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You may not know it, but choosing the right filesystem for your drives is actually pretty important. Although the main idea of all filesystems is the same, there are many advantages and disadvantages with each one.
While there are lots of filesystems out there, we’ll be looking at the most popular two, FAT32 and NTFS.
About the Filesystems
FAT32 used to be the default filesystem for many of the older, non-NT versions of Windows, such as Windows 95, 98, and ME. The original FAT specification was introduced in 1980, while the compatible FAT32 specification was introduced in 1996. More recently, an incompatible exFAT specification has been introduced that is meant to replace the use of the old FAT.
Meanwhile, NTFS (or “New Technology File System”) was introduced in 1993, but has received many improvements over the years along with newer operating systems. While it is not used for removable storage (where FAT-type filesystems are prevalent), it is the best choice for hard drives because of the many features that it offers. The only reason NTFS is not used on removable storage is because it generates a lot of write operations to keep track of. Removing the storage device before those writes complete could potentially corrupt the data on the storage device.
NTFS Advantages Over FAT32
So what is it exactly that makes NTFS better? Unlike FAT32, NTFS is a journaling filesystem. The “journal” keeps track of changes before they actually happen, so in case the system crashes in the middle of a disc operation, disks with journaling filesystems are easier to recover.
NTFS also includes improved support for metadata; it uses advanced data structures to improve performance, reliability, and disk space utilization, and includes security access control lists.
NTFS is also capable of holding files larger than 4GB, and larger partitions can be created with NTFS instead of FAT32. FAT32 is relatively simple, and doesn’t do much for the user except hold files and some metadata. Any other differences between the two are highly technical and I won’t mention them here.
How to Reformat your Hard Drive
So how can you reformat a hard drive to NTFS? There are three different ways you can do this.
First, you can go into Computer/My Computer, right click on the drive you want to reformat (make sure your data is backed up somewhere else), and click on Format. Change whatever settings you would like as long as you have NTFS selected as the filesystem, and hit Format.
You can also right click on Computer/My Computer and click on Manage. Then, in the open window, click on Disk Management under Storage in the left pane, and wait for the service to load. From here, you can shrink, grow, delete, and reformat your partitions as you wish. Just remember to choose NTFS when you do.
Finally, you can use a third party software to do the partitioning. Often, you’ll need to burn them onto a CD if you don’t have it in CD form already, and boot off of it. From there you’ll have a lot of partitioning options to choose from. If you need one, let me suggest GParted‘s LiveCD.
Choosing the right filesystem is important not only for optimal functionality but also performance and piece of mind. With NTFS, you’re making a great choice for permanent storage devices that should let you use your computer to the fullest. In addition to the benefits of NTFS, many various operating systems including Mac OS X and Linux can work with NTFS, so why not use it?
Which filesystem do you prefer the most? Why? Let us know in the comments!