File system? Which Windows uses what

A computer’s file system is a the way it sorts files on its hard drive.

On Windows computers, there have been several flavors over time as follows:

  1. Windows 95 – Uses FAT, sometimes called FAT16
  2. Windows 98 – Uses FAT or the newer FAT32
  3. Windows ME – Uses FAT or FAT32
  4. Windows NT/2000 – Uses NTFS by default, but also use FAT32
  5. Windows XP – Uses NTFS by default, but can also use FAT32
  6. Windows Vista - Uses NTFS.

Under Windows XP, there are two possible options. NTFS and FAT32. NTFS is a system from the old Windows NT (and Windows 2000) operating system which was Microsoft’s old Windows for business computers.

FAT32 — used on Windows ME and 98 — was an evolution of the FAT system used on Windows 95.

To figure out which one you have, double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and right-click on your C drive. Choose Properties. Look for the File system entry. It’ll either say NTFS or FAT32.

In Vista, click Start click Computer right click on the C: drive and choose Propertes. On the General tab you’ll see an entry for file system. Microsoft said it would develop a new file system for Vista called WinFS, but the project got postponed. Vista currently uses NTFS.

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Read our article: Reformat, reinstall for Windows FAQs.