Should I format my 16GB USB drive to NTFS or FAT32?

Louise Booth October 14, 2012
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I bought a 16GB usb drive and was wondering how I should I format it? NTFS or FAT32? I will be using it to store Microsoft Word, Excel and to store other documents but that’s about it!

I will be using it on a MacBook as well as Windows PCs, but as they’ll be public computers, it needs to be formated to work on most Microsoft operating systems.

Also what do I change the allocation unit size to?


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  1. Anish Parameshwaran
    February 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Unless you have Paragon's NTFS for Mac or another NTFS writer on your mac, I would suggest going with FAT32. The main drawback for FAT32 is that you're restricted to 32 GB of space, which isn't a problem since you're using a 16 GB USB drive. If you wish to use an external hard drive later on, which most likely will be more than 32 GB, then I would advise you to invest in Paragon's NTFS for Mac, or if you have 400 points, get a license from MUO's rewards page and install it on all the mac computers.

    • Anish Parameshwaran
      February 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Also, keep the allocation size at its default.

  2. Igor Rizvi?
    January 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Ntfs definetly..go with whats more up to date

  3. Sashritha Peiris
    December 12, 2012 at 3:58 am

    I recommed you you use NTFS and get the make use of reward on offer that helps you access NTFS from mac.

  4. Aniket Singh
    November 5, 2012 at 10:17 am

    always format pendrive and external flash drive to fat32 ather wise it may not work……

  5. Aniket Singh
    November 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

    always format pendrive and external flash drive to fat32 ather wise it may not work......

  6. Adam Campbell
    November 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    FAT32 for mac

  7. Gabriel Barron
    October 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Sorry NTFS lol dislexic fingers

  8. Gabriel Barron
    October 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Fat32 is nice because it works with Macs, However if you are like me i got the NFTS converter for mac from this great site... so it can work flawlessly on Macs. The benefit of this is, i own a PS3 and it only reads NFTS, So i am able to watch movies directly off of my HD. Where otherwise id have to have a separate formatted one.

  9. Bruno Piras
    October 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Best is FAT32 for more compatibility. But if you have files over 4GB, you must use NTFS or exFAT though, as FAT32 won't accept them.

  10. Tony Gonzaga
    October 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Use FAT32.

  11. Nicolas Loots
    October 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I recommend NTFS, but you'll need 3rd party software on your Mac to write on it.

  12. Kyriakos Aggeli
    October 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    If you're going to use it with macs and windows go for FAT32 . Be warned thought that you will not be able to move items larger than 3.99 GB.

  13. dhanunjayarao chunduri
    October 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    For overall compatibility, FAT32 would be best. But you since want to change it ntfs format then do it in windows 7 operating system.

  14. Alex Perkins
    October 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Fat32 for best compatibility.

  15. josemon maliakal
    October 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    if windows, recommended filesystem is ntfs

  16. Adjei Kofi
    October 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    FAT32 is recommended if it's going to be used across different operating systems

  17. Declan Lopez
    October 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    fat32 since you are using a mac

  18. Kaashif Haja
    October 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    To be short.. If your file size is in MB's, you can use FAT32.
    If it's in GB's, you can't move your files. you'll have to change to NTFS!

  19. Anonymous
    October 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

    if u want more secure filesystem go fot NTFS otherwise FAT32 is better for usual use. Won't take long and will give you more space to work with.

  20. louise booth
    October 17, 2012 at 12:12 am

    thank you all for your comments, I was leaning towards fat32 before i posted this question and i think i ll try that format.

    what about the allocation unit size- what do i change it to?


    • DalSan Mack
      October 17, 2012 at 5:16 am

      4Kb, which should be the default.

      • louise booth
        October 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

        thanks! will fat32 allow me to use the full 16gb? (minus the space the formating takes up obviously) and also is this format- fat32 suitable for storing pics as well as documents and software?
        thanks again!

        • DalSan Mack
          October 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm

          So long as you don't have files 4GB or larger, then you should be fine. Any file can be stored on any of the formats, but FAT32 is what is used for HDTVs and DVD players that accept USB drives to view pictures, videos, and music. Even video mp3 players are formatted in FAT32 to be compatible with most operating systems.

        • DalSan Mack
          October 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

          By the way, I'm using my 16GB flash drive formatted in FAT32 to store media files and portable programs. I use it for our XBox, Wii, laptops, and HDTVs to view pictures, videos, and play music. The portable apps I use on Windows 2000 and above computers, plus have bootable Linux and Android operating systems on it without any problems. Close to 15GB is usable after formatting.

  21. Tarek Ramadan
    October 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    if you plan to use it in MAC or in playstation or any other non pc device keep it FAT32

  22. Usman Mubashir
    October 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    FAT32 is compatible with most, but NTFS is faster. NTFS opens on XP but Im not sure about macs. If you want to save lots of small files, keep the allocation size to small, and vice versa.
    64kb allocation size will mean that even a 10kb file takes 64 kb, but if you keep allocation size to minimum more space will be reserved for formatting and you'll be left with less space (not significantly low, only few Mbs)

  23. Dave Rimmer
    October 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Louise
    MUO have a very good guide on how to do it here -


  24. Jim Chambers
    October 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    FAT32 gives you more file storage space.

