File system – do I have this right?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by jimthing, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. jimthing macrumors 65816


    Apr 6, 2011
    London, UK
    Any drive can be formatted as one of 3 main file system options:
    (a) FAT32 (MS-DOS) - Windows older format.
    (b) NTFS - Windows newer format.
    (c) HFS+ (Mac OS Extended, Journaled) - Mac format.

    On any Mac, by using Disk Utility app, any drive can be formatted for either (a) or (c). Using a Window machine you can format a drive for (a) or (b).

    File size issue:
    - FAT32 is limited to 4GB max file size.
    - NTFS or HFS+ can have files larger than 4GB.

    Reading/writing issue:
    - Mac OS X can only read NTFS, not write.
    - Windows cannot read or write HFS+.
    - Mac & Windows can read/write FAT32 (but with the above file size limitation, very apparent given modern HD video or databases file sizes).

    There are third-party programs for Mac OS X that add read/write capability for NTFS formatted drives. There are third party solutions for Windows that add read/write capability for HFS+.

    Usual advice:
    If you live in a Mac dominated environ, use HFS+. If in Windows environ, use NTFS. If never using such large files, use FAT32.

    Specifically, if moving 4GB+ files:
    - if moving files one way, Mac to Windows; use HFS+.
    - if moving files one way, Windows to Mac; use NTFS.
    - if moving files both ways, use either.
    But in ANY of these, you'll then have to use a third-party program, as mentioned. I have this all correct or is there anything wrong (or perhaps something else one has to think about I haven't mentioned)?

    Just trying to make a decision or three :)
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    There are more, but those are the most common.

    I don't think there's any good reason to use FAT32 unless your machine requires it. Even if you aren't using files larger than 4 GB.

    You're going to have to use one of them...
  3. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    And then there is exFAT:

  4. jimthing thread starter macrumors 65816


    Apr 6, 2011
    London, UK
    Thanks guys, you're great, so thought I'd come back and say so with a ^vote on each!

    Does anyone use exFAT then, or just very high niche areas, I wonder... ?
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I see no advantages to using exfat on a Mac. Its unsupported in windows, and OSX handles its native file system better, i.e., HFS+.

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