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What Is Windows File System: Definition & Comparison & Conversion

Updated by Jean on Jun 28, 2021
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What Is Windows File System? 

Microsoft's new storage system for the next SQL Server release is called Windows File System (WinFS). WinFS is a programming model that allows developers to communicate data across applications and arrange data in more productive ways, in addition to serving as a database for structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. 

Three Primary Windows file systems 

  • NTFS: The primary file system for recent versions of Windows and Windows Server—offers a comprehensive set of features, including security descriptors, encryption, disc quotas, and rich metadata, and can be combined with Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV). 
  • FAT32: The FAT32 file system is a 32-bit version of the FAT file system. The FAT32 file system was used on Windows PCs before the more powerful NTFS file system came into action. You can utilize FAT32 for USB drives, flash memory cards, and external hard drives. 
  • exFAT: Microsoft’s upgraded version of the FAT file system debuted in 2006 with Windows CE and Windows Vista (SP1). The maximum file size in Windows is increased from 4GB (FAT32) to almost infinite with exFAT. 

Here's a comparison table for NTFS vs FAT vs exFAT, where you can check the details regarding each file system's history, compatibility, limitations, and application. Knowing that information will help you decide which file system is the best for you to format a device.

Basis NTFS FAT32 exFAT
History Windows utilizes the current NTFS file system by default. FAT32 is a file system that was initially introduced with the Windows 95 operating system.  Ex-FAT was introduced with Windows XP and Vista operating system.
Compatibility Works with all versions of Windows. However, Macs are read-only by default, and some Linux distributions may be read-only too. Except for Microsoft’s Xbox One, other devices are unlikely to support NTFS. Compatible with all versions of Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, game consoles, and almost anything else having a USB port. Works with all versions of Windows and contemporary Mac OS X. 
Limitations There are no reasonable file or partition size constraints.
The maximum file size is 4 GB, and the full partition size is 8 TB. There are no realistic file or partition size constraints. 
Application Users can use it for their Windows system drive and any other internal drives exclusively compatible with Windows. Use it on detachable drives when you need maximum compatibility with the broadest range of devices, as long as you don’t have any files larger than 4 GB. When you need larger file sizes, and partition restrictions than FAT32 and more excellent compatibility than NTFS, use exFAT. If every device that you intend to utilize the drive of supports exFAT, you should use the file system instead of FAT32 to format it.

For internal drives, NTFS is best, while exFAT benefits flash drives. However, if exFAT isn't supported on the device you need to utilize, you may need to format an external drive using FAT32.

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Windows File System Conversion: How to Convert to NTFS Without Formatting or Losing Data  

It is possible to convert each file system on a Windows platform. NTFS is better for internal drives, while exFAT is better for flash devices.  When performing any disk management procedure, you should always back up your data. 

If you want to use Windows inbuilt features like Disk Management to convert file systems, you have only one option - "Format". Unfortunately, this option will erase your data. If you don't want to lose your data, use third-party partition manager software like EaseUS Partition Master. 

EaseUS Partition Master, a comprehensive partition magic software, can fully suit this requirement. It lets you convert FAT/exFAT to NTFS without losing any data. The software also supports: 

  1. -ExFAT, FAT16, Ext2/3/4, and different file systems are supported.
  2. -Converts FAT/FAT32 to NTFS without formatting and data loss.
  3. -Supports unlimited formatting of 64GB/128GB USB to FAT32.
  4. -Advanced features include partition resizing, disk conversion to MBR/GPT, OS transfer, and more.

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Guide: How to Convert FAT32 to NTFS Without Losing Data

Step 1. Install and launch EaseUS Partition Master on your computer.

Step 2. Select a FAT32 partition, right-click on it and select "Convert to NTFS". If you need to convert a storage device such as SD card or USB flash drive to NTFS, insert it into your PC first and repeat the previous operation.

convert FAT32 to NTFS

Step 3. Click "OK" on the pop-up dialog box to continue.

convert FAT32 to NTFS

Step 4. Now the converting process will start automatically. Wait until the operation process is finished.

convert FAT32 to NTFS

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About the Author

Updated by Jean

Author Jean has been writing tech articles since she was graduated from university. She has been part of the EaseUS team for over 5 years. Her special focuses are data recovery, disk partitioning, data space optimization, data backup and Mac OS. By the way, she's an aviation fan!

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