NTFS vs. FAT, Which is the Best Format for Your External Hard Drive?

February 9, 2022

When you are using a new hard drive, or when you’re reinstalling Windows through a drive, the OS may ask you to format the drive. Of the two common choices- NTFS and FAT32, which one would you choose if you are particularly using Mac? That is of course one of the big questions. Before choosing the best format for your external drive, it is imperative to know the differences between FAT32 vs. NTFS. Perhaps, you are aware of the fact that NTFS for Mac is not a supported version; however, you can both read and write your NTFS formatted drive efficiently.

Read on to find out:

Knowing Both Formats


Looking at the history of different file formats, introduced in 1977 by Microsoft, FAT32 is the most common version of the FAT (File Allocation Table) file system. Later in 1981, it began to be carried out on the IBM PC’s PC-DOS 1981 and carried over to MS-DOS when that became a standalone product. FAT had been the standard format for floppy disks and hard drives all through the DOS years, and versions of Windows up to and including Windows 8.   

Also Read: Product Key For Norton Setup


New Technology Files System, shortly known as NTFS, is often considered as the latest file format that has been also introduced by Microsoft back in 1993. It began to source as a component of the corporate-oriented Windows NT 3.1 and then Windows 2000, though it didn’t become common on consumer PCs until Windows XP in 2001. Windows 7 and 8 default to NTFS format on new PCs.

A Rational Comparison

File Size 

While comparing one with another, the very first characteristics that come into play is the file size that each format supports. 

On the one hand, FAT32 supports 4GB and volume size tops out at 2TB. This means that you’re limited to 2TB FAT32 partitions if you want to use a 4TB drive. 

On the other hand, NTFS is limited by design to 16EB (Exabytes). To measure the size, one Exabyte is the equivalent of one billion Gigabytes, so we are too far away from topping out the size NTFS supports.  

Here NTFS is the real winner in terms of supporting large volumes of files.


Next comes the compatibility of each format. For instance, FAT32 is read/write compatible with a majority of recent and recently obsolete operating systems, including DOS, most flavors of Windows (up to and including 8), Mac OS X, and other operating systems.

However, the NTFS format is best compatible with Microsoft Windows, since it supports Windows NT and is in line with the latest updates of windows. In the case of Mac, you can only read the files of NTFS format but will be barred from writing it, unless and until you use a third-party application to both read and write it whenever you want. Which third-party application to use and trust? Of all the applications available out there, iBoysoft NTFS for Mac is the best of the best encompasses all the features you need to make an NTFS formatted external drive to become compatible with Mac and use it without any hassle. 

In addition, there are other hacks and workarounds for NTFS on the Mac, but in any case, NTFS is only semi-compatible with OS X. NTFS on Linux systems is spotty for both read and write operations. 


Apart from the above-mentioned characteristics, a minimum speed of file transfer is also one of the most prominent and significant factors. Without any conflict to the agreement, it’s been claimed that NTFS formatted hard drives have tested faster on benchmark tests than FAT32 formatted drives, though several factors make it happen.

Final Words

After considering the characteristics of FAT32 and NTFS, it can be safe to claim that NTFS offers all the features that a user needs to operate effectively and efficiently. In the case of Mac users, Microsoft NTFS for Mac by iBoysoft is the best third-party application that has all the options you need to read and write your external hard drives on your Mac without going through much hassle. Why stress? When you can convert your hard drive instantly.

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