GT Explains: What is the Difference Between NTFS and FAT 32 File Systems

How do you think your data is stored, managed and organized on disks? A physical disk can just do 0’s or 1’s and it is the file system that gives meaning to such data. When people say that their disk is NTFS or FAT, it actually refers to the file system that’s being used by the computer or more appropriately, the operating system.

Today we will tell you about the differences between FAT32 and NTFS file systems used by Windows operating systems. This information may help you in choosing the right system as per your requirements.

Basic Definition

FAT stands for File Allocation Table and FAT32 is an extension which means that data is stored in chunks of 32 bits. These is an older type of file system that isn’t commonly used these days.

NTFS stands for New Technology File System and this took over from FAT as the primary file system being used in Windows.

Indeed, before making a choice you need to know about their capabilities. The table below will give you a rough idea of the features and respective support.


Description of Features

Few of the things here are self explanatory. So, I will expand those which require little description.

Fault Tolerance: NTFS maintains a log of disk changes and in case of power failure or abrupt errors it repairs the files and folders automatically without the user being notified anything. FAT32 maintains two different copies of the file allocation table and uses a back up mechanism if some damage occurs.

Security: In FAT32 you will have to depend on share permissions for security. This means that they are good in the Network but locally they are vulnerable. On the other hand NTFS allows you to set permissions on local files and folders as well.

Compression: FAT32 offers no compression feature whatsoever. While NTFS lets you compress files and folders individually so that you do not have to slow down the system by depending on partition compressions.

Conversion: You may easily convert a FAT32 system to NTFS. But the reverse is not true because NTFS follows a secure protocol. So, the only option here is to backup your data and format the disk.


This is not an attempt to show which file system is better than one. This article is just a brief comparison of the features and capabilities of each of them. You won’t come across a need to understand or explain these file systems in your day to day life, but sometimes when you do need to know what they mean or how they work, our article should then act as a quick reference guide. Hence we suggest you bookmark this one to come back to it when required.

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