File Systems in Windows

A file system stores and organizes the files on a hard disk, so it is desirable that it should be easy to find and retrieve files. File systems are therefore made for this purpose. To take care of files and file management, the Windows operating system uses the File Manager. The mission of the File Manager is to organize the files so that users can obtain them quickly and easily.

In the Windows operating system, there are three file systems used on hard drives: there are the NTFS file system, the older FAT and FAT32. Windows also supports file systems for CD-ROM and DVD.


FAT is an abbreviation for File Allocation Table, and is the file system used in MS-DOS and early versions of Windows. There have been several versions of FAT, including FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 and exFAT.

FAT12 was a 12-bit address system designed for floppy disks, while FAT16 was developed when PCs with hard disks were taken in use. The first versions of MS-DOS and the very first versions of Windows used FAT12 and FAT16, which are no longer in use.

The early versions of the Windows operating system were Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Millennium, all of which used FAT32, and which is no longer in general use. Although Windows do not use FAT any more, FAT is still in use. FAT is a useful format for solid-state memory cards and it is often used as file system on SD cards.

exFAT, which is also called FAT64, is a newer version of FAT. exFAT is designed for smaller storage devices such as USB pens, so is therefore a version of FAT still in use.

NT File System

The NT File System (NTFS) is the file system developed for Windows NT, and is the file system that current versions of Windows use. NTFS supports long file names, security, fault tolerance, encryption, disk compression and very large files and volumes.

NTFS has several advantages over FAT32 when it comes to safety, reliability, extensibility and efficiency.


Security is enhanced by the fact that users are given access to just the directories and files they need. In FAT32, all users could access all the files on a hard disk. 


NTFS keeps track of changes in the file system by keeping a journal. NTFS uses log files to keep track of all disk activity, which allows an NTFS volume to recover quickly after a disk crash. 


Using NTFS formatted volumes can expand the storage capacity to existing volumes without having to take backup, to repartition, to reformat or to restore anything. 


NTFS volumes will manage partitions larger than 8 GB of memory more efficiently than the old FAT32 file system. 


NTFS supports the compression of files and directories. You can create a file as compressed, and then NTFS automatically compresses the contents of the file. 

File names A file name in NTFS can be up to 255 characters long. File names are in Unicode, which means that you can use file names in character sets other than Latin, e.g. Greek, Chinese, Russian, etc.


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