Should I use NTFS or FAT32?

Instead of just giving you my recommendation, let me try to explain the two file systems to help educate you on your decision.


FAT32 (file allocation table) and NTFS (new technology file system) are two very different file storage methods. The current Microsoft operating system, Windows XP, can use either method and in fact, both FAT32 and NTFS can be used on the same computer and can easily transfer files between them. Usually, the only time that you will see this is when someone is using the FAT32 file system on a Windows XP application to store system recovery tools. The reason why they would use a FAT32 for this purpose is because NTFS cannot be booted from a floppy disc where FAT32 can be.


FAT32 was developed for use with the Windows 98, SE and ME operating systems. It still is available for use with Windows XP. Even though FAT32 can handle single partitions up to 2 terabytes, it can only handle file sizes of up to 4GB (which can easily be achieved by some backup programs). Security is also a huge consideration when considering using FAT32. Anyone on a network that is FAT32 formatted can easily delete data with little trouble. Generally speaking, the only time you would actually need to use a FAT32 system is when you are dual booting a computer using an older operating system.


NTFS was developed for the Windows NT (new technology) operating system and is used in Windows 2000 and XP. The focus of NTFS' development was stability and security. This file storage method has many benefits over the older FAT32 method:

* Can handle single partitions of up to 8 petabytes (8,000,000,000,000,000 bytes).
* File compression
* Built-in security
* Recoverability

All-in-all, NTFS is a much better choice for large volume drives. It accesses files much quicker than does FAT32 because of its file indexing method.