Why Your USB Drive’s File Format Matters: FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS

We generally copy files of movies, songs or anything important into our USB keys. But did you ever find out why a file of just 10 GB cannot stand out in a USB key of 32 GB? You get to have alerts saying that the file is very big for the file systems destination. That is the case when you require having a check on the format of the file to be transferred or copied. Thus the question aroused is absolute relevant that – Why your USB drive’s file format matters: FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS.


These are the cases when you really need to understand and have some idea regarding the file formatting. Formatting the file and making it to get worked on the different platforms is something to be added and mentioned. Well, before starting let me make it clear to you that in here you will be given a profound and brief knowledge regarding FAT32, exFAT and NTFS file formats. The proficiency of the knowledge holds both the advantages and disadvantages of using them in your system.

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Why your USB drive’s file format matters: FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS

In here I will be discussing three pieces of file formatting systems that will include both the plus and minus. It is you to decide which file format you require to use depending on their suitable platforms.

NTFS: New Technology File System or the NTFS is the latest file system which is almost the de facto file system for modern internal SSD and Hard Drive created by Microsoft. The attractive plus feature is that the default file system has the full technology – journaling, no definite file size limitation, supports compression of files and long names of files.

It also does file access control for server administrators including many other features too. You can use all your drives ranging from removal to internal in NTFS. The only minus attribute is that MAC and OSes can only read NTFS. Third-party softwares are needed for editing or making any sort of alteration. Therefore, cross platform sharing is not approvable in this case. It can only be used for PCs that has Windows as their supporting platforms.

FAT32: File Allocation Table is one of the oldest file formatting system that ranges its limit up to 4GB. The file size of FAT32 is the biggest limit to use it for today’s 4K video files and BluRay rips. Well, it can be suitable for sharing small sized files in between computers. It is definitely a good system for usage as it can be worked in any PC whether it is Windows, Mac, Linux boxes and vintage machines that uses USB of size 2.0.

exFAT: Present is the renovation of the past and so is the name exFAT. Microsoft has created the replacement of FAT32 and named it as exFAT. This file support system has been introduced in the Windows Vista SP1 and is compatible with PC and MAC. The lowest size of exFAT is 16 EB i.e. Exabytes. Therefore if you are in a need of sharing any large file then exFAT is the best option found.

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Though Microsoft is the proprietor of this technology but Apple has also been given license to use it for its OSes. It does not have any negativity as such except the fact that it does not provide you journaling functionality. That means, before actually performing any kind of changes to the files they are being loggeed. Another downside of the exFAT, Apple’s Time Machine software does not support this one.


Thus the answers lie for the question of – Why your USB drive’s file format matters: FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS. You may choose FAT32 if the file size ranges up to only 4 GB. This does not require any Windows platform to be shared. You may opt for cross platform share. Another best option to have a cross platform share is exFAT. The file size ranges from 16 GB to anything possible you can think about. But, if you are only concerned about sharing flexible sized files within Windows, then NTFS is the best choice you have.      

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