exFAT Versus FAT32 Versus NTFS

Microsoft introduced the new exFAT file system with Vista SP1. Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) is the successor to the old FAT32 file system. What are the advanatages and disadvantages to this new file system? What are the differences between exFAT and FAT32? When is exFAT preferred over NTFS?

Microsoft released the exFAT file system with Vista SP1. The file system that had been rumored to be released with the original Vista was finally available to the public on a wide scale. This article will explain the issues that exist with FAT32 that exFAT has been designed to fix. Surprisingly to many people, exFAT even may be better than the much loved NTFS in some circumstances.

FAT32 is the file system with which most windows users are most familiar. Windows first supported FAT32 with Windows 95 OSR2 and increased support for it through XP.

FAT32 issues and problems -

      By default windows systems can only format a drive up to 32 GB. Additional software works around this issue. When formatted at these bigger sizes, FAT32 becomes increasingly inefficient.
      The maximum file size on a FAT32 formatted drive is around 4 GB. With DVD and high resolution DVD formats now available, this limit is commonly reached.
      Dealing with fragmentation and free disk space calculations can become painfully resource intensive in large FAT32 systems.
      A FAT32 directory can have 65,536 directory entries. Each file or subdirectory can take up multiple entries; therefore, FAT32 directories are limited with how many files it can hold.

exFAT Advantages

      File size limit is now 16 exabytes.
      Format size limits and files per directory limits are practically eliminated.
      Like HPFS, exFAT uses free space bitmaps to reduce fragmentation and free space allocation/detection issues.
      Like HTFS, permission systems should be able to be attached through an access control list (ACL). It is unclear if or when Vista will include this feature, however.

exFAT was first released with CE 6.0 but finally hit the mainstream with Vista SP1. Obviously, exFAT has several strengths over FAT32. Then why In the past have most power-users of Microsoft systems have opted to format/convert to a NTFS file system instead?

Interestingly enough, exFAT is not used and was not designed for formatting hard drives. It is only recommended in flash memory storage and other external devices only. This is why it is currently not considered a huge competitor to NTFS on hard drives.

However, exFAT should be a true competitor to NTFS on flash-based systems with limited processing power and memory. NTFS on flash memory has been known to be inefficient for quite some time. exFAT’s smaller footprint/overhead makes it ideal for this purpose. Of course, only if your definition of “ideal” allows software to be proprietary and not open source.

Vista will happily read FAT, exFAT, and NTFS from flash. ReadyBoost will not work with exFAT formatted flash drives in Vista, however. Windows 7 will read all three formats and can ReadyBoost exFat flash drives. Modern versions of OS X after Snow Leopard (10.6.5) added exFat read and write capabilities.

In conclusion, FAT32 is a simple system. The simplicity of FAT32 causes it to lose efficiency at large sizes but allows it to run with less resources. The complexity of NTFS increases features but requires more memory and processing power. exFAT is an improved and more complex system than FAT but is designed for flash drives only.

This article has been updated to include information about Windows 7 and OS X.

 

About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • sheena

    if i format my external hdd to exfat 32 kilobytes-to back up my ps3; can re-format it back to NFTS back up my computer? will this cause any problems if i back up my pc with a formated external hdd of exfat 32 kilobytes??

    thanks!

    • Tbyspk02

      to answer your question you dont need to do all that, thats a lot of unnecessary formatting leave your big drive alone… ill explain how you can do the ps3 back up, im guessing you wanna back up to stick a bigger drive?

      1 if you need to back up your ps3 stuff, forget it i tried doing it im running a 500gb now i will explain though is off topic
      a) in the playstation site download their latest update the 4.1 i believe save it to a flash thumb drive with fat or fat32 format.
      2 feel free to stick in your new ps3 drive and follow instructions in screen, stick in your flash drive before you start all this. that quite honestly should be it. its gone reformat your drive, and restart the whole ps3 my ps3 is running pretty good now.. good luck

    • Viper_robert2006

      i have a stick….16 Gb…but i can`t use all this space when the format of the stick is wit Fat 32….it works only with exFat…my mail is viper_robert2006..psl help me with some infos…P.S sorry but I don`t speak english….and…:P

  • Amnuay M.

