This is a brief overview of the most common file systems a normal user will see.
Universal File Systems
- FAT32 is the defacto standard for removable media, it is the most common file system found on USBs and other small external media.
- This filesystem can be read by any operating system, but exFAT is a better solution for a shared device.
- The downside to this file system is the file size limit that many users will notice, this file system cannot hold a file larger than 4GB. You will receive “Out of space” errors if you try.
- exFAT can be substituted for FAT32 to avoid the size limits imposed by FAT32.
- This file system can be read by any operating system and is the best solution for a drive that will be shared between several operating systems.
Windows File Systems
- NTFS is the file system used by Windows.
- NTFS can be read by both Mac and Linux (install the NTFS-3g package).
Mac File Systems
- HFS+ is the default filesystem used by Mac devices.
- HFS+ cannot be read by Windows
- Linux has native support for reading this file system but may need additional packages installed to write to the file system.
- If you have issues between Mac and Windows while using an external drive or USB that was formatted on a Mac, the issue is most likely this file system. Use NTFS or exFAT instead, for inter-operating system compatibility.
Linux File Systems
- The EXT series is the default file system used by Linux systems, with EXT4 being the latest.
- These file systems cannot be read natively by Mac or Windows.