Windows File System Types
Windows supports different ﬁle systems.
File System and Description
FAT (File Allocation Table) : An older ﬁle system that is best suited for use with drives less than 4 GB in size. The primary advantages of the FAT ﬁle system are its extremely low disk overhead (less than 1 MB), and its compatibility with many different operating systems, including all versions of Windows and also MS-DOS and UNIX. You might use the FAT ﬁle system if you want to dual-boot a computer between a version of Windows and another operating system. It is primarily used for formatting ﬂoppy disks.
FAT32 : An enhanced version of the FAT ﬁle system. It scales better to large hard drives (up to 2 terabytes in size) and uses a smaller cluster size than FAT for more efficient space usage.
NTFS (NT File System): The recommend ﬁle system for today’s Windows-based computers. NTFS was introduced with the Windows NT operating system and is sometimes read as NT File System. NTFS provides many enhanced features over FAT or FAT32, including ﬁle- and folder-level security, ﬁle encryption, disk compression, and scalability to very large drives and ﬁles.
Media ﬁle systems: Windows also supports various types of special media ﬁle system formats, such as CD File System (CDFS) for CD-ROM devices.
Disk Clusters and File System Types
When you format drives, you organize the drive into individual data storage areas called sectors. Sectors are grouped together into larger units called clusters or allocation units. A cluster is the smallest unit that the system will use to store a ﬁle. If a ﬁle does not ﬁll a cluster, the extra space in the cluster remains empty.
The size of sectors and clusters is determined by the ﬁle system you use to format the drive. Smaller allocation units reduce unused space on the disk, but can also reduce disk read/write performance because there are more locations to access on the disk. The smaller cluster sizes that FAT32 offered were of more beneﬁt when disk space was costly and most drives used FAT; very large hard drives are now relatively inexpensive. In any case, you should generally use NTFS on Windows partitions to gain the security beneﬁts.