Essay: Cluster and Cluster Sizes in FAT and NTFS

Essay: Cluster and Cluster Sizes in FAT and NTFS
11/04/2011 Comments Off on Essay: Cluster and Cluster Sizes in FAT and NTFS Academic Papers on Information Technology,Sample Academic Papers admin

Sample Essay

Like FAT, NTFS does not independently manage individual 512-byte sectors on the hard disk. It groups them together into a block called a cluster.

This way, it is easy for the file system to keep track of the position of files and directory as well as tackle the problem of fragmentation. Also like FAT, NTFS selects the cluster size based on the size of partition; however it uses a different method than FAt16 and FAT32 to select the size. A version of NTFS also differs in how the select the cluster size. Prior to Windows NT 3.51, NTFS allocated cluster size of up to 64KB depending on the size of the cluster.  With Windows NT 3.51 and later, the default cluster size is a maximum of 4KB for all partition sizes greater than 2GB (Kozierok).

From a structural point of view, NTFS uses the same methods for organization of directories and files as the FAT file system use. It is called hierarchal or directory tree model. The base of the directory structure is the “root directory”, which in fact is one of the key system metadata files on the NTFS volume. Within this root directory, references to other directories and files are stored. Each directory is able to store any combination of files and sub-directories, which creates a tree-like structure.  While externally, both NTFS and FAT look similar, how they are managed internally is totally different. In FAT file system, directories are responsible for storing data about the files, while files themselves contain only data. In NTFS, however, files themselves contain their attributes and their data. Thus, an NTFS directory structure only stores information about itself.

Since in NTFS, everything is considered files, so is the case with directories. Each directory has a record inside the Master File Table (MFT), which is the main information collective. Each record of directory consists of:


The header is a set of low-level management data which is used by NTFS to manage the directory. It consists of sequence numbers and pointers to the directory attributes and free space within the record.

Standard Information Attribute

A set of information which is standard for all files and directories, consisting of date/time stamps and display and permission attributes.

File Name Attribute

Attributes used to store multiple file names for directories such as long filename, DOS compatible filename, and POSIX-style hard links.

Index Root Attribute

It contains the index of files found within the directory and/or link to external index if it exists.

Index Allocation Attribute

It contains the pointer to the external index which contains the rest of the directory’s index information.

Security Descriptor

This attributes contains the security information such as Access Control Lists and other related data.

NTFS directories use B-trees for data management. The use of B-trees means directories are self-sorting and this result in shorter search times for a particular file. However, adding a file to the directory creates a bit of overhead as the file has to be placed in the B-tree of the directory.

NTFS File Attributes and Data Storage

In NTFS, the way the data is stored by the files system depends on the size of the file.  The core structure of the each file makes the following information and attributes stored with each file:

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