By Emily / Last Updated October 14, 2019

What should we know about file systems?

For different operating systems, such as Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, there always is a different file system to organize and store data. So it is of great importance for us to select a proper one for our requirements. Here are a few of popular file systems we should know:

  • exFAT

exFAT is a good choice if you often work with Windows and Mac computers. It could make transferring the files between those two operating systems much easier because you don’t need to back up and reformat each time. Besides, this file system inherit something popular and great from FAT32 including the incredible compatibility. But exFAT (like other FATs) lacks a journal, and so it easily gets corrupted when the volume is not unmounted or ejected in a proper way.

  • FAT32

FAT32 is originally designed to replace FAT16. It is quite old like Windows 95, so it works well on some old systems. The file and partition size limitations make many computer users keep away from this kind of file system. Its filenames could not surpass 8 characters and a single file can not exceed 4GB, so it is not ideal for large files like movies. Besides, you cannot install newer versions of Windows on a FAT32 system.

  • NTFS

NTFS, which is stand for New Technology File System, has been improved and updated over the years since its first introduction in 1993. Compared with FAT file systems, it could support for metadata and advanced data structures to improve performance, reliability, and disk space use. Also, it has limitations for file size and partition, but they are theoretically so large, so it’s not necessary for you to worry about them in the lifetime.

Meanwhile, its security permissions to files and folders attract more and more users who concern a lot about their information.

After scanning over the brief introduction to exFAT, FAT32 and NTFS, we can easily come to a conclusion: the NTFS is much better in performance, compatibility and security. That’s the reasons why so many users decide to format external hard drive NTFS before using it for the first time, or plan to convert exFAT or FAT32 to NTFS after several days of usage.

Two methods to format external hard drive to NTFS

If you have an external drive you only use with Windows computers, you may wonder how to format an external hard drive to NTFS effortlessly. Here come two different methods for your problem: Disk management and a third-party format external hard drive software. Now take a look at how they perform.

Note: when you format an external hard drive, it means all the content on it will be erased. If you cares the data on this drive, you can try AOMEI Backupper to make a backup.

1. Disk Management

(1) Right-click on This PC->Manage->Disk Management in the left side.

(2) Right-click the hard drive you want to format, and choose "Format...".

Format in DM

(3) A mini window pops out, on which you can choose "NTFS" and hit "OK".

DM Choose Filesystem

(4) Then a note will appear to remind you that formatting will erase all the data. Click "OK" to continue the process if the backup has already been made .

Please Note: the Disk Management could only format external hard drive from FAT32 and exFAT to NTFS in Windows10/8/7, but it cannot format Ext3/4 filesystem since the Windows could not recognize them.

2. AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard

Apart from using the Windows Built-in Disk Management tool, you can also turn to some format external hard drive software, like-AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard, free but quite powerful software to help you manage your disk. No matter which filesystem your external hard drive comes with, exFAT, FAT32, Ext3, or Ext4, it could successfully format them to NTFS, a big advantage over DM. Now learn how to operate.

First please download the freeware.

(1) Install and run it. Right-click the disk (here take Ext3 partition for example)you need to format and choose “Format Partition”.

Format Ext3 Partition

(2) In the mini window, choose "NTFS" under the file system and Click "OK".

Choose Ntfs

(3) Back to the main interface and click "Apply" in the top left corner to execute the pending operation.


These two methods mentioned above could enable you to format external hard drive to NTFS, but both might lead to data loss if you forget backing up in advance. What’s worse, the lost data could never be recovered. So is there any way to format the external hard drive to NTFS with keeping data safe?

Good news: if the external hard drive is with FAT32, you can directly convert it to NTFS without any data loss via "NTFS to FAT32 Converter" offered by AOMEI Partition Assistant. It could directly convert FAT32 to NTFS and vice versa with ensuring the security of data. Its easy-to-use and clear interface could make the conversion an easy and quick process.

So it is definitely worthwhile to give AOMEI Partition Assistant a try whenever you need to format external hard drive NTFS but the DM fails. Now, download it to make all your disk management with ease and convenience!