    I think the main problem for me is exFAT is not supported in XP….

    • Tracy

      exFAT is supported in XP sp3

      • Captain Meatshield

        But only by hunting down and downloading an update.

        • Steffan Long

          > No, it’s included in Windows XP SP2/3.

    • Rakesh Dhatwalia

      Update your system with respactive patch

      Update for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and for Windows XP Service Pack 3, x86-based version
      Download the WindowsXP-KB955704-x86-ENU.exe package now. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=1cbe3906-ddd1-4ca2-b727-c2dff5e30f61

      Update for Windows XP, x64-based version

      Download the WindowsServer2003.WindowsXP-KB955704-x64-ENU.exe package now. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=6f69637b-41e6-4346-aa99-fcf802bd8bbd

      • Sergiofilipe Teixeira

        these uptades are only to XP in english version.i try to install and it says that cannot install due to XP and uptade are in different language(im Portuguese). Also, im trying to format a Toshiba HDDR500 ib Fat32.i can access any operating system but ive seen in Vista and XP and neither of them give me that option.please advise.thx

        • marco lino

          > Se o teu windows XP é original, faz uma actualização ou vai aos downloads da microsoft e descarrega o SP3. Caso o teu windows não seja original, podes sempre procurar na net e fazer um download.

  • morten

    and ps3 users can`t use exFat

    • Pinochio666

      its the opposite dude, ps3 can’t read NTFS

      • Steffan Long

        > The PS3 cannot read either format, actually. FAT32 is your only option.

    • Chifylube

      Sony Sucks!

      • Nasser Ali

        No.

        • danwat1234

          Yes

  • http://mistersanity.blogspot.com/ Jonadab

    What I really want from Microsoft is support for the major filesystems other operating systems use. Cheifly I am concerned with ext2/3, UFS, and HFS+. As it stands, Windows just does not work very well in a multi-OS environment. OS X can read FreeBSD filesystems. FreeBSD has no trouble reading Linux stuff. Linux can read Mac stuff. They all know how to read data from the other systems. Windows is the only one that doesn’t.

    All the other systems can read Windows stuff too, and even write FAT32 (write support for NTFS is theoretically available but not very robust last I checked). Nonetheless, at least the other systems can *read* NTFS. But can Windows read stuff from other systems? No.

    So instead of doing that, they go and invent a whole *new* filesystem, with no significant features that aren’t in at least one of the existing filesystems. Okay, yeah, so there are a handful of special situations where exFAT is a better compromise than FAT32 or NTFS. But on the whole it’s just that — a compromise between those two existing choices, not really better than either of them in the general case. Meh.

    If they were going to develop a *new* filesystem, why not give it some *new* capabilities, like inodes to abstract the stored files away from their directory entries so that we don’t have to reboot all the time for minor updates? How about automatic versioning, like VMS has had since Bill Gates was working out of a garage? Now *that* would be useful.

    • Anonymous

      You are right in what you say with regard to Windows not being able to read from or write to HFS+. But free software is available for ext2/3 (LINUX) partitions from the following site: http://www.fs-driver.org. As with most stuff related to Linux it is free. I have been using it myself for several years now (dual-boot windows and Linux system). I’m not sure whether it will read across networks but it does the job fine locally.

      • Robert

        There are also another drivers that allows you to work with ext2/3 filesystems on Windows. As per my experience, the best is available at http://www.ext2fsd.com/ (free, GNU/GPL license). (For me, it seems even better than driver from http://www.fs-driver.org.)

    • z0iid

      OS X doesn’t read NTFS….

      • z0iid

        well, supposedly it does, but my girlfriends macbook won’t read my external hd that is ntfs formatted. i have to copy stuff to a usb key that uses FAT.

        • Cellanime

          get ntfs-3g it’s a plugin that will allow your mac to read and write to ntfs formatted drives.

      • Tunafisken

        OS X read NTFS, but can not write….

      • Tunafisken

        OS X can read NTFS, but can not write….

