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What is a file system? Basic knowledge that can not be heard now and types for each OS

File system
File system

Files that store and organize documents and image data on a computer are one of the OS functions called “file system”.
The file system plays a major role in storing data on a computer and extracting and using the stored data.
This time, we will introduce the basic knowledge and functions of the file system used in computers and various file systems.


table of contents

  • 1. What is a file system?
  • 2. File system features
  • 3. File system type
  • 4. How to convert the file system
  • 5. File system essential for storing files

What is a file system?

The file system is a function required to manage and operate the data stored in the storage device. It is one of the functions provided by the OS, and most OSs manage files in the file system.

A file is an information stored in storage. Files include software, user-created data, TV shows recorded on HDD recorders, and movies burned to DVD. It means that I usually use the file system without noticing when recording or playing TV programs on the HDD recorder.

The file system also provides an interface for working with files. Store and label files in a hierarchical structure so you can use them when you need them. Without a file system, you may not be able to save your data correctly or you may not know where you saved it.
The file system used differs depending on the OS, but most OSs have a file system except for the OS for a specific purpose.

Formatting (initialization) is one of the functions of the file system. Formatting (logical format) is to divide the storage area and set the number according to the file system of the OS you are using, not to erase the data. Formatting recognizes the storage device and makes it usable.
The delimiter created in the format is called a cluster. A cluster is the smallest unit for storing files, and the smaller the size of the cluster, the less wasteful the disk can be used.


File system features

The basic function of the file system is file management, but other general file systems have the following functions.


● File save function

After creating the document, you can save it as a file with any name by clicking “Save As”. The saved file can be opened from an application such as an editor. Saving the data created by the application has the same function.


● Encryption function

You can encrypt and save the file. It is possible to allow operations for each file owner or user and to manage file operation permissions with a password.


● Compression function

Save disk space by compressing and saving the created data. This method is especially effective for SDDs (Solid State Drives), which have a smaller capacity than HDDs (Hard Disks).


File system type

The standard of the file system differs depending on the OS such as Windows, Mac, and UNIX, and the restrictions on the drives and file sizes that can be handled also change depending on the standard.

For example, Windows uses “FAT” and “NTFS”, but the file system used depends on the version and edition of Windows.
In addition, Mac used to use a file system called “HFS +”, but in 2016, it announced a new file system “APFS (Apple File System)”.
Linux, a UNIX-like OS, mainly uses a file system called “XFS” or “ext4”.



FAT (File Allocation Table) was developed by Microsoft and is a file system adopted by MS-DOS before Windows. It records the location information of the file, and initially handled a small file of about 500KB.
After that, as the file size increased, the functions were expanded and evolved into “FAT12”, “FAT16”, and “FAT32”. The higher the number, the higher the drive and file size limits. Currently, FAT16 and FAT32 are mainly used.

FAT16 can be used from MS-DOS to Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, etc.
FAT32 can be used on Windows98, WindowsMe, Windows2000, WindowsXP, WindowsVista, Windows7, MacOS, and more. Since it can be accessed from MacOS, it is also used as an optical disc for storing shared files.



NTFS (NT File System) is an evolution of FAT that can be used on all Windows versions since Windows XP and is now mainstream on Windows. Originally it is a Windows NT file system, so it cannot be used on Windows 95 or Windows 98.
It has a journaling function that saves information such as file change history and is a more sophisticated and robust system than FAT. It also has a compression function and a file-based encryption function.

Both FAT and NTFS are characterized by the drive letter being visible to the user. You can see from Explorer that the hard disk has a name such as C drive, and you can see at a glance which file is stored in which drive.


● HFS +

It was introduced in Mac OS 8.1 in 1998 as an extended version of “HFS (Hierarchical File System)” that has been used since 1985. The capacity that can be handled as one file is 8EB (exabyte), which corresponds to a large file. 1EB is 1 million TB.
It is a robust system that adds a journaling function to HFS with a directory structure, and can also be encrypted on a file-by-file basis. However, since it is only compatible with macOS, it cannot be accessed from Windows even on a dual bootable Mac.



APFS (Apple File System) is a new file system announced by Apple in 2016. OSs developed by Apple, such as macOS, iOS, and watch OS, will be gradually switched to APFS.
APFS is optimized for SSDs, flash memory, etc., and the speed of file copy is (apparently) faster. It also introduces a snapshot function and advanced encryption function.


● X

XFS is a 64-bit journaling file system that began development in 1993 and is primarily used on Linux. UNIX-like file systems are characterized by storing files in a hierarchical structure, and this method has also been introduced in Windows FAT and NTFS. Among them, XFS is stable even in UNIX because it is a fairly old format. It is also robust because it supports journaling systems, but once deleted files cannot be restored.


File system conversion method

Windows supports both FAT32 and NTFS depending on the version. If you want to handle files of a size that FAT32 cannot handle, you can convert the system if it is a file system that supports the OS you are using.


● Differences in file system conversion methods

There are two ways to convert a file system: format and convert.


<Convert in format>

Formats include regular formats and quick formats. Normal formatting is time-consuming as it checks all space on the disk for errors and separates the clusters. This is the method to use when using a new disc for the first time.
Quick format, on the other hand, erases only the data management area, so it doesn’t take long, but it doesn’t allow you to separate clusters. If you also want to change the cluster size, do the normal formatting.
Converting the file system with formatting erases all saved data. In quick format, the internal data appears to be erased, but it can be restored with a tool. However, you cannot format the drive you are using, such as the C drive.


<Convert by conversion>

File system conversion allows you to convert a file system from FAT to NTFS while preserving the saved data. It is a method for intermediate users and above to start a command prompt, type a command, and execute it.
To convert the file system, some free space is required on the drive to be converted as a work area. If there is not enough free space, it cannot be converted.
However, conversion cannot convert NTFS to FAT32. In this case, the normal format is required.


● Conversion method (for Windows)

Here, we will show you how to convert file systems in a quick format.


1. 1. Select the drive to do a quick format

Select the drive you want to quick format from My Computer or Explorer and right-click.

2. Select a format

If you select “Format” from the displayed menu, a pop-up called “Format” will appear.

3. 3. Select an option

Specify the drive name in “Volume Label” in the menu. Next, check “Quick Format” in “Format Options”.
You can leave the other optional parts at their default values.

Four. Perform formatting

Click the “Start” button to start the quick format. When finished, “Done” is displayed.

Five. Check the format

Select the quick formatted drive from My Computer or Explorer and right-click. Click “Properties” from the displayed menu to display the drive properties. You can check the file system there.

However, the saved files may be damaged or deleted, so be sure to make a backup before operating.


File system essential for storing files


The Explorer screen you normally see when searching for files is part of the file system, but you won’t notice much just by using documents and data.
Without a file system, storage cannot organize and store files.
The function of the file system is that when you connect a PC to another device such as a smartphone or camera, you can operate the files on the device from the PC.
Not only when you use it for business, but also when you synchronize your smartphone and PC next time, please be aware of the file system.

If you ever want to know about similar things, check out the Facebook page Maga Techs




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