTFS
Advantages of FAT32
Advantages of exFAT
Advantages of NTFS

Key Highlights of exFAT File System

  • Multiple open files
  • Multiple volumes
  • Differing sector sizes
  • Enhanced partition handling
  • Efficient management of media errors
  • ANSI ‘C’
  • Unicode 16

Differences between exFAT, FAT32 and NTFS

  1. FAT32 is the oldest file system introduced with Windows 95, whereas ex-FAT came with the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems. Even though it was introduced with Windows NT, it has been widely used after Windows XP.
  2. FAT32 is popular for its easy-to-use characteristics and is quick for access format purposes. However, exFAT is most suitable for flash drives, whereas NTFS is known to support file permissions, provide encryption and shadowing the copies for backup, etc.
  3. FAT32 works the best with most versions when it comes to Windows, Mac or Linux operating systems. exFAT, however, works with all versions of the Windows operating system only. NTFS is also compatible with the entire versions of Windows.
  4. FAT32 does not require a special configuration while using it with Mac devices. In contrast, exFAT with the entire versions of Windows and Mac OS X. Furthermore, it needs additional software when using the Linux operating system. NTFS is read-only with Apple’s macOS operating system. Similarly, it is read-only with a few versions of Linux also.
  5. Size specifications are there for the FAT32 file system. FAT32 supports a maximum file size of 4GB, whereas it helps a partition size of 8 TB. exFAT, however, does not have any specific file size or partition size limits. NTFS, also similar to exFAT, does not feature any particular file size or partition size limits.
  6. FAT32 is not as efficient as NTFS since it is one of the oldest file system types. exFAT is considered more of a modern alternative to FAT32. Even though it is not as popular as FAT32, it is still supported by more devices and operating systems. NTFS is the most modern file system among the three. Windows operating system makes use of NTFS system drive by default for a majority of the non-removable drives.

Advantages of FAT32

  • FAT32 supports 2 TB of drive sizes and even up to 16 TB with 64 KB clusters
  • The root folder that is used for the backup of FAT table copy can also be relocated using FAT32

Advantages of exFAT

  • The deleted files can be restored using exFAT
  • It can fix the formatted exFAT file system in Windows
  • It can recover the data easily from a hard drive, memory card, memory stick, USB drive etc
  • Files such as photos, documents, images, video, music etc. can be retrieved using exFAT
  • Files having larger sizes of more than 4GB could be stored using FAT32

Advantages of NTFS

  • Backing up of the boot sector is possible using the NTFS file system
  • The NTFS file system is compatible with both Linux and Mac OS operating systems
  • NTFS file system comes with enhanced support for larger file sizes
  • NTFS file system ensures enhanced security with users having the ability to set file permissions and encryption
  • NTFS system does not have partition size limits
  • It also reduces the number of accesses that is required for finding a file


This article lists the key differences between FAT 32, exFAT and NTFS file systems. In addition to it, we have also mentioned some of the key benefits of the three types of the file system. Apart from the benefits, each of the file system has its own set of drawbacks too. For example, FAT32 cannot accommodate a file size that is larger than 4GB. Similarly exFAT lacks many advanced features that are available with an NTFS file system. The NTFS file system however is slower compared to the other two file systems and is not compatible with MS-DOS, Windows 95 and Windows 98 systems.

Alex Lim is a certified IT Technical Support Architect with over 15 years of experience in designing, implementing, and troubleshooting complex IT systems and networks. He has worked for leading IT companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco, providing technical support and solutions to clients across various industries and sectors. Alex has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the National University of Singapore and a master’s degree in information security from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the author of several best-selling books on IT technical support, such as The IT Technical Support Handbook and Troubleshooting IT Systems and Networks. Alex lives in Bandar, Johore, Malaysia with his wife and two chilrdren. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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