      • DonH

        When you partion your external drive, it is important to click on the Options button where it gives you three choices for the partition table. The default for Windows is MBR. You need to select GUID partition table. If you do that, any NTFS, exFat, FAT32 and possibly FAT can be read from Mac OSX with no issues. Both Windows and Mac OSX can read and write to exFat, FAT32, and FAT BUT those formats cannot copy just any file. There are limitations on the sizes of the files and the biggest problem is that only NTFS supports the properties attached to the file. For an mp3 file, for example, the artist, album, track number, album art (jpg file) etc cannot be copied to exFat. So to summarize: Mac OSX can read files from NTFS partition if the disk partition table is GUID. Mac OSX cannot write to NTFS unless you find a third party utility which is not convenient and probably a good one is not free. Mac OSX and Windows and read/write exFat partitions (again the partition table of the disk must be GUID), but exFat does not support file properties which is very important to me especially for mp3 files and others. If you want to use an exFat partition to copy files between a native Mac OSX file system and NTFS, you can either zip or rar (WinRar) files with properties into a .zip or .rar file. Then you can reboot to the other operating system and unzip the archive. Not very convenient but it works.

  • paolo

    what is exNTFS? what is the best format for vista 64bit?

    • luquien

      No such thing. It’s exFAT or NTFS. For the Vista operating system drive, stick with NTFS (not sure Vista will even install on exFAT due to lack of security)

      One place I can see exFAT coming in handily is on a cache drive for a Windows Media Service Server or IIS7 box where no security, high speed, and almost unlimited number of files, comes in great.

  • A Known Mouse

    Windows 7 allows readyboost from exFAT, bigger readyboost :D

  • Ricardo

    Awesome! I had a 120gb pen drive and converted to ntfs and it stopped working, I’m using the the exfat and had no problem in Vista SP! and in XP I downloaded a file driver and I can use it in XP. No problem. Thanks to this I can use my 120gb pen drive.

    How did they format a 120gb pen drive I don’t know and it read FAT file system. So I converted it to NTFS and did could not format complete, NOW exFAT I have no porblem.

  • Fred

    “- Like HPFS,…
    - Like HTFS,… ”

    What are HPFS and HTFS?

    • James

      HPFS is the filing system included with OS/2

  • Anonymous

    Not sure if this is directly related to the Vs topic here, but it is the closest I can find so far.

    exFAT is a bit odd. I have a 16GB Flash drive. I converted it to 16GB exFAT via Win7. When I tried to copy files (about 4 GB total), I had an error saying that I needed another 300MB, but, the disk had 15.7GB free space. So I converted it to 8GB exFAT.

    The Flash Drive will not format to NTFS in XP, Vista nor Win7, and FAT32 is useless.

    Can anyone please explain how to make my 15.7GB Flash Drive save a single 15.7GB file using exFAT?

    Thank you

    • Carsten

      oehhh…. maybe you deleted files, but did not empty trash?

  • Myrddin

    After formatting you’re not going to have as much space free, no matter which format you use so, you’re probably not going to get that file onto that flash drive if those are your two sizes.

  • http://www.counsellingsydney.com.au Psychologist Sydney Therapist

    thanks. good explanation. trying to reformat our new WD elements drive to FAT to go with a my book world II and it only offered exFAT, not FAT on my Vista system. This clears it up.

    • http://twitter.com/tloalive tloa

      Vista can format it to FAT32 when u have a hard disk 32GB or less, just right click on “Computer” and choose Manage, go to manage disk and make a partition 32GB, now you will able to format it in FAT32, i think this info might be very usefull to people that want to use a external HDD for PS3 because PS3 only reads FAT32.

  • gozya

    Will exFat work on other Windows OS’s like XP or 7?

