What is NTFS (New Technology File System)? (Explained)

What is NTFS (New Technology File System)?

The New Technology File System (NTFS) is the standard file structure for the Windows NT operating system. It is used for retrieving and storing files on the hard disk.


  • The New Technology File System represents the NT record framework and the New Innovation Document Framework that is well known for its improved data structures and features for enhanced performance.
  • This is actually a record framework used by the Windows NT working framework or operating system for storing and retrieving documents on hard disk drives and Solid State Drives.
  • NTFS has some similarities with the File Allocation Table (FAT) file system and the High Performance File System (HPFS) but comes with a few notable improvements in its execution, security and extendibility.
  • There have been many versions of the NT File System released over time such as 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 3.0, and 3.1. Each of them is released with the launch of different versions of Windows operating systems and has better features.
  • The NTFS supports different operating systems such as Windows 7, 8, 10, XP, NT, Vista, 2003, Server 2003 and others such as BSD, Linux, DOS, and OS/2. However, for the Mac operating system, it offers only read-only support.

Understanding NTFS (New Technology File System)

Understanding NTFS (New Technology File System)

NTFS or NT File System, also referred to as New Technology File System sometimes, refers to a particular type of file organization system.

It is designed to support a diverse range of operating systems and offer much better ways to protect data while storing it on or retrieving it from a storage medium much more efficiently in comparison to the FAT file system versions.

NTFS replaces the OS/2 High Performance File System (HPFS) and the Windows 95 File Allocation Table (FAT).

These were used in the Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) and earlier operating system versions.


Different versions of NTSF are available and can be identified by their version numbers. For example:

  • NTFS 1.0 was released with Windows NT 3.1 in 1993.
  • NTFS 1.1 was released with Windows NT 3.51 in 1995.
  • NTFS 1.2 was released with Windows NT 4.0 in 1996.
  • NTFS 3.0 was released with Windows 2000 in 2000.
  • NTFS 3.1 was released with Windows XP in October 2001.

What is NTFS (New Technology File System)


It is the design and architecture of the NTFS that makes it so efficient. The file system is also made up of different components, such as:

  • A Partition Boot Sector (PBS) to hold boot information
  • A Master File Table (MFT) to store all the files and folders
  • Metadata
  • Data streams
  • Locking mechanisms

It includes metadata in the MFT, which enables easy addition of features to the file system with the development of Windows NT. This metadata data includes:

  • The file names
  • The date of creation
  • The access permissions
  • The file sizes

It also includes B-trees to index the data in the file system. There are meta files structured just like any other files but they are not of much interest to the clients.

Apart from defining the files, these meta files also help in several other aspects, such as:

  • Backing up data for critical file systems
  • Making changes to buffer file systems
  • Managing free space allocation
  • Satisfying BIOS expectations
  • Tracking bad allocation units
  • Storing disk space utilization and security information.

However, all of these contents are in an anonymous data stream, unless it is indicated otherwise.

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The NTFS comes with a number of improved features such as:

  • Innovative data structures for enhanced performance
  • Improved metadata
  • Disk space utilization
  • File system journaling
  • Hard links
  • Alternate Data Stream (ADS)
  • File compression
  • System compression
  • Sparse files
  • Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)
  • Transactional NTFS (TxF)
  • Disk quotas
  • Reparse points
  • Large hard drive support
  • Natural file-naming convention

There is also a fault tolerance system included in its design. This helps in repairing the errors on the hard drives automatically and without any error messages.

It can also retain a detailed transaction record for keeping proper track of hard drive errors. This feature helps in recovering files in the event of a hard disk crash, in addition to preventing hard disk failures.

It also allows authorizations for read, write, or execute operations for specifically set files and directories.

These files and directories can be located on different hard drives, but they appear as a single volume, often called a spanned volume.

In Windows NT, this spanned volume is, however, called the volume set, and the volumes can extend up to 32 hard disks.

Working Process

The technical aspects of NTFS make it work as follows:

  • The hard disk is first formatted.
  • The file is divided into partitions in it.
  • The operating system tracks each file stored in each partition.
  • Every file is spread and stored in one or more disk spaces or clusters of a preset uniform size on the hard drive.

Usually, the size of a cluster ranges from 512 bytes to 64 kilobytes, but you can control it depending on your needs and the number of accesses needed to access a file for more efficient use of the disk space.


