FAT 32 NTFS, Mac OS Plus? Which file system is the best for me to format a hard drive?

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The storage units (hard drives, pendrives, memory cards …) always come with a certain amount of space. Although this aspect is the main one, there is a secondary issue that at first glance does not matter but that can help us to optimize the use of these: the format .

The format, or file system, is the way in which the unit orders the content, the hard drive partitions and also how the operating system will access it. FAT, NTFS, EXT, HFS … behind these acronyms are hidden different formats with unique attributes and specifications. If you do not know them, in Technology you teach them to you so you know which one suits you best.


FAT 32, the universal format

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If we have used Windows for many years sure that we already know him. FAT 32 has been for many years the star format in the Microsoft operating system. It stands out for its versatility, practically all devices recognize it, and it is also easy to format it with this system. On the contrary it has the limitation that only files of up to 4GB can be saved.

Why is this format recommended? Pendrives, external hard drives that we will use with several computers and ultimately the best option if we do not want to complicate or intend to store files, in individual size, exceeding 4GB in size. Simple, universal, but with that space limitation per file.

NTFS, more storage capacity per file in Windows

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As we have seen, FAT has a size limitation per 4GB document. Given this need arises NTFS, a Windows format that allows us to save files without worrying about that cap . In this case, it is the best option to format the hard disk of our computer, if it has the Microsoft operating system installed clear.

As regards removable drives such as pendrives or hard drives, it is only useful if we are really going to move files larger than 4GB and only between Windows computers . Mac OS for example can only read this format but not write, by default. There are applications that allow you to write data from Mac OSX as OSXFuse, in case we need it.

Mac OS Plus, Apple’s standard format


If NTFS is the format par excellence in Windows, Mac OS Plus is the one that dominates in Apple computers. Able to register files of any size, it is fast and the best option if we are going to format our MacBook or iMac. Being an owner, we can only erase and format discs from these computers and not from Windows.

For pendrives and hard drives is not a bad option, as long as we only use it between Mac computers . Otherwise, better resort to the aforementioned FAT or NTFS. In any case, from Windows you can open this type of format with HFV Explorer.

HFS + and ext, two minority formats but very useful


We finished our compilation of formats talking about a very unique couple, with little use but not irrelevant. HFS + is the format that Time Machine uses . In fact, when we use this system, which we talked about days ago , we will need to previously delete the portable hard disk or the Apple Time Capsule in this format. Fast and optimized to move data but designed for a very exclusive use.

Ext instead is the format used by Linux . There are different versions of Ext depending on the distribution of the operating system but in essence it is the same: optimization for everything based on UNIX. In Android it also has a very interesting use to copy applications to the SD but for this we need to activate the administrator’s permissions and therefore lose the smartphone’s warranty.

Do you have any doubt? Tell us about your experiences with formatting: have you ever had problems? Have you considered changing the format of any unit to get more out of it?


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