The most popular file systems are NTFS, FAT, APFS, HFS+, ex-FAT, and FAT 32. We look at which would be best for your external hard drive and discuss compatibility issues with PCs and Macs. Read more.
Table of Contents
Introduction of External Hard Drive
What happens when you run out of storage space on your MacBook or PC? Every time the internal storage space starts getting fuller, the system invariably starts getting slower.
This is not only a very frustrating experience but diminishes the overall performance. A simple solution that I am sure almost all of us use is to just work with an external hard drive. Seagate, WD, Samsung, etc. are some brands that come to mind.
However, in addition to the brands for external hard drives, you also need to pay attention to their file systems. In this article, we look at the five most popular file systems and discuss their compatibility with PCs and Macs.
File Systems: Meaning and Introduction
In very simple words, a File System is a way computers stores, process, and retrieves data. Whether you are using a system’s internal hard drive, thumb storage, or an external hard drive, all of them are organized on file systems.
Different file systems come with their own sets of pros and cons. While some are compatible with all file systems, others are not. Likewise, some have limits to the amount of data you can share. All file systems help in the storage of data and structure how they are placed and read by computer systems.
List of 5 Different Kinds of File Systems
The New File Technology System was created by Microsoft in the mid-1990s as its own file system. It continues to be the popular choice given how safe and secure it is. Most of the external hard drives come pre-formatted with NTFS. Mac systems and macOS only offer read capabilities for NTFS. If you want to write NTFS drive on Mac, you need an Microsoft NTFS for Mac by iBoysoft (fully compatible with M1 Mac and macOS Big Sur).
APFS stands for Apple File Systems and was created by the company as a response to Microsoft’s NTFS. It comes preformatted on all Apple devices like MacBook and iMacs. It is simple, fast and efficient, and great at protecting the integrity of your files. However, it only works on Mac devices and cannot be used without formatting on PCs.
No one uses FAT anymore. This is simply because that it has now become quite old. The good thing about FAT32 file systems is that it is compatible with all PCs and Macs. Meaning, it works on both Windows and macOS. However, it has smaller partition drives and file folders. It is also very slow when you are looking to move larger file sizes. Very few people use this.
Hierarchical File System Plus offers Apple devices with native support. It is similar to APFS and allows Apple users a similar alternative within the ecosystem. It is a great file system because it allows for seamless movements of larger files. The data journaling capabilities ensure that there is certain inbuilt reliability that comes with HFS+ file systems.
In recent years, ex-FAT file systems are slowly gaining a fan following. This is because it looks like a wild child of NTFS and FAT file systems. In essence, it tries to take everything that is good about NTFS and FAT32 and combines it. This means that unlike the FAT32 file systems it does not have the 4GB limit to it. The partition sizes are large enough to be usable.
The Final Word of External Hard Drive
If you are someone that is using multiple systems including Macs and PCs, you need a file system that is seemingly compatible with both operating systems. While ex-FAT seems to be the logical choice as it is compatible with both macOS and Windows, data safety and structural integrity is an issue that has been reported by many users.
NTFS continues to be the preferred option for the format of external hard drives. it is the easiest, safest, and most usable option there is. If you want it to work on Macs, simply opt for a credible third-party NTFS for Mac software like iBoysoft NTFS for Mac and you are good to roll.