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Saturday, March 15, 2008

FAT32 vs. NTFS

Myth - "The FAT32 file system is faster/better than NTFS."

Reality - "NTFS is the better file system with many advantages over FAT32. NTFS features: Built-In Security, Recoverability, Alternate Streams, Custom File Attributes, Compression, Object Permissions, Economical Disk Space Usage using a more Efficient Cluster Size and Fault Tolerance. Windows 2000 and XP come with NTFS version 5 which includes even more advanced features such as: Encryption, Disk Quotas, Sparse Files, Reparse Points, Volume Mount Points. None of which is available with FAT32." -

"NTFS is built for speed with impressive disk I/O performance on large volumes (Over 400 MB). NTFS uses a binary tree structure for all disk directories, which reduces the number of times the system has to access the disk to locate files. This system is best for large directories, and NTFS easily outperforms FAT32 in these situations. In addition, NTFS automatically sorts files in a folder on the fly. NTFS gains an edge over FAT32 by using relatively small disk allocation units (cluster sizes) for NTFS volumes. Smaller clusters prevent wasted disk space on volumes, especially those with numerous small files. Because NTFS uses small clusters better and has a more efficient design, its performance doesn't degrade with large volumes, in contrast to FAT's."

"NTFS is generally believed to be slower than FAT. However, with a correctly created NTFS volume, NTFS performance optimizations, and improved disk defragmentation, NTFS performance (including the extra "journaling") is equivalent to FAT on small disks and is faster than FAT on large disks. FAT32 performance is further reduced for volumes larger than 32 GB in two areas:

- Boot time with FAT32 is increased because of the time required to read all of the FAT structure. This must be done to calculate the amount of free space when the volume is mounted.
- Read/write performance with FAT32 is affected because the file system must determine the free space on the disk through the small views of the massive FAT structure. This leads to inefficiencies in file allocation." - Source

Gaming Performance
"The numbers show...not much difference. In fact, the only test that doesn't show near-perfect parity is PCMark04, and the difference between the results on the two file systems is less than two percent. HDTach's read and access tests, which respectively measure how fast data can be read from the drive and how quickly the drive can locate data, were nearly identical. More importantly, the gaming tests showed nary a difference in all-important frame rates between the file systems and the cluster sizes. Based on the uniformity we experienced, we highly recommend that users of Windows XP take advantage of the NTFS file system. Its gaming prowess matches that of FAT32 and it boasts a healthy line-up of advantages over its opponent." - Source

In addition to its extensive memory and application protection features, NTFS is a reliable file system. When storing data to disk, NTFS records file I/O events to a special transaction log. If the system crashes or encounters an interruption, NTFS can use this log to restore the volume and prevent corruption from an abnormal program termination or system shutdown. NTFS doesn't commit an action to disk until it verifies the successful completion of the action. This precaution helps prevent corruption of an NTFS volume. NTFS also supports hot-fixing disk sectors, where the OS automatically blocks out bad disk sectors and relocates data from these sectors. This housecleaning happens in the background. An application attempting to read or write data on a hot-fixed area will never know the disk had a problem. I only recommend and use NTFS with Windows 2000 and XP.

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