  25. Harry Barnes
    October 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    i would use fat32, as it is the most widely compatible one, but it doesn't really matter, as you can go back and change it later.

  26. Alex Perkins
    October 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    FAT32 as Mac doesn't like NTFS.

  27. Ahmed Khalil
    October 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Fat32 is what you should format your USB with

  28. vivek yadav
    October 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    FAT32 it'll work on both mac and pc. but u wont be able to transfer more then 4 gb of file...

  29. Rajaa Chowdhury
    October 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Would suggest NTFS due to better security. Also MACs can read NTFS too as likewise to FAT32

  30. Hiren Patel
    October 16, 2012 at 6:11 am

    FAT32 as per compatibility.

  31. Scott Reyes
    October 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Ntfs is mainly used for windows operating systems. That being said it is best suited towards larger filesystems than FAT32. FAT32 Is compattible with most machines and is best suited for smaller file transfers.There is FAT16 but it isn't as good as FAT32 overall. Finally, exFAT Is best for windows 7 operating systems and better than FAT32 as far as not wearing down flash memory but with less compatibility.

  32. Philbert Desenex
    October 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Fat32 will give you more compatibility.

  33. Raja Pradeep
    October 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    USB flash drives should be formatted with FAT32 file sytems.

  34. Dany Bouffard
    October 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I also recommend FAT32, but do remember that FAT32 has a file size limit of 2,047 GB SO you wont be able to put file larger than these on the USB Drive.

  35. Bodi Hemanth
    October 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    you can do it. but recomonded FAT 32 for mac systems.

  36. Vishal Mishra
    October 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    NTFS, as they are faster in that format.

  37. Saurabh Banwaskar
    October 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    NTFS Is Nice For Bootable USBs

    Go For FAT32 It's Nice And Recommended

  38. Anonymous
    October 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Use Fat32

  39. uday kanna
    October 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    you cannot transfer a file of size more than 4gb into FAT32

  40. Jan Fritsch
    October 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Assuming that the MacBook is your own both FAT32 or NTFS are an option. You can get NTFS support on a Mac and it's supported on Windows.

    The safest option however will be FAT32 as it is natively supported by both, no need for third party drivers on the Mac.

    While the suggested exFAT is a nice file system you may face a problem with older Windows XP installations – at least that's my experience – and if you don't have administrative rights you will be "lost".

  41. Taylor Marchetta
    October 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Three things to note.
    When using NTFS on a mac you can only read the drive. (there are several around this)
    When using fat 32 on all systems you can only transfer port files up to four gigs.
    And NTFS is much more secure.
    I would recommend using NTFS with the program on your Mac called "MacFuse"

  42. ha14
    October 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    depends on how you will use your USB key, if you want to watch movies from USB key on TV then FAT32 should be the format.

    exFAT Versus FAT32 Versus NTFS

  43. Anonymous
    October 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    If you are using both Mac and pc and they are public public computers or otherwise not under your control, then you should definitely use fat32. Macs can be made to read ntfs but if its not your computer then you have no guarantee that it is ready to do so.

  44. Anandu B Ajith
    October 15, 2012 at 11:53 am


  45. kumar raja
    October 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

    NTFS is the nice one.

  46. Adrian Rea
    October 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Fat 32 is recommended but also conside encrpting and paswording your files as they are as accessible on FAT32 as they are on NTFS. I am not sure if Mac reads NTFS out of the box.

  47. Imesh Chandrasiri
    October 15, 2012 at 9:18 am

    go for NTFS, since it's more secure..

  48. Raghav Gupta
    October 15, 2012 at 7:17 am

    FAT32 is recommended

  49. Raj Sarkar
    October 15, 2012 at 5:46 am

    If exFAT is available use that else FAT32.

    • Justin Pot
      October 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Yeah, exFAT is a good choice, unless you'll be using Linux as well. Don't think that's the case here.

  50. Sanjay Rajvanshi
    October 15, 2012 at 2:42 am

    for windows ntfs is more tidy also for mac you will need a separate partition .
    If you are going to use the drive as a system or 'boot' drive, with the Mac OS on it, then you would want to select 'Mac OS Extended (Journaled). If you will be using the drive as a 'scratch' drive select Mac OS Extended.

  51. Sachin Kanchan
    October 15, 2012 at 1:45 am

    FAT32 should be your go.

    use NTFS only when you need to format a computer via the usb drive.

  52. DalSan Mack
    October 15, 2012 at 12:17 am

    For overall compatibility, FAT32 would be best. If there is the of chance that you want to connect your USB drive to an HDTV or DVD player that accepts USB drives to view pictures, videos, or music, FAT32 is required, plus Mac needs FAT32 format to be able to read it unless NTFS drivers are installed. NTFS is a Microsoft standard, meaning it isn't as compatible with other systems as you may like. The only real time I would use NTFS on a USB drive is to use it for Ready Boost on Windows Vista or higher since it would allow up to 256GB to be used for Ready Boost instead of 4GB. Allocation size should be 4Kb, which normally is the default.

  53. Yiz Borol
    October 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I'd recommend using FAT32 if you're using it with Macs.

    • salim benhouhou
      October 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      i agree with you Yiz

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