FAT32 vs NTFS

zsnp

Junior Member
Mar 16, 2017
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There was a thread earlier here about pros and cons of various file systems.
I just wanted to make a note here that I did notice a significant performance increase when using FAT32 over NTFS. Everybody says FAT32 is bad, but it's not true. FAT32 may have some limitations, but being slow is not one of them. I have a 500GB FAT32 partition on my desktop with most of my work, then I have a 50GB NTFS partition where I store large files that FAT32 cannot save.
 

JackMDS

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The Problems With FAT32 (or Why Microsoft Created NTFS)
Microsoft created NTFS to improve on FAT32 in a variety of different ways. To understand why Windows uses NTFS, we have to look at the problems with FAT32 and how NTFS fixed them:

  • FAT32 only supports individual files up to 4GB in size and volumes up to 2TB in size. For example, if you had a large video file over 4GB in size, you just couldn’t save it on the FAT32 file system. if you had a 3TB drive, you couldn’t format it as a single FAT32 partition. NTFS has much higher theoretical limits.
  • FAT32 isn’t a journaling file system, which means that file system corruption can happen much more easily. With NTFS, changes are logged to a “journal” on the drive before they’re actually made. If the computer loses power in the middle of a file being written, the system won’t need a long scandisk operation to recover.
  • FAT32 doesn’t support file permissions. With NTFS, file permissions allow for increased security. System files can be made read-only so typical programs can’t touch them, users can be prevented from looking at other users’ data, and so on.\
Quote from (and more about the topic) - https://www.howtogeek.com/177529/htg-explains-why-are-removable-drives-still-using-fat32-instead-of-ntfs/


:cool:
 
Feb 25, 2011
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Isn't FAT32's minimum file size something absurd, or did MS get around to implementing 4k allocations?
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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The only reason I would consider FAT32 is compatibility with other operating systems, though most up-to-date ones have sound NTFS support IIRC? If so, then just older MS OS's (e.g. Win9x).
 

Sheep221

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Oct 28, 2012
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The only reason I would consider FAT32 is compatibility with other operating systems, though most up-to-date ones have sound NTFS support IIRC? If so, then just older MS OS's (e.g. Win9x).
Other in this case would be older or old systems, no desktop OS today works on FAT32 only. NTFS was offered by default since Windows 2000. It's archaic to use FAT32 at this point for anything else than low capacity flash drives and memory cards.
Can't answer if the FAT32 itself cause to HDDs work faster, but with it's frequent data corruption and read errors after unexpected shutdown. freeze or system crash I'd say it will make your computer less reliable and will work slower over a time.
 

VirtualLarry

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Aug 25, 2001
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It's much easier to do manual file(system) recovery with FAT32, than it is with the proprietary and un/ill-documented NTFS. I used to run FAT32 for my OS drive, on older PCs, for this reason.
 
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zsnp

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Mar 16, 2017
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It was pretty dumb for Microsoft to set the file size limit to 4GB. Oh, well. I have to admit I have close to a million files on my hard drive, and only 5 of them exceed the 4G limit. I store those five files on the NTFS drive.

I don't see how a journaling file system would make a disk safer. Sure, we save data to a "journal," but that data has to be written to its final destination eventually. If we have a power outage just at that right moment, we're screwed. I have had a FAT32 file system forever, and I have never lost an important file yet due to a crash or file system error.

"FAT32 doesn’t support file permissions."
Yes, and this is one of those things which makes least sense. Why are file permissions even necessary? If you want to share files, why can't you just flip a switch and share the contents of ONE specific folder, not your entire computer? Same is true for other users. If you want to add a new user, the new user will get a private folder. Anything inside his folder and the publicly shared folder he should be able to see. But anything outside of those two spaces should be invisible to him (unless he is administrator). See, I think, computer designers have designed computers to be far too complicated.
 

