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What are the pros and cons of formatting your USB drive in NTFS format or FAT32 format and vice versa?

Please highlight any advantages of one format over the other.

Keeping in mind I need to use the USB Flash drive on Ubuntu 13.04, Windows 7 and Windows XP.

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4 Answers 4

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NTFS (New Technology File System) is a proprietary file system developed by Microsoft Corporation, and hence you may have to install additional programs on Linux / Mac in order to view partitions formatted with NTFS (like ntfs-3g).

FAT32 formatting is used to be recognised in all operating systems and there is a limit of 4 GB file in this case. I.e., you can't create a single file greater than 4 GB in FAT32 whereas you can create files larger than 4 GB in NTFS.

You can gain more insights via this link.

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Well, I think it highly depends on the size and capacity of your flash drive, and what operating systems you want it to be supported by, and what security features you might require. As a general rule, and for regular USB flash memories, it would be the best to format them in FAT32, considering their capacity, and if you want all operating systems to easily support them. For more information you could refer to these articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_file_systems
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTFS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat32#FAT32
http://cquirke.mvps.org/ntfs.htm

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    As a general rule, and for regular USB flash memories, it would be the best to format them in FAT32, considering their capacity There’s plenty of old 1GB HDDs with NTFS, so what’s wrong with using it on a 32GB flash-drive? It’s not the size that’s the issue, it’s the “removability”.
    – Synetech
    Aug 30, 2013 at 16:23
  • @Synetech : Thank you for reminding me that. It was truly kind of you. Aug 30, 2013 at 16:29
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ExFAT as far as I can see it right now, doesn't allow for a bootable partition, those options are greyed out in Rufus 2.5 when I switch ExFAT.

Personally, I decided to go with GPT partition scheme and use NTFS. These posts are some years old, and other information made me believe, that Linux supports NTFS too now, so unless using the overly old Windows XP, there's imo no reason to use anything different than GPT and NTFS, and as said, multiple partitions are possible.

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  • Good point. What about NTFS? I saw a difference between NTFS and FAT32 when I tried it. Jan 23, 2018 at 3:14
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NTFS is a journaling file system, so it'll cause some wearout to the USB drive, somehow reducing the drive's life expectancy. It's now supported by all modern OSes, but some old Linux or MacOS PCs might need to install the ntfs-3g driver.

FAT32 is supported by all operating systems, but it has a maximum 4 GB file size limit.

So none of them are good for USB drives. exFAT is the most suitable one because it's specifically designed for flash drives and is now supported by (almost) all operating systems.

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