FAT Or NTFS: Which One Should You Prefer?

by John Sanderson

A crucial fundamental aspect of any computing device is the file system. It is a functional unit without which no PC can function. According to Wikipedia, a file system is a data structure/method that every OS uses to manage how users store and retrieve data. If there is no file system, the stored data would be a large chunk without any distinctive features that would enable users to determine its exact location.

One of the most popular operating systems in the world is Windows. Windows users are generally asked to choose their file system format when formatting or reformatting their computing device’s hard drive. The two most popular types of file systems include FAT32 and NTFS. There are numerous differences between the two widely-used file systems. This article will shed light on both of them, how you can use them on macOS, their major features, and other related aspects. Let us jump right into it:

What Are FAT And NTFS?

FAT32 – FAT in FAT32 stands for File Allocation Table. It is a popular file system created by Microsoft Corporation almost half a century ago in 1977. Compared to the NTFS file system, it is older and less reliable. However, FAT32 is more compatible with other OSs and storage components such as external HDDs, SSDs, and flash drives. FAT32 is the most used version of the File Allocation System. It is majorly used in removable devices such as Smart TVS, cameras, etc. 

Clusters are defined as the fundamental storage units of any hard drive. FAT describes the link relationship between each cluster and their allocation status. If the File Allocation Table is lost or corrupted, the computer will not be able to read any data present on the hard drive. 

NTFS – Microsoft Corporation created a more advanced and futuristic file system in 1993 called New Technology File System or NTFS. Since it came out, NTFS has been immensely popular among the masses and is used in the majority of Windows PCs today. Since FAT32 was not up to the mark, Microsoft created NTFS as a replacement to ensure that users get a more reliable and advanced alternative.

Can Macs Users Use FAT32 and NTFS Drives?

Unlike Windows devices that feature NTFS or FAT32 file systems, Apple devices generally feature a file system called APFS or Apple File System. macOS has the inbuilt capability to read and write FAT32 drives. However, Mac users try to abstain from using FAT32 drives since it is not very reliable.

Similarly, macOS can also read NTFS. However, Since Apple does not have the legal right to use NTFS since it is a proprietary file system, Macs cannot write to NTFS natively. If you are a Mac user and are wondering how to write to NTFS on Mac, there are numerous methods. You can use your Mac’s native disk utility to format NTFS files to the FAT32 format. A better way of using NTFS drives on Mac is to use an effective third-party application like iBoySoft NTFS for Mac. It is an extremely powerful tool using which you can conveniently work with NTFS drives. Besides this, you can use your Mac’s native Terminal utility to enable NTFS Write Support. 

Differences Between FAT32 And NTFS:

There are numerous differences between FAT32 and NTFS. Here are some of the most important ones based on different crucial factors:


NTFS is more secure than FAT32. For instance, FAT32 allows users to have shared permissions. On the other hand, NTFS offers users to set specific permissions to the local files and folders present on the drive. 

Repair Capabilities

If a file or folder gets damaged in an NTFS drive, it automatically runs diagnostics and repairs them. For example, if a power failure occurs and the system shuts down abruptly, causing damage to files, NTFS repairs them automatically. On the other hand, the FAT32 file system stores two copies of the File Allocation Table in case of mishaps. 


NTFS is compatible with numerous Windows versions. However, it is only readable by macOS, i.e., it cannot be natively written by macOS. In contrast, both Windows and macOS can read and write FAT32 drives. Hence, FAT32 is more versatile than NTFS. 

Compression Capabilities

NTFS offers numerous compression capabilities that facilitate users to archive files and folders. This significantly helps users in regulating their PC’s performance. On the other hand, FAT32 does not offer any compression capabilities.

Which File System Should You Choose?

Both NTFS and FAT32 have their limitations. For instance, FAT32 does not have compression capabilities, and it does not support file permissions. Similarly, NTFS is not supported by removable devices, and it is only compatible with Windows 2000 and later versions. Hence, when deciding which file system to go for, you should compare each file system type’s pros and cons and choose the one that fulfills your requirements.