A FILE SYSTEM COMPARISON

Various file systems have been in use since the original FAT12 used with the original PC DOS. MS-DOS 2.0 added support for hard disks and FAT16 to allow for ST-506 5MB or ST-412 10MB hard disks. FAT12 continued to be standard for floppy disks. Over time new file systems have been introduced to overcome the vast number of limitations that have plagued the PC for ages.

ReFS NTFS ExFAT FAT32 FAT16
Max Volume 4.7ZB 256TB 64ZB 32GB 4GB
Max File 18EB 256TB 64ZB 4GB 2GB
OS Support Server 2012+ NT 3.51+ XP+ Win95+ DOS2+

The PC/AT had a 1.2MB floppy disk and a larger half-height ST-225 20MB hard disk. DOS 3 was provided with better support for the new floppy as well as the larger hard disk. A bug in DOS 3 failed to retract the head leading to faults.

Windows 2000 brought NTFS to the mainstream when it was released. NTFS is more reliable and it immediately became very popular. NTFS was able to format larger capacity disks easily allowing for larger file systems.

Windows XP SP2 added ExFAT which was designed for flash storage devices. ExFAT is 64-bit based to allow for a vast file system.  ExFAT has become popular with larger capacity flash storage devices. SDXC supports ExFAT as the default file system for 32GB and larger capacity devices. USB flash storage continue to use FAT32 with 64GB and even 128GB devices.

Windows Server 2012 added support for ReFS which is designed for vast storage volumes. ReFS is not widely used but its expected to become more widely used with vast storage libraries etc. Windows 8 was expected to adopt it but Microsoft abandoned its adoption.