Essay: Comparison of File Allocation Table 32 and NTFS

Essay: Comparison of File Allocation Table 32 and NTFS
April 14, 2011 Comments Off on Essay: Comparison of File Allocation Table 32 and NTFS Academic Papers on Information Technology,Sample Academic Papers admin

Sample Essay


When it comes to permanent storage of data on computers, the operating system requires a system which could read, write and manage data on the devices attached to the computer. This function is done by the file system. The file system uses a hierarchy of structures for data storage and tables for managing the stored data. They not only hide the complex tasks of organizing data but also provide a way to read and write data with faster speed and a consistent format, which can be used by the operating system to display the stored data in a form that is much more understandable to the user. File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32) and New Technology File System (NTFS) are two of the most successful file system which has been in common use by business and home users. The main reason for their success and popularity has been their usage by Microsoft in its series of DOS and Windows operating system (Kozierok).

This paper will present a comparative study of FAT32 and NTFS and will discuss its features and techniques in detail. The structure of this paper is kept simplified for ease of reading and understands. The paper has been divided into two parts. The first part discusses key structures, storage mechanism and other features of FAT32. The second part concentrates on NTFS and presents a detailed picture of the NTFS file system.

File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32)
History of FAT32

The origin of the File Allocation Table (FAT) file system can be traced back to late 1970s and early 1980s. FAT was the file system which was used by Microsoft’s popular operating system of its time, MS-DOS. Originally it was designed for floppy disk drives with capacity less than 500K in size (FAT12); however, it was further enhance to support larger media as the capacity of the disk drives expanded. In the early 1980s, MS-DOS was using a file system which used 16-bit for address. The disk was divided into 65,536 sectors and the maximum supported size of the hard drive was 32MB with 512KB sector size. In order to support extended disk sizes, this problem has to be overcome. Thus FAT12 and FAT16 were introduced. These file systems used clusters (group of sectors) instead of sector for addressing and could hold 65,536 clusters, rather than sectors and thus supported larger hard drives (ICLX Tech Department). The maximum supported partition size of FAT16 was 2GB which was quite enough when FAT16 was introduced. However, rapidly evolving capacity of the hard drives, required further improvement of FAT16, resulting in the introduction of FAT32 which used 32-bit addressing as compared to 16-bit addressing of FAT16. This enlarged the supported partition capacity of FAT file system to 2TB (Chen).

File, Directory, Paths and Directory Tree

The basis of storage model for FAT file system is the file. A file can be described as a structure in which a group of bytes is stored together with a name. It contains data, which could be a program, picture, movie or anything that can be put to use in a computer. Files on FAT32 are stored in logical structures called directory tree. At the base of this directory tree is “root directory”. A directory is simply a name container which is used to hold other files or directories. Each file or directory can be identified uniquely using its name and its path, which is the route along the directory tree which needs to be traversed to get to the directory or file (Kozierok).

Structures used in FAT32 File System


Though it is possible to allocate the space for files on sector basis, under the FAT file system, they are not used. Instead, it uses cluster (group of sectors) for allocating space. The size of the cluster is determined by the size of the disk volume which can be from 4 sectors (2048 bytes) to 64 sectors (32,768 bytes).  In some cases, a cluster size of 128 sectors is used as well. Each file is allocated an integer number of clusters.  The cluster size plays an important role in making the efficient use of disk space. Larger cluster size usually results in wasting of space because most files are unlikely to fill up an integer number of clusters (Kozierok).

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