  • Anonymous

    My pendrive 240gb kingston, computer to pendrive copy to not open file, plz soluation

  • Mawardi

    I used xp after updated for support exfat. My pendrive 120gb sony, after transfer data , i just can open file small size below 5-7mb (doc,xls,mp3, etc) and can`t for big size (eg: movie (rmvb, avi,dat),when i try many time, my pc not responding. plz soluation

    thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Hi my name is naveed, can somebody help me with my external hard drive WD 1.5tb.
    I want to connect my hd with my tv via usb . but ma tv does not support ntfs so tried to format my external hard drive to fat32, i have win vista on my laptop so when ever i try to format it give me only 2 options ntfs or exfat but i need fat32 .dont know wot to do
    Plz Help

    THank you

    • Robert

      Paintfully, you simply cannot format a partition that is bigger than 32 GB to FAT32 with Windows FORMAT command. It is an intentional feature invoked by Microsoft. The solution is to format disc to FAT32 under another operating system (fortunately, easy possible with USB drive). For example, ask any Linux user that you know – or, if you are more experienced, try to give a chance to some Linux Live distribution (Knoppix from knoppix.net or similar).

    • Gregdrans

      You can download ubuntu from their site for free. Burn it to a boot-able disk. Then u can run ubuntu from the burnt disk. Gparted will format it to fat32. I purchased dodgy 128 Kingston flash drive of eBay,I had problems with it. So i done the above. now no probs. Hope this helps :)

    • Rforrest

      look for fat32format in google
      Formatted 1TB in a matter of minutes

  • Anonymous

    I have a 30 Gig usb flash drive that got pulled out before the ‘safely remove usb mass storage’ button was clicked. The usb doesn’t work any more and cannot be formatted via windows xp or by using msdos. It is possible to retrieve use of the flash drive, I dont care about the data on the drive, but am not sure what to do. Any ideas?

    • MarlonL

      Try TestDisk & PhotoRec. Worked for me.
      TestDisk id for recovering the partition or making the disk bootable again.
      PhotoRec is for recovering files.

  • King

    My 40GB kingston pendrive have exFAT file system. When I copy anything in it, all the contents of the folder get removed automatically leaving the folder only, and when I copy .rar or .zip files into it, and then open it i receive a message “this archive is either in unknown format or damaged……”
    What should I do?

  • suomynonA

    This sentence alone has convinced me to format my external harddrive with exfat:

    “The complexity of NTFS increases features but requires more memory and processing power.”

  • Anonymous

    Just one question that i don´t get. Are files in exFAT format compatible for Mac Users or do you either have to convert them to NFTS or buy the software capable of allowing files to be opened both on mac and pc´s. I have an external hard-drive, files (large quantities of music – about 120GB) on a mac which i need to get on the hard-drive and them open them on a media program like Itunes, VCL,… Does anyone know how i can solve this without buying software???? Thanks

  • Compatibility

    Will exFat work on a Mac?

    • EncriptiXX

      exFAT will work on Mac os X Snow Leopard 10.6.5, full support, not just read (Apple Macbook 4,3 w Snow Leopard 10.6.5)

  • Cliff

    How does exFat compare to Apple formats? Can Apple OS read or write to it?

    • Jake_the_Peg

      Yes, OS X can read/write exFAT. BTW, OS X can also successfully read NTFS drives, but not write to them (see post above somewhere, which queries this). To enable OS X to write NTFS you need to get Paragon NTFS for Mac, which solves the problem beautifully. I consult for a large storage company and use my work W7 Dell (sadly) on the road, but them come home to write reports, etc, using 24″ iMac. The only problem I have xferring files is the incompatibility between Office 2008 (Mac, bug-ridden) and Office 2007 (W&, clumsy-as-hell), but that is another story altogether….

    • Jake_the_Peg

      I just realised that I ignored the first part of your question. Why bother comparing, i.e. if you are using a Mac and not transferring data like I am, the obvious answer is to stick with the native Apple file systems. However, increasingly we are using media servers at home (I have three of the little devils) and they seem to work best with FAT32 or exFAT. If you are formatting a disk for such a device on an Apple and transferring a lot of files to/from then the FAT32 format available in the Disk Utility is fine for pendrives, etc. An hdd I would format with exFAT on a Windows machine. My Mediagates, using NTFS, used to give me nothing but grief (of course usually halfway through a movie which is most annoying)…

