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What Is NTFS and How Does It Work?

Nov 04, 2019

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What Is NTFS and How Does It Work?

By Tobias Geisler Mesevage

Let's Get Technical

NT file system (NTFS), which is also sometimes called the New Technology File System, is a process that the Windows NT operating system uses for storing, organizing, and finding files on a hard disk efficiently.

NTFS was first introduced in 1993, as apart of the Windows NT 3.1 release.

The benefits of NTFS are that, compared to other similar file systems like File Allocation Table (FAT) and High-Performance File System (HPFS), NTFS focuses on:

  • Performance: NTFS allows file compression so your organization can enjoy increased storage space on a disk.
  • Security access control: NTFS will enable you to place permissions on files and folders so you can restrict access to mission-critical data.
  • Reliability: NTFS focuses on the consistency of the file system so that in the event of a disaster (such as a power loss or system failure), you can quickly restore your data.
  • Disk space utilization: In addition to file compression, NTFS also allows disk quotas. This feature enables businesses to have even more control over storage space.
  • File system journaling: This means that you can easily keep a log of⁠—and audit⁠—the files added, modified, or deleted on a drive. This log is called the Master File Table (MFT).

How Does NTFS Work

The technical breakdown of NTFS is as follow

  1. A hard disk is formatted
  2. A file gets divided into partitions within the hard disk
  3. Within each partition, the operating system tracks every file stored in a specific operating system
  4. Each file is distributed and stored in one or more clusters or disk spaces of a predefined uniform size (on the hard disk)
  5. The size of each cluster will range from 512 bytes to 64 kilobytes

You can control the size of a cluster size based on what’s most important to your organization:

  • Efficient use of disk space
  • The number of disk accesses required to access a file

Drawbacks of NTFS

The primary disadvantage of NTFS is that its modern capabilities aren’t accessible to older technology. And, because NTFS is designed to work with a Windows operating system, devices that operated from Mac or Android aren’t always compatible. For example:

  1. Mac OS computers can read NTFS formatted drives, but they can only get written to NTFS with the help of third-party software
  2. Media devices like DVD players, TVs, and digital cameras are likely too old to leverage NTFS storage devices

Additionally, NTFS does not include a system for guaranteeing performance and bandwidth to the file system, which can pose a problem to some users.

Who Uses NTFS?

Today, NTFS is used most often with the following Microsoft operating systems:

  • Windows 10
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows NT

However, it is possible to leverage NTFS with other operating systems like Linux and BSD.