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NTFS or exFAT: Which Format is Better for External Hard Drive

Can not decide which format to choose? In this article, we will help you choose the right format - exFAT or NTFS for external hard drive. Moreover, a professional format software, EaseUS Partition Master and disk management, can easily format external hard drive to NTFS or exFAT.

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Updated by Cici on Dec 14, 2023
Written by Tracy King

"ExFAT or NTFS? I'm curious about this and can't find a straightforward answer: Which is better, ExFAT or NTFS? I understand that ExFAT is relatively new. It is geared more toward external devices like flash drives and USB hard drives. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using ExFAT format on such a device?"

Run out of disk space again? Due to the limited space on the internal hard drives, many users store large files on external hard drives or transfer important data via external devices. But there's more to it than just buying an external drive to store data. If you have checked the post-purchase items, you can see formats like exFAT, NTFS, and more. Disk format is an organizing principle to store data for specific operating systems.

exfat vs ntfs

Which format is better? Depending on your needs, you will need to format the external hard drive into NTFS or exFAT. Check for more details in the main part.

Quick Navigation:

NTFS for Windows Only
exFAT for Windows and Mac
NTFS or exFAT for External Hard Drive
How to Format External Hard Drive to NTFS or exFAT

NTFS for Windows Only

NTFS (New Technology File System) is the default file system of the Windows NT environment. The new technology file system is compatible with Windows 2000, Windows XPM, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows NT operating systems. Praised by its improvements, NTFS replaces the old FAT file system. NTFS supports metadata, advanced data structures, reliability, and disk space utilization. And more additional functions like encrypting file systems, hard links, sparse files, and reparse points.

If you only use a Windows computer, it is recommended to use NTFS format. In general, a Mac computer can only read NTFS. Some devices, such as Xbox One, Xbox 360, and other media players and printers. NTFS is a crucial file system for Windows; share this article to let more users know about this file system now.


exFAT for Windows and Mac

exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table File System) is a file suitable for flash memory introduced by Microsoft in Windows Embedded 5.0 and above (including Windows CE 5.0, 6.0, Windows Mobile 5, 6, 6.1)

The system was launched to solve the problem that FAT32 and other files do not support 4GB and larger files. For flash drives, memory cards, and flash drives, the NTFS file system is unsuitable for use, exFAT is better.

If you use Windows and Mac computers, exFAT is a good choice. It also works with Xbox One and PS4 but for Xbox 360 and PS3. The downside of exFAT exists in the journal function.

We will continue to provide you with more information about NTFS and exFAT after you have learned the basics. In addition, we will provide you with a professional formatting tool to help you. Continue reading.

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NTFS or exFAT for External Hard Drive

After clearing the basic information of NTFS and exFAT, let's see which format is better for the external hard drive.


As we said above, NTFS is only used for Windows users. If you only want to use an external hard drive on Windows, regardless of other devices, choose this format. If you have purchased a hard drive set to NTFS by default, you do not need to reformat it. On the contrary, exFAT is applied to Windows, macOS, Android, smart TVs, cameras, and other devices. Pick one based on your existing OS.

Data Security

As we mentioned above, the only drawback to exFAT is the lack of logging, which means data corruption is more likely to occur, such as file loss due to a sudden power outage. The NTFS has a logging function, which prevents file corruption due to power problems.

NTFS can encrypt files by default, while exFAT needs to encrypt them manually.

Storage Limit

In theory, the exFAT format supports unlimited storage and storing large files, it is not as good at managing files as NTFS because NTFS is mainly used for Windows, so it should apply to a storage limit of 16TB.

How to Format External Hard Drive to NTFS or exFAT

Have you decided which format to choose? If so, you can pick the two methods here to finish the format converter.

How to Format External Hard Drive to NTFS

Now, you can download a straightforward format tool, EaseUS Partition Master Free. You can format the external hard drive to NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4. It is an all-in-one format solution for internal/external hard drives, SD cards, memory, and more.

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Download the software and do the simple steps:

Step 1. Right-click the hard drive partition and choose the "Format" option.

Step 2. In the new window, set the Partition label, File system, and Cluster size for the partition, then click "OK".

Step 3. You can see a warning window, click "Yes" to continue.

Step 4. Click the "Execute 1 Task(s)" button, then click "Apply" to start formatting the hard drive partition.

How to Format External HDD Drive to exFAT

You can also open Disk Management to format an external hard drive as exFAT. Follow the steps as follows:

  • Press the Windows + X shortcut key and click Disk Management.
  • Right-click the external hard drive that you want to format.
  • Select exFAT on the window and click OK.

format device via disk management

Don't forget to share this tutorial if you think it's helpful.


To Sum Up

In this article, we've figured out which format to choose for external hard disk, exFAT or NTFS. 

  • Applied to multiple operating systems - Choose exFAT.
  • Protect data from unexpected corruption - Choose NTFS (Journal function serves as a checkpoint to get unsaved data back.)
  • Storage capacity - Choose exFAT (But NTFS also performs well.)

For an easy and efficient external hard drive format tool, EaseUS Partition Master, with its Format feature, can fulfill your different demands.

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FAQs About exFAT or NTFS for External Hard Drive

You may still feel confused about setting exFAT or NTFS for external hard drives. If you are one of them, follow the listed questions and find answers below:

1. Is exFAT slower than NTFS?

Yes, exFAT is slower than NTFS. exFAT has a responsive speed for small files and a 15MB/s write speed for large files. NTFS is very slow for small files but the fastest with 25MB/s speed for large files.

2. Which format is the best for the external hard drive?

  • For Windows PC only, NTFS is the best for an external hard drive.
  • For Windows and Mac, exFAT is the best format for an external hard dive.

3. Is exFAT good for external HDD?

Yes, sure. exFAT breaks the partition size limit of FAT32, supporting huge single partitions larger than 64GB. It also has great compatibility with both Windows and macOS operating systems. exFAT is a good choice for big external hard drives, especially when you want to use the external hard drive on both Windows and Mac computers.

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About the Author

Updated by Cici

Cici is the junior editor of the writing team of EaseUS. She accepted the systematic training on computers at EaseUS for over one year. Now, she wrote a lot of professional articles to help people resolve the issues of hard drive corruption, computer boot errors, and disk partition problems.

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Written by Tracy King

Tracy became a member of the EaseUS content team in 2013. Being a technical writer for over 10 years, she is enthusiastic about sharing tips to assist readers in resolving complex issues in disk management, file transfer, PC & Mac performance optimization, etc., like an expert.

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  • Partition Master Free can Resize, Move, Merge, Migrate, and Copy disks or partitions; convert to local, change label, defragment, check and explore partition; and much more. A premium upgrade adds free tech support and the ability to resize dynamic volumes.

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