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NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT: which system to choose to format a pen drive

Formatting a flash drive, hard drive or an SD card for Windows are given three options in the file menu system: NTFS, FAT32, or exFAT. All have pros and cons depending on the use of the storage unit and which device will be placed.

Compatibility with operating systems and devices is one of the main factors to be taken into consideration. Understand below which is a file system, the definition of each and what the appropriate format for different storage units.

What is a file system?

Each system uses a method of organization and determines how devices will access the data. See below what is the difference between NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT.


FAT stands for File Allocation Table, in Portuguese, File Allocation Table. FAT32 was released as a new standard for Windows 95, replacing FAT16. Among the three listed systems, it is the oldest and therefore the which has compatibility with the largest number of devices and operating systems.

Most USB drives are formatted in FAT32 just to make sure read and write files on Windows, Mac OS and Linux, video games, and devices that have a USB port. On the other hand, this system does not allow individual files exceed 4 GB. Use a cartãoSD in FAT32 in a camera may result in the file division to make a film that reaches the limit, for example.

It is interesting to use FAT32 on flash drives and external storage devices that have up to 4 GB. The standard is also useful for dealing with devices and older operating systems that do not support other formats.


NTFS was released in Windows NT in 1993 and went on to appear in domestic versions with Windows XP. He has some features to handle files, such as journaling, which provides permission to the operating system to keep a record of all changes made to a file. Then if an error while recording a given, there is the possibility of restoring files.

Also, individual files and partitions have virtually unlimited size limits and some security mechanisms, which makes it ideal for installations of Windows.
This pattern is not interesting to pen drives and external storage units for having reading activities and longer recording compared to FAT32 or exFAT, which shortens the life of the devices. Compatibility is another problem: PlayStation consoles do not support, computers with Mac OS are read-only, and between Microsoft consoles, only the Xbox One has compatibility.


The exFAT emerged only in 2006 and was added to Windows XP and Windows Vista through updates. It is an optimized file system for flash drives, designed to be efficient as FAT32, but not limited to the size of the files. That is, just as in NTFS, the individual file size limit and partition are virtually unlimited.

The system is compatible with multiple devices and operating systems. Most digital cameras, computers with Windows and Mac OS and the new generation consoles support exFAT. Lack compatibility, however, with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and Linux, you need to install additional software.
It is interesting to use the exFAT for flash drives and external storage devices with more than 4 GB of space.

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