File Storage Types: What Is NTFS Format?
NTFS is the primary file storage format for modern versions of Windows. It was initially developed for Windows NT, the business-oriented operating system Microsoft first developed in 1993 that is the basis for all modern-day Windows versions.
NTFS had a big advantage over many file systems of its era because of to its journaling capabilities, including organizing data in complex ways and internally managing corruption issues.
As Microsoft notes, the system also has a lot of other advantages, including the ability to handle large files and limit access controls to certain types of folders and files based on user permissions — a handy feature for system administrators.
This format, which has origins in the early collaborative work between Microsoft and IBM on the operating system OS/2, has become dominant on Windows platforms and is required for booting into all modern versions of Windows.
NTFS continues to evolve. The upcoming Windows 11 will require machines to support BitLocker, a form of full-drive encryption that relies on the Trusted Platform Module technology as well as NTFS. Microsoft states that the technology will help to lower the risk of malware and ransomware by tying security to hardware-based encryption.
File Storage Types: What Is FAT32 Format?
FAT32 dates back much further than NTFS, with earlier versions of the format predating the IBM PC. FAT first came about in the late 1970s as a way to organize data stored on a floppy. It was developed by early Microsoft employee Marc McDonald, with some input from Bill Gates, and evolved with the IBM PC and the Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) to include hard drive storage and CD-ROM drives. But as use cases grew, limitations began to emerge. Perhaps the best-known roadblock that early PC users might remember was the limit on the length of file names: eight characters, plus three for the file extension. Microsoft resolved this issue with the Virtual File Allocation Table (VFAT), a Windows device driver that allowed for longer names.
The most common FAT version, FAT32, was first developed by Microsoft in 1996 for use with a service release of Windows 95. In 1996, InfoWorld noted that FAT32 theoretically allowed for drives as large as 140 terabytes, and that hard drives of the era could benefit from the smaller file cluster size, making it possible to store more data on a smaller drive.
“Windows 95B’s most important feature allows Windows users to stop wasting 40 percent of the space on their hard disks,” writer Brian Livingston explained.
For modern-day end users, FAT32 has evolved into something of a default file format for nonboot drives, largely because it’s a compatible format that can easily be read and written to by Windows, Linux and Mac computers. This has made it a common choice for such things as SD cards and USB drives, where compatibility with a wide array of devices is imperative and simpler file organization makes more sense.