Operating Systems And Software - File systems

Exam: CompTIA 220-701 - CompTIA A+ Essentials 700 series


Explain the process and steps to install and configure the Windows OS

File systems

When formatting a hard drive, you have the option to format it as either the NTFS (recommended) or FAT32 file system. NTFS is a more secure and stable platform and can support larger volume sizes. It also supports encryption with the Encrypting File System (EFS). FAT32 should be used only to interact with older versions of Windows and to format devices such as USB flash drives. Depending on the cluster size used, NTFS can support up to either 16TB (4KB clusters), or 256TB (64KB cluster) partitions, but most systems will be limited to 2TB due to the limitations of partition tables on MBRbased disks. This hardware limitation applies to maximum FAT32 partition sizes of 2TB as well (aside from the installation maximum of 32GB). To go beyond this, a set of striped or spanned dynamic disks would have to be employed, creating a multidisk volume. You might have heard of FAT (specifically known as FAT16). FAT was the predecessor to FAT32. Windows XP can be installed to a FAT partition up to 4GB in size; some older flash devices also use FAT, but it is recommended to stay away from FAT16 in general because it is deprecated. One other file system of note is FAT12, which is used mostly by floppy disks.

Another file system introduced by Microsoft is called the Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT), which is suited specifically for USB flash drives, but addresses the needs of many other mobile storage solutions. The successor to FAT32, it can handle very large file sizes and can format media that is larger than 32GB with a single partition. In fact, exFAT (also known as FAT64) has a recommended maximum of 512TB for partitions, with a theoretical maximum of 64 ZB (zettabytes). The file size limit when using exFAT is 16EB (exabytes). This file system can be used in Windows 7, Server 2008, Vista with SP1, XP/Server 2003 with SP2, and Windows CE 6.0. If NTFS is not a plausible solution, and the partition size needed is larger than 32GB, exFAT might be the best option. As of the writing of this book, exFAT is not used for internal IDE or SATA hard drives; instead it is used for flash memory storage and other external storage devices. exFAT is considered to be a more efficient file system than NTFS when it comes to flash memory storage; with less fragmentation, leading to more possible read/write cycles over the life of the flash memory device.


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