      • Cliff

        Jake; what I’m trying to do is format a Maxtor 78gig HD via USB to HFS+ in install OS X Leopard. I’ve used all the disk utility and command line diskutil commands at the installation screen, but continue to get ‘formatter’ error (-9944), or ‘on exit’ error. I’ve tried the erase, multi-partitin, GUID and MBR. I know the HD is good, and I’ve set up partitions in FAT32, NTFS, and in exFAT before trying to change to HFS+ journaled extended. I will start the format but doesn’t progress and eventually gives the error mentioned. Also tried it with another Maxtor drive on USB and got the same results. The one thing I haven’t tried is changing the pinout to Master on the HD, probably because I doubt that would be a factor. Anyone knowhy I can’t get these USB drives HFS+ formatted??

  • Ralph Leonard

    Have UDF format only on Windows 7. Want the option to have NFTS on Win 7. How do I do it?

  • Amilfca

    I´ve a 128GB pendrive and I want to format it. Which should be the ideal FAT size (16, 32, 128 or … bytes?

  • JJ

    I use a Windows 7 PC, my wife has a mac book. We share an external hard drive for music and other media but the Mac can no longer see all of the data and has never been able to write to the drive (NTFS).
    I’m going to format my next drive as either ext2 or exFAT. Any suggestions?

    • Anonymous

      As of the latest update (Mac OS X 10.6.5), OS X will read exFAT drives.

  • NC

    Put NTFS-3G and MacFUSE on your wife’s Mac, it will read and write NTFS perfectly. Before this I could never get a good solution for both OS’s

  • Naiky 2001

    how to format exfat 80gb flash disk to ntfs file system

  • Turbo_purr

    Hi there, I am wanting to format my partitioned 1TB harddrive so it can play through USB on the tv. I know I need FAT32 to do this as NTFS doesn’t work, but would exFAT work??
    Will exFAT play the same files AVI etc?
    Or do I need to somehow format to FAT32 (I am using Vista). Please help

    • Anonymous

      Just because something supports FAT32 does not mean it will support exFAT. If you need to FAT32, just format that way. Vista will format in FAT32 if the drive is less than 32GB.

      Otherwise, just search around for one of the many freeware programs that will format in FAT32. Google for “fat32format” is one possible options.

      • Walter Pinto

        Folks, I used fat32format.exe to format my Seagate Portable 1TB from NTFS to FAT32 and now my TV finds my folders and fles (movies, pics, songs…)… Thanks a lot for the tip. Walter from Brazil.

  • Dawnmm18

    I purchased a Micca Digital Player so I could plug my USB drive in and watch movies thru the player rather than constantly burning DVDs. The player works with my 4 gig flash drive that is fomatted FAT. The 256gig flash drive I have is formatted exFAT and the player doesnt seem to recognize it. Any suggestions. It was alot of money and I wondered if I could reformat it to FAT 32 or FAT.

  • Zapbuzz

    so i went into xp setup accidently deleted my exfat partition.
    how do i restore the deleted MFT?
    That free tool TestDisk is rubbish as all it can find is NTFS.
    Why don’t they make an emergency MFT recovery tool to go with these file systems and leave it to 3rd party gimmics?

    • Zapbuzz

      *instead of leaving it to 3rd party gimmics

  • Leslieonodje

    I HAVE AN LG EXTERNAL HHD500 GB WITH NTFS FORMAT.BUT ITS DOES NOT READ IN MY LG HOMETHEATRE.I MEAN TO PLAY MUSICS AND WATCH MOVIES.MY LG HOME THEATRE READS ONLY FAT32 FILES ONLY…HOW DO I MAKE IT TO READ MY HHD 500 GB?

  • Anonymous

    You dont have to type with all caps. You cannot make it work to read NTFS files, because the hardware only recognizes FAT32. This is the same issue with PS3 consoles and external harddrives.

    You would need to move all of your stuff from the 500GB harddrive to a different harddrive temporarily, and then format the 500GB (which is now empty) to FAT32, and then move everything back.

    Be advised, FAT32 can only hold individual files that are no more than 4GB in filesize.

