What is file system?

A computer or any other electronic device uses some kind of file system to stores the data. This includes your Windows pc, your Mac, Smartphone, Bank’s ATM… even the pc in your automobile.

If you’re from pc background, then you most probably know what the file system is and what are its types? If you do not know then there’s nothing to worry about as in this article I am going to tell you what is File System and what are its types like NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, HFS, HFS+, etc.

So read this complete article to get the complete information about what is a file system and what are their types. So let’s get started without any delay.

What is File System?

file system is a way of storing information or data on a computer that usually consists of a hierarchy of directories that is used to organize files. Each hard disk drive (HDD) or any other storage device as well as each partition (i.e. logically independent section of an HDD) can have a different type of file-system if desired.

In computers, this is the file systems (also called FS) that stores and organize data in storage media, such as hard drives, CDs, DVDs and other external storage.

You can consider a filesystem as a store or DB (database) in which the physical location of all the data of any storage device is kept (it may be a hard drive). In this, the data is organized into folders that are known as directories.

Now different operating systems (OS) have different File systems, such as Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux-based systems. Commonly used file systems are FAT 32 (File Allocation Table 32), NTFS (New Technology File System), HFS (Hierarchical File System), EXT 2,3,4, etc.

Types of File System:

1. Windows File System

There are many types of Windows file system, such as FAT32, NTFS, FAT12, FAT16, and exFAT. But the most commonly file systems are  NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. So lets discuss them :

Fat 32 File System:

FAT16 and FAT32 were old filesystems used by Windows. They are also used on Floppy Discs. They proved to be very slow and would require a lot of RAM to support very large discs. One of the most known limitations of FAT32 is that it cannot store files larger than 4GB. As the disks grew larger, FAT32 became worse. BUT, FAT32 is still better for small discs.

NTFS File System:

The NTFS file system is currently used by Windows. NTFS has several technical improvements over FAT and HPFS (High-Performance File System), such as improved support for metadata, and the use of advanced data structures to improve performance, reliability, and disk space utilization, plus additional extensions, such as security access control lists (ACL) and file system journaling.

exFAT File System:

Microsoft file system optimized for flash drives. Unlike NTFS, exFAT cannot pre-allocate disk space for a file by just marking arbitrary space on disk as ‘allocated’. As in FAT, when creating a file of known length, exFAT must perform a complete physical write equal to the size of the file.

2. Linux File System

Unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t have a fixed file system. As you know Windows only supports the NTFS file system, but in the Linux world, you have plenty of options for Linux file system types.

Here are the Linux file system types:

Ext4 File System / Ext3 File System:

(Fourth Extended FileSystem / Third Extended Filesystem )
The most stable and recommended, perfect for a daily laptop, desktop usage. It is the default FS for most of the distros including the Ubuntu, go for this if you are a newbie and just want it to be up and running

XFS File System:

XFS File System is the old file system and works slowly with small files.  It provides very fast throughput on large files and filesystems and is very fast at formatting and mounting. It mostly focused on concurrency rather than integrity, and mostly used in servers.  XFS is very mature and offers online defragmentation capability.

ZFS File system:

ZFS File system is a combined file system and logical volume manager designed by Sun Microsystems. This is an FS that is generally used in BSD systems and is equipped with many fancy technical features such as automatically detecting and adding space to the logical partition when you attach a new physical disk(takes care of formatting and everything for ya) and many more. This is also an advanced FS and relatively new to the Linux world, Canonical just added its support in Ubuntu 16.04.


 Also known as “Better FS”, is a new filesystem with powerful features similar to Sun/Oracle’s excellent ZFS. These include multi-disk striping, snapshots, and mirroring (software RAID without mdadm), incremental backup, checksums, and on-the-fly compression that can give a significant performance boost as well as save space. It is said to be the next thing after ext file systems. But since it is in development I would not recommend it. Although keep an eye on it if you are interested.

3. Apple File System

Mac OS uses Universal Disk Format (UDF), Hierarchical File System (HFS), HFS+ and FAT 32 formats. OS X, now officially known as macOS, has used HFS+ (Hierarchical File System +) for many years and recently officially upgraded to the new, state of the art APFS (Apple File System).

HFS+ improved on HFS:

HFS+ supports larger files, block addresses are 32-bit length instead of 16-bit, and uses Unicode (instead of Mac OS Roman) for naming items. HFS+ uses B-trees to store most volume metadata. It supports hard links to directories and permits filenames up to 255 characters in length, and n-forked files. It uses full 32-bit allocation mapping table rather than HFS’s 16 bits