escrow4

Diamond Member
Feb 4, 2013
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There was a thread earlier here about pros and cons of various file systems.
I just wanted to make a note here that I did notice a significant performance increase when using FAT32 over NTFS. Everybody says FAT32 is bad, but it's not true. FAT32 may have some limitations, but being slow is not one of them. I have a 500GB FAT32 partition on my desktop with most of my work, then I have a 50GB NTFS partition where I store large files that FAT32 cannot save.
*Speechless*
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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It was pretty dumb for Microsoft to set the file size limit to 4GB.
FAT32 was released in 1996 to replace a filesystem whose volume/partition size limit was 4GB. HDDs in that era were reaching 4GB. My first PC was purchased in 1997 and had a 2GB HDD. I don't think 4GB file sizes were a likely scenario back then, frankly they're not even that commonplace now except in fairly specific scenarios (two off the top of my head - heavy MS Outlook users and large video content creators).

Yes, and this is one of those things which makes least sense. Why are file permissions even necessary?
  • For an OS to implement a multi-user environment in a way that's more than just a bad joke.
  • User data privacy
  • To allow a user that you don't trust with full admin privs to use a computer without having to worry about what they're going to do to it
  • Better software security, so that you're not running every bit of software with administrative privileges, so when that software is hit with a security exploit, it doesn't have full access to everything straight away.
  • Business environments with layered security and where employees aren't given full access to all business documents

Why on earth are you still using FAT32? It seems as silly as advocating that people should still be using 8.3 filename naming conventions, "just in case".
 
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corkyg

Elite Member | Peripherals
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Mar 4, 2000
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Is not FAT32 still required for a bootable thumb drive format?
 

zsnp

Junior Member
Mar 16, 2017
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If you want to know why I use FAT32, it's precisely because of file permissions. I hate them! I had Windows 7 installed on two different hard drives. One of them had older data, and the other had newer data. When I tried to copy my files from my old hard drive to the new one, Windows 7 did not let me into my own user folder, because it claimed that it belonged to another user and I had no permission to access it. To heck with it! Those are my own files. How come I cannot access my own files? That's when I said I had enough of this stupid file system. I am switching to FAT32 once and for all!

* For an OS to implement a multi-user environment...
* User data privacy
* To allow a user that you don't trust...
* Business environments...

See, none of those apply to me. I am not a business.
I am an individual, and I am the only one who uses
my computer.

This is what's wrong with Microsoft. They assume that every computer
is going to be used in a multi-user environment where security is such a
huge issue. It's not. Most computers are used by individuals who don't
share their computers with anyone else. Yet they are forced to use a
file system designed for a business enterprise.
 
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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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If you want to know why I use FAT32, it's precisely because of file permissions. I hate them! I had Windows 7 installed on two different hard drives. One of them had older data, and the other had newer data. When I tried to copy my files from my old hard drive to the new one, Windows 7 did not let me into my own user folder, because it claimed that it belonged to another user and I had no permission to access it. To heck with it! Those are my own files. How come I cannot access my own files? That's when I said I had enough of this stupid file system. I am switching to FAT32 once and for all!
So you click the button that says 'continue'. It will then allow you in and you copy whatever you want out of it. On a non-system volume, if you really dislike file permissions, then change all the permissions to everyone:full in the drive properties. You won't hear a peep out of it again with regard to permissions.

Is that really the sole basis of your argument, having to click one button, once in a blue moon? Otherwise if I had to dual-boot two NTx versions of Windows and wanted access to both of my user folders, I'd just modify permissions of each user folder to allow my user in the other OS access, thus getting all the benefits of a decent, modern and resilient file system while having the convenience of access without having to hop through a particular hoop on a regular basis.
 