    Also, for further reading and perhaps a fix if you have an xbox 360 or ps3 console, check out “PS3 Media Server”. It lets you stream music/movies from your computer to the consoles. I use it all the time for all of my movies from my laptop to my hdtv. (Also its free)

  • Bigc312

    why is it exfat will not play bak on the xbox lbut fat32 will

  • adrianGA

    Do i need to format my portable hard drive from NTFS to FAT32 to make it readable by my xbox360? I have windows xp and when i go to format it will only allow NTFS and exFAT, will exFAT work with my xbox? Mainly i’m looking for a definitive answer on how to get my portable hard drive to work on my xbox, it wont even read that there is a portable device on the xbox. I had an old seagate 300gb that worked on the xbox, but it died and now my new one won’t read. The xbox reads an 8gig flash drive but not my new 1tb drive.

  • adrianGA

    I just checked that the 8gig flash drive is FAT32, my windowsXP will only allow me to format the drive as exFAT or NTFS, NTFS won’t work on my xbox. So will exFAT be readable by my xbox? Also on the xbox when i go into memory it will read that the portable 1tb drive is there but wants to format it, should i use the xbox formatting if there is no FAT32 option on my comp. REMINDER when i go into video library on the xbox the portable drive doesn’t show up.

  • adrianGA

    I have figured it out. To make your portable hard drive work on your xbox. Make sure that the hard drive your want to make work on your xbox has been saved somewhere else or just use and empty hard drive, because the process WILL ERASE EVERYTHING on it. Plug the device into your xbox, if u go to any type of media library the device isn’t recognized as plugged in, this is because it is in NTFS format. You can view the format when in mycomputer and click on the device, I’m using winxp.. To make your xbox read the device it needs to be in a FAT32 format, there are draw backs and such to using this file format but that’s for another time. ANYWAYS all you have to do is plug it into your xbox, got to system settings, then go down to the memory, then the device will be there and go to customize for xbox data backup. You may not care to back up your xbox so u can pick a high or low level of space to use. When u click on customize it will tell u that the disk is not formatted or can’t be read by xbox and ask u to format it, do it. —> Format the drive, as long as it’s empty

    • billa bob tnh

      U answered my f’in prayers! luv u long time :)

  • JD

    Re-formatted an external HD using exFAT and loaded my data onto it. When I took the same external hd and used it on another computer the info on it is not accessible. It asks me to reformat the hd. help!

    • Carsten

      I think, it is the same situation I experienced, then I put in onto my mac, still not working. Then I put it away, for a while, took it up again, and then it is working…. weird!

  • Carsten

    I need to use the best format that both mac – best if both tiger (not nessesary) and snow leopard can read it – and allso win 7. 

    If anybody can up with any suggestions, my future clients with joint issues will be very thankfull? (free help to anybody so helping the solution, thanks, I work on developing perception in the client on how the joint dynamically works!) 

  • Damien A Dunne

    i have a pen drive 256gb exfat i cant keep files on pen drive usng xp sp3 but can on windows 7

  • Damien A Dunne

    i have a pen drive 256gb exfat i cant keep files on pen drive usng xp sp3 but can on windows 7

  • Damen A Dunne

    Sorry hit the enter button by mistake, question continued from above what do i have to do to get it working on xp sp 3

  • Bushido99

    swissknife will format and drive you throw at it. i have a wd 1.5tb formated in exfat and it would great on any os or computer i put it on, including my ps3 , also but any size file i want on it, mp3, dvd, bluray all the above all work fine . 

  • Sanka

    i have kinston 500gb flash drive, it’s exfat file system but i have copied files and connect to another win 7 computor there is folders empty but showing pen properties used space

    what can i do????????????????

  • Ralp

    hen I first plugged it in to my computer ,I was asked to formated it, so it was formated to NTFS, however it does work each on both of my computrers-but not with some other devices like my Auto Navi system or my moble TV.
    Both of theee 2 device work well wih a 32 g usb drive formated with Fat32.
    but the new 64 gb usb does not work on each of these device (by the way this is formated with the NTFS system format.)
    Any advice you can give me?

