NTFS vs exFAT vs FAT32 File System Comparison

While formatting any internal drive, external drive, USB flash drive, or SD card, you’ll get a drop down option for selecting a file system which would generally have NTFS, exFAT or FAT32 as the options. Windows does not explain what different file system means but we are going to. In this article we will cover a comparison of NTFS vs exFAT vs FAT32.

ntfs vs exfat

Comparison table of NTFS vs exFAT vs FAT32

CompatibilityWindows, Mac, Linux,
game consoles
Windows, read-only with Mac,
read-only with most Linux,
no game console support
Windows, Mac, Linux with
additional software,
game consoles
LimitsMaximum file size- 4GB,
Maximum partition size- 8GB
No realistic limits.No realistic limits.
Ideal UseRemovable devices like
USB flash drive
Windows system drive and
other internal drives
Removable devices like
USB flash drive


FAT32 is the oldest file system which was introduced in way back to replace FAT16. It has both pros and cons, biggest pro is flash drives often come formatted with FAT32 for maximum compatibility with all operating systems. It is quite suitable for USB flash drives and other drives with small partitions and small file sizes. It does not have file recovery or file permission features.

It has a maximum file size limit of 4GB and maximum partition size limit of 8GB.


NTFS is a modern file system used by Windows. Windows in installed on a disk formatted with NTFS file system. NTFS was first introduced in consumer versions of Windows XP. NTFS is packed with modern features. It provides file permissions for security, error recovery tools for computer crashes, backups, encryption, hard links, etc. which makes it the first choice for installing operating system.

It has no realistic limits on file size and partition size.


exFAT was introduced in 2006 as an upgraded version of FAT32, it was added to Windows XP & Vista through Windows update. It is a file system fully optimized for flash drives. It removes all the limitations of FAT32 including file size and partition size limits. It has file recovery feature.

It has no realistic limits on file size and partition size.

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