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NTFS, exFAT or FAT32? I know that FAT32 has a limit of 4GB transfer per file, but is it faster and better than NTFS or exFAT? Since Windows 7 by itself uses NTFS, it remains logical to format flash card/drive with NTFS file system, however will NTFS or even exFAT be fine for flash card/drive?

P.S. In case i decide to use SD flash card, what should i do if it is already plugged in and i decide to use another SD flash card in order to transfer photos? What will happen if i take out suddenly ReadyBoost SD flash card?


Theoretically, for ReadyBoost to work as it should, you should probably stick with NTFS.

Really, NTFS is the way to go with any partition that works with Windows as long as you don't need cross-platform compatibility. NTFS support on Linux and MacOS is shaky and I wouldn't depend on it for mission-critical applications.

You shouldn't just 'pull-out' the SD card, or a USB-key for that matter. You should go down to your taskbar, right click on the Safely Remove USB Devices and select the device you want to remove.

This will avoid corrupted files and unwanted read/write interrupts.


tl;dr: Use exFAT instead of NTFS.

exFAT would definitely be a better choice not only for ReadyBoost, but for ANY non HDD type storage media.

exFAT is much simpler of a filesystem, and preforms less random unnecessary writes to the drive. Every single write to the drive wears down flash drives/SD cards/solid state drives/memory cards. Once worn out, they will no longer work at all and be useless.

  • 3
    This answer makes no sense. ReadyBoost is going to behave exactly the same no matter what filesystem is used. The number of write will be the same, which is based on, the writes required by ReadyBoost to function. The Windows support for exFat is very limited – Ramhound Oct 17 '12 at 11:51
  • @Ramhound sure, ReadyBoost may behave the same, but exFAT lacks journalling, which NTFS has, so that alone avoids extra writes. Additionally, exFAT is designed for flash devices. Please see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT for the benefits associated with exFAT. "exFAT has been adopted by the SD Card Association as the default file system for SDXC cards larger than 32 GiB." Re: "The Windows support for exFat is very limited" I don't think this has ever been true (even in 2012), at least not compared to any other implementations, and definitely not in Windows 7. – Phizes Dec 22 '14 at 10:51
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    @Phizes "Journaling" is a red herring here. It only applies to filesystem metadata. ReadyBoost sets up the container files it's going to work in (which does involve changing filesystem metadata) just once, when it initializes a drive for its use. By contrast the actual writing and, later, reading of cached data happens within those container files. A lot of IOs, yes, but they don't get journaled in NTFS. Nor will they be more or less numerous from one fs to another. You may prefer to avoid using NTFS for other reasons, but "avoid all those journaled writes" isn't a valid one. – Jamie Hanrahan Jan 26 '16 at 14:00
  • @JamieHanrahan this is a very belated response, thank you for the clarification! I was not aware that is how NTFS journaled data (at the time I thought it applied to data as well, and finding further clarification on that in 2014 was proving tricky). I no longer have ReadyBoost a Windows machine to sanity check my previous experience with filesystems/ReadyBoost. I'm not sure whether I should delete my previous comment or not. – Phizes Dec 13 '18 at 7:53
  • @Phizes No worries about belated responses - it's not as if anyone's being paid here! I have no opinion on deleting or not, but if you do then my answer to you will have to be deleted too - if you delete, please leave an additional comment here attn me to let me know, since I may not know about it otherwise. – Jamie Hanrahan Dec 13 '18 at 14:59

FAT16 is historically the fastest Windows file system, but is limited to 2 GB file size.

FAT32 is slightly slower than FAT16, but has that magic 4 GB file size limit.

NTFS and NTFS-3G are quite slow and inefficient compared to other file system in the world. Any journaling file system would be slower than one that is not.

The best thing about NTFS and NTFS-3G are that they are universal and do not have the 4 GB file size limit.

Probably best bang for the buck is a FAT32 formatted flash drive. Nice balance between speed and file size.

exFAT is somewhat new and should be considered with great scrutiny. It is also not universal - only Windows 7 and newer can use it. Not sure about OS X.

Here is a table comparing different file systems: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_file_systems

Speed is relative. Much depends on the hardware, software, and file sizes used.

I use ReadyBoost and it does absolutely nothing for my speed. I cannot tell if it even works except that I made sure it is turned on. I did read elsewhere that if you have 2 GB or less RAM it helps a lot.

Best bet is to:

  1. Upgrade your ram to the fastest you can use and max out the computer.
  2. Buy a quality SSD (ReadyBoost wouldn't be needed then) if your computer supports SATA connections.
  3. Use something other than Windows?

Note: have you tried making a ramdisk or ramdrive and putting things on it?

One other observation about ReadyBoost - when you insert a new blank flash drive and turn on ReadyBoost, Windows wants to take and use the entire flash drive no matter how big the drive is. Who needs a 32 GB flash drive just for ReadyBoost?

You probably should use a ReadyBoost size equal to the amount of RAM you have as a good starting point.

  • ReadyBoost won't be used if Windows detects flash drive that lacks certain performance aspects required to operate as ReadyBoost drive. – Boris_yo Nov 23 '12 at 15:43

I remember reading a comparison that showed on average that NTSF has less overhead to operate then both exFAT and FAT32. This wasn't specifically for Readyboost however it did seem to demonstrate that NTSF was better for random read/writes, which is what ready boost excels at. However I don't have enough information to say for certain that NTSF is better then exFAT, my own research would lead me to believe Readyboost performs better when the flash storage device is formatted in NTSF, with exFAT being second place, tho better for medium sized data transfers, with FAT32 being the worst overall, though better in hyper specific scenarios.

it's hard to say for certain given how few people seem to know anything about Readyboost. I would say use NTSF. Tho perhaps slhck has a point. Doing so could burn up the flash device in a few years, or even less time, but these devices aren't expensive so, whatever right? And Indrek, I would say you probably did something wrong, Readyboost is significantly more complicated then it looks. It does in fact help even systems with a whole lot of RAM, let alone one with 2 GB. My system had 3 GB and Readyboost made it possible to have more then 7 web pages open without latency.

Also, "You should probably use Readyboost equal to the amount of RAM you have as a good starting point" This precisely the wrong way to use Readyboost. Even Microsofts basic Readyboost tutorial states one should use at least twice the amount of RAM, and ideally at least 4 times as much. Bigger is better, IF, and only if, the flash drive has a fast enough Access time and fast enough Read/write speeds consistently throughout the device. ...which are very difficult to find actually, so unfortunately I cannot help you find an SD card or USB stick to use with Readyboost. Also if the port you are inserted this flash device into is only USB too, that probably won't cut it. You'll need at least USB 3.0 to see much gain.

However, I will say from what I've observed a bigger storage device tends to have higher Read/write speeds then a smaller one....I have no idea why this is.

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