    Thanks you very much
    Ralph

    • elly

      how partitioning and formatting of FAT32 file system works??
      i need help on this…please!!

  • Phil

    I have a PS3 and I also have a Western Digital 3TB external hardrive that is formatted at exfat. I was unable to access files stored on my hardrive with the PS3. Do I need to convert to Fat32 and if I convert to Fat32 will I lose all the files I have stored on hardrive?

  • Gregg

    Despite David’s excellent recommendations, most of which I agree, in my experience I can attest that I have had no issue re-formatting an external (2.5) HDD to exFAT, even after re-writing the contents on my 500 GB harddrive at least a hundred times. In other words, exFAT is reliable not only for flash drives, but also for (small) external (2.5″) HDD. I use this HDD to transfer large video files between my MAC and another NTFS external drive connected to my PC because only my PC has USB3 ports which allow for greater transfer speeds. Everything works so flawlessly, I wanted to share this experience with everybody. Incidentally, both Mac (disk utility in OS X Snow Leopard or later) and PC (Windows 7) allow for easy conversion of HDDs to the exFAT format.

  • Chris

    I have looked all over the internet for info on this and cannot see why this is not working.

    Someone formatted a WD drive on a MAC to read exFAT files. He says it should be be plug and play on my PC but it is not working…I have tried almost everything

    I have Windows 7 home edition with SP1 installed.
    the drive shows up in device manager and the drivers are all installed.

    I did look at the drive on a MAC and all of the files are there in tact….but for whatever reason I cannot get my computer to see these files…They also won’t show up on the Mac Drive.

    Anyone have some info on this? It should be working..

    Thanks

    • David Kirk

      Chris: This is actually a pretty common issue with drives that are formatted as exFAT on macs. I had thought that later versions of OS X had fixed this, but I haven’t tested it recently. It’s something with the formatting process because initially formatting the drive on the Windows box instead ensures that it will work correctly with both systems.

      • Chris

        Basically the DP was putting all of our movie footage on two drives..three if you include his MAC….a G-RAID drive and my Mac Drive…

        the footage was readable after I used a demo version of this MAC convert software…then he decided to use this exFAT file structure insisting that it should be PC plug and play….it is not.

        what’s weird is that I have drives not formatted as FAT32 which has that 4 GB limit on it so I am not sure why he just didn’t format the drive that way. I am looking at an external drive I have now with a 40+ gig Short movie Master file on it as well as numerous other 4+ GB files….so it boggles my mind why we would try and over engineer this when it’s apparent that Windows Can handle the 4+GB file sizes. Would be good to know what his logic was…I am sure I am missing something…maybe it has to do with moving the file over USB or Firewire??

        I did use the Demo on that Mac convert software again last night on the off chance that it would work…thinking this is too much of a hassle I was just going to pay the $50 for the software…well low and behold now that the files are exFAT that convert software won’t work anymore…

        I am now trying to at least just get the most recent data off of the drive using a buddies MAC and another hard drive as a destination drive…then perhaps I can get in touch with my movie buddy who has the G-RAID drive and do one last sweep of any of the newest files including the final mix and trailer…

        move all of that back onto the re-formatted drive in question (good times).

        this is frustrating though.

        Thanks!

        • David Kirk

          Sorry for your trouble. I ran into a similar issue doing some digital audio mixing back in the Snow Leopard days. I chased the issue and finally found out that it was an error within OS X. I continue to hear of issues like this with exFAT’s formatted on macs. I’d just format the drive in exfat on your windows box and then take it back to him for the data dump.

          One day we’ll all have google fiber and we can just transfer these mega media files over the internet… right?

          • Chris

            Whats even more strange is that someone said that the exFAT file format was not able to be formatted in windows…but if it can then I might look into it.

  • max

    I have a 500GB seagate external HDD..due to some reading issue i formatted it and it got formatted into exFAT (i dont remember how???). I tried to format it back to NTFS but in vain(can format in exFAT) ..i also tried to convert it using cmd but no use. The problem with exFAT is that file larger than 85MB cannot be transferred. I’m using win7 ultimate..HELP!!

