Should I format my Flash drives in NTFS or FAT32?

Osama Javaid March 24, 2012
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In which format should I format my USB flash drives (8 GB each) ?

  1. louise
    October 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    i bought a 16GB usb. how should i format it? in FAT32? will be using it to store microsoft word, excel etc.. and to store documents but thats about it!! also what do i change the allocation unit size to?

    forgot to mention I will be using it on macbook as well as microsoft computers, but as they ll be public computers, it needs to be formated to work on most microsoft operating systems.

  2. Christopher Royall
    August 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Hello Osama,

    I realize that his question was asked a few months ago, however, I wanted to expand, and clarify on some of the posted comments, without actually referring to any single comment left.

    First of all FAT32 is the most common default for most USB drives that you purchase, and most if not all come pre-formatted for immediate use in most OS systems on the market today. This is primarily so that a user can work on a file in multiple systems, without conversion. Also the FAT32 system has a faster read/write time as well in at least the Windows system.

    So, if you plan to just be using your drive for the purpose of storing documents, music, and/or media files that are smaller than 2GB, FAT32 will suffice. However, if you plan to store larger files on your drive (without breaking them up with an archiver such as RAR or ZIP formats), you will need your drive formatted as NTFS. Also, if you plan, or think at any time in the future, you want to install a Windows OS from USB, rather than a DVD, then the drive will have to be formatted as NTFS. While windows provides a formatter now to install an OS to USB for this purpose, that same formatter will wipe everything ahead of time off the drive, so if you have an inkling that you may one day need to do this, then you should have your drive formatted as NTFS to save the extra time of backing up the USB drive, formatting, and restoring files to it later.

    I noticed that someone stated that NTFS could not be read by MAC OS, however, MAC OS X does have read only access built in for this purpose, and Google has a tool as well called MACFuse to make it writable for you from MAC as well.

    Hope this expounds on the subject enough to give you or anyone else wanting to know which way to go.

    • Christopher Royall
      August 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      I also wanted to add, while FAT32 and NTFS were discussed here, there are other formats that can be used on FLASH drives as well depending on the OS being worked on/with.

  3. Deep Moteria
    July 19, 2012 at 5:13 am

    You should go for ntfs as if you do fat32 than it will not allow you to copy data file more than a particular GB I think 10 GB. so go for ntfs

  4. Sandipan
    April 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Windows formats flash drives on FAT32 by default

  5. Simon
    March 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I think you'll find the data transfer rate is much faster on fat

  6. James Hyde
    March 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    If you're working with larger files or portable apps, then NTFS is the way to go. For casual use or documents, FAT32 is sufficient.

    March 26, 2012 at 7:09 am

     Hello, I would say for a flashdrive under 32GBs the best format would be FAT32,

  8. Sparten1
    March 25, 2012 at 1:54 am

    I think Windows expects to see Fat32 on a flashdrive. Also works on Linux.

  9. Reý Aetar
    March 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Go for FAT as you will not find any difference in performance ..
    And NTFS file system consumes some extra space ..
    just use both file systems one by one and check the difference in available free space you will find a difference.

    • Osama
      March 25, 2012 at 5:35 am

       yeah NTFS consumes just 66 MB on my 8GB hard drive

      • Andre
        June 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

        What are you doing with an 8GB Hard drive?

  10. Kagnon
    March 24, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Just a few things which can help you choose.
    1. Mac can't write into NTFS (So fat32 if you need Mac)
    2. You can't put files larger than 4GB into FAT32
    3. If using NTFS, remember to format NTFS permissions to everyone or it can cause problems.

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