Why is fat32 so much faster?

Imdmn04

Platinum Member
Jan 28, 2002
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I have noticed that when I make my boot drive fat32, winXP boots about 20 seconds faster than a NTFS formatted boot drive, both times are tested after a fresh install of XP with nothing else installed. Also, hd tests from pcpitstop.com also concurred that my fat32 drive is about 25 percent to 30 percent faster than my ntfs drive.

But it seems that Windows XP doesnt like fat32 at all, in fact, when I use a drive larger than 40GBs, during the XP setup screen, I dont even have the option to format the drive in fat32, I had to use the Maxtor utility in order to format to fat32 for drives larger than 40GBs.

So there must be some kinda advantage in using the NTFS system by default in WinXP even with the substantial speed loss, and what might that be?
 

bigpow

Platinum Member
Dec 10, 2000
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FAT32 = larger cluster size = faster access time for big/huge files. (good for a windows temp. partition)

NTFS 1.03 (XP) = safer (support encryption if you have XP Pro or Win2003), save space, higher limitation on partition size, etc?
 

blazerazor

Golden Member
Aug 28, 2003
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You can't use FAT32 with XP???

Dude this is news to me!! I'm going to try this out cause my boot up on my laptop with xpPro P3-1ghz/320mem crawls compared to my 2500AMD/DFI/256mem setup.

Can you use a 98bootDisk to fdisk and make FAT32 then just install xp tellin it not to format/use exsisting file system???

Who cares about encryption when your a home user playing games, surfing, and listening to mp3's???
 

MDE

Lifer
Jul 17, 2003
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XP can read FAT32 partitions, but it limits new partitions to 32GB I believe. Also, FAT32 has a 2GB file size limitation.
 

blazerazor

Golden Member
Aug 28, 2003
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Can you install xp on a partitioned section of HD in FAT32 and them put NTFS on rest for slower file like mp3's and keep fast os stuff on fat32 in front partition??
 

Sunner

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
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Originally posted by: Imdmn04
I have noticed that when I make my boot drive fat32, winXP boots about 20 seconds faster than a NTFS formatted boot drive, both times are tested after a fresh install of XP with nothing else installed. Also, hd tests from pcpitstop.com also concurred that my fat32 drive is about 25 percent to 30 percent faster than my ntfs drive.

But it seems that Windows XP doesnt like fat32 at all, in fact, when I use a drive larger than 40GBs, during the XP setup screen, I dont even have the option to format the drive in fat32, I had to use the Maxtor utility in order to format to fat32 for drives larger than 40GBs.

So there must be some kinda advantage in using the NTFS system by default in WinXP even with the substantial speed loss, and what might that be?

Considdering my rig isn't too unlike yours, except with(possible?) a faster HD, I have an 180GXP/8MB for my boot drive, I'd say something is funny with your install as a fresh XP install doesn't take 20 seconds to boot alltogether.

Aside from that, there should be no noticeable difference in speed, in some benches FAT32 will be faster, others NTFS, but overall, they'll be fairly even and NTFS will be clearly superior in all other ways.

It's strange that the benchmarks show a big difference though, is everything appliec correctly? Service pack? VIA drivers, etc?
 

Imdmn04

Platinum Member
Jan 28, 2002
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Considdering my rig isn't too unlike yours, except with(possible?) a faster HD, I have an 180GXP/8MB for my boot drive, I'd say something is funny with your install as a fresh XP install doesn't take 20 seconds to boot alltogether.

Aside from that, there should be no noticeable difference in speed, in some benches FAT32 will be faster, others NTFS, but overall, they'll be fairly even and NTFS will be clearly superior in all other ways.

It's strange that the benchmarks show a big difference though, is everything appliec correctly? Service pack? VIA drivers, etc?


Well boot times aside, I bought an 8meg cache 200GB just recently as a storage drive, I've compared the results from speed tests using fat32 and ntfs on this drive, the fat32 was clearly faster.

I dont think there is anything wrong of the way that my system is set-up under winxp, because back when I used win2000, the fat drive still booted faster than ntfs.

I have no doubt that ntfs system takes a performance hit compared to fat32, but I'm just wondering what are some of the benefits of ntfs over fat32 and see if it outweighs the performance hit, and to know if I should switch over to ntfs, and from the replies of this thread, it looks like if I'm just a home pc user, doesnt really care about security, I should just stick to fat32.
 

