NTFS Vs. FAT32 External Hard Drive

When you buy an external hard drive for a Windows PC, you have the option of formatting it as NTFS or FAT32. There are benefits to each method, and which one you choose will depend on various factors.

Compatibility may determine which format you choose.


The FAT32 file system dates back to Windows 95 and was an enhancement of the FAT16 file system used on MS-DOS machines in the 1980s.

NTFS was launched with Windows NT and is a far more advanced and secure disk file system. However, it is not widely compatible with other computers and operating systems.


When deciding how to format your external hard drive, you need to consider which computers you are going to use the drive with.

If you only intend to use the drive with a modern Windows PC (later than Windows NT), then you can format your drive as NTFS and benefit from a more secure file system.

If you are likely to also need to use the drive with other computer operating systems, for example, Apple Mac OS X, you should choose FAT32 because it is more widely compatible.


FAT32 can only be formatted to a maximum partition size of 32GB by a Windows PC. You have the option of partitioning your external drive and formatting each partition with a different file system if you wish.