The Disadvantages of an NTFS File System

By Gregory Hamel

Windows NT operating systems Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 can run the hard drive file system New Technology File System. Microsoft recommends using the NTFS file system on systems running its latest operating systems. The file system has several advantages over the older File Allocation Table file system, such as the ability to save large files and recover data. Nevertheless, NTFS has several potential disadvantages.

High Space Overhead

The NTFS file system requires a significant amount of "space overhead" to function. Space overhead is data storage space on a drive that is devoted to the file system itself and therefore cannot be used to store data. In other words, if you format a drive with the NTFS file system, you will lose some of the storage space. According to Microsoft, "space overhead is in the form of NTFS system files that typically use at least 4 MB of drive space on a 100 MB partition." This means that 4 percent or more of your drive space is lost due to the file system's needs. As a result, Microsoft recommends that users avoid working with the NTFS file system on drive volumes that are smaller than 400MB. Attempting to load NTFS on smaller storage devices such as USB flash drive and older hard drives may result in poor performance or inadequate storage space.

No Floppy Disk Formatting

Floppy disks cannot be formatted with the NTFS file system due to the space overhead requirements. Floppy disk drives are common on older PCs running Windows XP or earlier versions of Windows, and may be the easiest way to transfer files to and from an old computer.

File Naming Limitations

The NTFS file system places several limitations on naming files. According to Microsoft, "file and directory names can be up to 255 characters long." File names can contain capital letters, but the system does not distinguish between a file with capital letters and lowercase letters. For example, the system would recognize INTRO.doc and intro.doc as the same file. According to Microsoft, the NTFS file system does not allow the use of the following characters in file names: ? " / \ < > * | :

Operating System Incompatibility

The NTFS file system is made to be compatible with Windows 2000 and later versions of Windows. Windows 95, 98, ME and DOS are not compatible with NTFS. If you have an older computer with one of these operating systems, you will have to use a FAT file system on your hard drive.