  • branden

    how does these formats work on a xbox 360

  • Marvin Nicholson

    My son’s partner, a guru’s guru, has recommended my formatting a newly added 2-Terabyte hard drive (in my XP machine) with exFAT, to eliminate the file name trouble I’ve been having with my long photo and video file names being converted to DOS-like hexadecimal, such as “12A96E~1.JPG” but your article says exFAT is recommended only for flash drives, yet it’s installed on Vista SP1 and Win7 hard drives.

  • jimmy

    I need help I have a 64 gig flash drive that has exFAT as it’s default and won’t change to FAT. With Fat I can fill up my flash drive with movies but with exFAT I can only put about 5-6 movies on it at a time anything after that will download but comes out unplayable. Please help!

  • Grant

    Good morning David,

    Thanks for providing some clear perspective on this. I am approaching this issue from a different direction – I have never had any experience using PC’s, yet I routinely need to transfer HD video from my Mac setup to a client’s portable drive (most commonly 500GB or 1TB).

    Are you able to direct me as to the likely most generally acceptable PC drive format for their (PC-based client’s) use?

    My 2 options, using Mac Disk Utility, are MS-DOS (FAT) and ExFAT. When I am handed their drive already formatted to NTFS, I have to advise them that my Mac can read-only, not write to this (and so I start by reformatting the drive).

    My HD video, at 1080/30p, ‘costs’ about 1GB per min of footage. We can occasionally capture an event that runs for 60 mins continuously, so you can see what I am up against (a possible 60GB file size). In this case, per your advice, I can split the file up during ingest (marking in’s and outs) or I can simply interrupt the recording in-camera at non-critical points of an event.

    Thank you again for your guidance. Much appreciated.

    I am also going to try researching whether the Mac platform can be extended to allow for formatting PC-destined drives to NTFS.

    Grant.

    • David Kirk

      Grant:

      I’m glad you started looking for your answers here. However, in this circumstance I’m not going to suggest that I know the true answer. As I do a lot of video work as well, the best way to do hybrid MAC/PC video is not clear to me.

      I suspect most people in your case will find a way to write NTFS to make it easiest for your clients. Multiple drivers (most of them paid options) exist for bringing NTFS options to your mac.

      If I needed NTFS in both directions, I would probably go with a paid, expensive NTFS driver option with excellent support. However, in your case it sounds like you only need NTFS output. If your NTFS output doesn’t work well for the client, at least you still have a safe copy on your computer. Thus, you could try a cheaper NTFS driver option.

      However, don’t take just my word for it. Multiple, multiple video people deal with this on a daily basis. Apple systems are still the most popular video editing options, and most clients are PC. Lots of people have this problem. I would try lurking on some apple video forums (Final Cut Pro, etc) and seeing what they recommend.

      Good luck and please provide us some feedback with what you ultimately decide.

  • yussif alhassan

    woooooww

  • 890zx

    The only real thing that forbids to install Windows 7 or 8 into an exFat formatted HD or SSD is this euphemism called “Security”.

    Hey, all of you that only have one or two computers at home!
    For what do you need “SECURITY”

    Repply : for NOTHING.

    Security is not necessary for to run antivirus, all of them run in FAT32.

    Security is a problem of Microsoft and his partners, not ours.

    If you install Windows 7 / 8 in a exFat formatted disk, (it does not matter of what type), there are NO MORE PERMISSIONS and you can access to each one of the forbidden and obscure corners of the OS, like with Windows XP.

    Microsoft wont security for to self defend from you, you and you, this means from ALL of US.

    This is SECURITY.

  • Ana

    Thank you…. exactly what I needed in terms I understood.

  • Graham

    David this is a handy summary of formatting but I have an old flashdrive which is formatted FAT
    (ie not FAT32, just FAT).
    It probably explains why this flashdrive doesn’t work when I take files to the shop for photo printing.
    I have solved my problem by formatting the flashdrive to FAT32.

    … but in your explanation above you refer to FAT more than once, is this a typo ??

    So what is FAT please ?