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What Is a File System

Any kind of storage media, whether it's a CD, DVD, USB pen drive, hard drive or any other kind of storage device, uses a file system to keep things organized. For example, your hard drive probably has tens of thousands of files and folders on it, so it's essential to have this data organized in a logical structure so that you can find and manage data effectively. The file system is created when you first format a disk, whether it's a hard drive or external media such as a USB pen drive.

There are various different file systems in use. Using an appropriate file system for your hard disk or other media is an important part of PC optimization. Using an appropriate file system will help to ensure that your data is more secure and data transfer speeds are faster. The most common file systems in use today on PCs running Windows are FAT32 and NTFS. FAT, or "File Allocation Table" is one of the oldest file systems and the original version was only able to support hard disks of up to two gigabytes in size. FAT32 supports disks of up to two terabytes in size, although it is rarely used on modern hard disks, instead making way for NTFS.

The NTFS file system was introduced by Microsoft with Windows NT and has remained the most common Windows file system since Windows 2000 was released. NTFS stands for "New Technology File System." The file system is much more suitable for hard disks, since it provides better reliability and error-tracking. Should a hard drive using the NTFS file system fail, it will be much more likely that you can recover your data from it than it would if it were formatted using the FAT32 file system. NTFS is also better for security, since it makes it possible to set read, write and access permissions for specific folders or files on that media.

When you format a hard disk in Windows, you'll always want to choose the NTFS file system. Although there are more available choices when it comes to formatting a USB pen drive, you'll also want to stick with the NTFS file system for the most part. Only older operating systems such as Windows 95 are unable to read media using the NTFS file system. For maximum compatibility with other devices, you're best off formatting a pen drive with the FAT32 file system. This is also the default.


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