zsnp

Junior Member
Mar 16, 2017
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When you click to access the files, Windows 7 reads through the entire directory structure of the user folder, looking for something, and if you happen to have a lot of files like I do, it takes forever. So, I got a really neat program called DESKTOP2.EXE. It switches your desktop to another folder or drive. So, I switched mine to my home folder on the FAT32 drive. I don't use the C:\User\myfolder anymore. Besides, when I do a clean install of Windows, I erase the entire drive anyway, so why should I store my documents on the same drive with Windows. It's much more efficient this way. I have everything on a tiny laptop hard drive. I got a USB converter. I just stick it into any USB plug on any computer. It could be DOS or Windows 98 or XP or Windows 7 or 10 or any type of Linux or Apple, and I got instant access to all my files. Every OS can read and write FAT32, because it's the standard format for USB pendrives. So, if you store your files on FAT32 system, then that means you can access your files using any computer. Just plug in the USB and viola! You can read/write all your files. Even older linux systems that cannot read/write NTFS drives can access FAT32 file systems.
 
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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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So, I got a really neat program called DESKTOP2.EXE. It switches your desktop to another folder or drive. So, I switched mine to my home folder on the FAT32 drive. I don't use the C:\User\myfolder anymore. Besides, when I do a clean install of Windows, I erase the entire drive anyway, so why should I store my documents on the same drive with Windows.
When you click to access the files, Windows 7 reads through the entire directory structure of the user folder, looking for something, and if you happen to have a lot of files like I do, it takes forever.
So you wouldn't even need to click on that one button, once, as I said.

It's much more efficient this way. I have everything on a tiny laptop hard drive. I got a USB converter. I just stick it into any USB plug on any computer. It could be DOS or Windows 98 or XP or Windows 7 or 10 or any type of Linux or Apple, and I got instant access to all my files. Every OS can read and write FAT32, because it's the standard format for USB pendrives.
Actually, it isn't. More often that not these days it's exFAT (possibly due to licensing issues), which even Windows XP isn't even compatible with unless you install an official patch that doesn't come down via Windows Update. MS-DOS can't even read USB storage devices, nor can Win9x until you get to (IIRC) WinME. Windows NT4 can't read FAT32 or exFAT, and only FAT32 with a third party driver; specific versions of NT4 don't like certain partition sizes, Win95 RTM can't read FAT32 full stop, later versions can only handle 128GB volumes. The fact that you're not aware of these compatibility issues is sufficient proof of how flawed your usage argument is.

So, if you store your files on FAT32 system, then that means you can access your files using any computer. Just plug in the USB and viola! You can read/write all your files. Even older linux systems that cannot read/write NTFS drives can access FAT32 file systems.
Linux's has had NTFS read/write support since 2003, ditto OS X (read only though). How much older do you want to go back?

What kind of scenarios do you anticipate needing cross platform, read/write support for all your personal files, regardless of the age of machine? I don't know about you, but I do plenty of work on older operating systems, but not once has there been a scenario that wasn't resolved by dumping a handful of files on a USB flash drive or onto a CD/DVD, nor was there a scenario where NTFS became a problem. Furthermore, if the machine is really old and I need a significant amount of data from it, it is far, far faster to remove the HDD from that machine, connect it to my own via an enclosure and reap the benefits of USB3.0 and a far more capable processor.

Furthermore, I'd think twice about plugging my primary storage system into some ancient machine: Malware, iffy hardware causing USB oddities, a FAT32/NTFS implementation that's not the best (or perhaps doesn't like say a >32GB volume). Backups aside, cleaning up after a screw-up like that is a hassle I can do without.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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Why on earth are you still using FAT32? It seems as silly as advocating that people should still be using 8.3 filename naming conventions, "just in case".
I still try to keep filenames short and old-school, because:

1) tab completion in some terminals has trouble with spaces in file names.

2) Windows still freaks out with pathnames >255 characters, which I run into fairly frequently. Usually when I download a github project that was created on a Linux system, and somebody decides to do something "clever" to guarantee a unique filename or folder name, like "mkdir $('md5sum output.tmp')"
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I keep folder names short for pretty much the reason you specified, though the only times I encounter the problem is on customers' computers where they've saved one absurdly long-name file/folder inside another, inside another. I don't stick to 8-letter names though, even the datestring I normally use in many cases exhausts that :)
 

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