InlineFive

Diamond Member
Sep 20, 2003
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Originally posted by: blazerazor
Can you install xp on a partitioned section of HD in FAT32 and them put NTFS on rest for slower file like mp3's and keep fast os stuff on fat32 in front partition??

This is why all new computers come with NTFS installed because it can format more space.
 

maluckey

Platinum Member
Jan 31, 2003
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I have to agree that something is amiss. In most every performance review that I have read, I've seen that FAT32 versus NTFS is almost a wash. As far as cluster size, you can change that in NTFS to suit your needs. NTFS doesn't really care much about fragmentation, and it is far more secure and crash-proof than FAT32.

As far as formatting larger than 32 GB, I just loaded an 80GB 6Y080P0 Maxtor without a hitch, all in one partition. If you didn't FDISK the hdd before attempting formatting in NTFS, you often encounter issues like you described, because you didn't erase the MFT. For an easier conversion if you already have FAT32, you can use the convert command from the command prompt within XP, and avoid issues altogether. The newer build of XP (with SP-1) can format a raw disk without a hitch. Just insert a raw hdd, and let XP do the rest. I have heard however, that the upgrade-only XP and XP-Pro can be a real headache to use to try and setup a new drive. You can convert the XP-upgrade only version to the full version with SP-1 (downloaded for free) integrated for the cost of a CD, and avoid all the hassles. That way you can insert a raw hdd and partition and format from there.

 

DaTT

Garage Moderator
Moderator
Feb 13, 2003
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Originally posted by: Imdmn04
Considdering my rig isn't too unlike yours, except with(possible?) a faster HD, I have an 180GXP/8MB for my boot drive, I'd say something is funny with your install as a fresh XP install doesn't take 20 seconds to boot alltogether.

Aside from that, there should be no noticeable difference in speed, in some benches FAT32 will be faster, others NTFS, but overall, they'll be fairly even and NTFS will be clearly superior in all other ways.

It's strange that the benchmarks show a big difference though, is everything appliec correctly? Service pack? VIA drivers, etc?


Well boot times aside, I bought an 8meg cache 200GB just recently as a storage drive, I've compared the results from speed tests using fat32 and ntfs on this drive, the fat32 was clearly faster.

I dont think there is anything wrong of the way that my system is set-up under winxp, because back when I used win2000, the fat drive still booted faster than ntfs.

I have no doubt that ntfs system takes a performance hit compared to fat32, but I'm just wondering what are some of the benefits of ntfs over fat32 and see if it outweighs the performance hit, and to know if I should switch over to ntfs, and from the replies of this thread, it looks like if I'm just a home pc user, doesnt really care about security, I should just stick to fat32.


I wonder if the same questions were asked when fat32 took over fat16
 

prosaic

Senior member
Oct 30, 2002
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In an attempt to correct quickly what I think may be a few misapprehensions that have been expressed in this thread so far --

1. FAT32 partitions can be quite large, much larger than the 2 gigabyte limit imposed by FAT16.

2. The size limitation (32 GB) imposed upon FAT32 partitions by WinXP at the time of partition setup is a result of the disk partitioning code in that operating system. The "FDISK" in Windows XP has to meet a number of criteria that other FDISK utilities do not, one of those criteria being that it must set the partition boundaries in such a manner that a later use of the CONVERT utilities to convert the file system from FAT32 to NTFS on that partition will result in optimal (4 kilobyte) file allocation unit sizes. If one wishes to set up a larger-than-32 GB partition for use with WinXP all (s)he has to do is to use a different partitioning tool -- such as one from a DOS-based Windows version or even from one of the later DOS versions. I don't recommend it, though.

3. Use of CONVERT is not without drawbacks. If you create a FAT32 partition with a different partitioning tool than the one provided with WinXP and then use CONVERT to switch that partition to NTFS you will usually (always?) wind up with 512 byte fille allocation units. That is generally NOT a good idea and will result in reduced file system performance in most instances.

4. You can find some solid (and more detailed) information on FAT32 vs. NTFS in Andy Hui's excellent FAQ on the subject.

- prosaic
 

THUGSROOK

Elite Member
Feb 3, 2001
11,847
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FAT32 is indeed faster.

youll need a WIN98 bootdisk with the updated (WinME) fdisk to setup the HD (the way you want) before installing WinXP.

please keep in mind how FAT32 works for cluster sizes.....
upto 8gb = 4k clusters
upto 16gb = 8k clusters
upto 32gb = 16k clusters
beyond 32gb = 32k clusters

i dont suggest going higher then a 64gb partition, but you can do it if you wish.

HTH :)