You will need NTFS permissions to access and control files, folders, containers, and objects on shared systems such as a Network Attached Storage (NAS). Typically, there are five fundamental NTFS permissions, such as:

  • Read permission – This allows the user to read the file and see its ownership, attributes, and permissions set.
  • Write permission – This allows the user to overwrite a file, make changes to its attributes, and view its ownership and the permissions set.
  • Read and Execute permission – This allows the user to run and carry out all applications and perform actions that are allowed by the Read permission.
  • Modify permissions – This allows the users to modify a file or delete it and perform all actions allowed by the Read, Write, and Read and Execute permissions.
  • Full Control permission – This allows the users to change the permission sets for a specific file and take ownership of it. It also allows them to perform actions that are allowed by all other NTFS permissions.

Formatting Requirements

When you want to use large files on NTFS, you will need it to allow proper extensions for the large .vhdx files for formatting volumes, according to the new requirement.

In this case, while formatting volumes that will host very large files up to 1 TB or be used with data deduplication, you can use the Format-Volume cmdlet in Windows PowerShell.

There are different parameters to use for it, such as:

  • AllocationUnitSize 64 KB – This will set an NTFS allocation unit size of 64 KB.
  • UseLargeFRS – This will enable large File Record Segment (FRS) support required to enhance the number of extents permitted on each file on the volume.

As for the formats, you can use the following commands on Format-Volume:

  • DriveLetter D
  • FileSystem NTFS
  • AllocationUnitSize 64 KB
  • UseLargeFRS

Alternatively, on a system command prompt, you can use the format command: format /L /A:64k

Here, /L indicates formatting a large FRS volume, and /A:64k will set an allocation unit size of 64 KB.

Creating NTFS

There are two ways in which you can create an NTFS partition on your computer, namely, by using the built-in Disk Management utility in Windows or by using a reliable third-party software.

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To use Disk Management, the processes to follow are:

  • Right-click the Windows icon
  • Click on Disk Management.
  • Right-click on the unallocated space on the hard drive
  • Click on New Simple Volume
  • Set the file system as NTFS of the new partition
  • Set the volume size
  • Click on Next to continue
  • Set the partition drive number
  • Set the label for the new partition
  • Click on Next
  • Click on Finish

To use a third-party Partition Master software is the best thing to do if you are a beginner. The steps to follow are:

  • Install and launch the Partition Master software
  • Right-click on the unallocated space on the hard drive
  • Select Create
  • Adjust the partition size of the new drive
  • Set the file system
  • Set the label for the new partition
  • Click on OK to continue
  • Click on the Execute 1 Task(s) button
  • Click on Apply

Is NTFS Open Source?

No, the implementation of NTFS within Windows NT is closed source, with it ideally being an abstract description for a file system.

It is actually a partition within the hard drive, which is designed to be more secure and efficient than File Allocation Table (FAT) or FAT32 file systems.

However, there are a few open-source imitations or versions of it available as well that work quite well, such as NTFS-3G.

This open-source, cross-platform version of the Microsoft Windows NTFS comes with read and write support and uses the Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) file system interface often. This allows it to run unchanged on several diverse operating systems.

Can Windows 10 Run on NTFS?

Yes, Windows 10 can run on the NT File System. In fact, this particular file system is designed and created to support a wide range of Windows Server line of operating systems.

Ideally, NTFS supports the following Windows operating systems:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 10
  • Windows NT
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows Server 2003

In addition to the above, the file system also supports other operating systems depending on its version such as:

  • Linux
  • OS/2
  • DOS
  • Chrome
  • Solaris
  • Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)
  • NetBSD

However, only read-only support is offered when this file system is used on OpenBSD, ReactOS, Mac operating system and Mac OS X.

Is NTFS Safe?

Yes, NTFS is designed to be quite a safe and secure file system to use. It typically does not have any known security vulnerabilities and there are no back-door permissions into this file system.  

Ideally, Windows NT File System offers several notable system security improvements and options within its architecture such as:

  • File system encryption
  • Added permission settings
  • Security Access Control (ACL)

In fact, these additional enhancements in security make NTFS a far more capable file system in comparison to FAT32.

What is NTFS Used for?

The New Technology File System is typically used by the Windows NT operating system for finding files, storing and organizing them on a hard disk more efficiently, as well as encrypting and decrypting files, folders and data.

Apart from Microsoft Windows, it is also used by different removable storage devices for formatting such as:

  • USBs
  • HDDs
  • SSDs
  • micro-SD cards
  • Large storage solutions such as self-recovering disks

Ideally, you should use NTFS for the following:

  • While creating a new partition on a Windows disk and making NTFS the default
  • While storing and transferring large files of games, movies or videos

You may also use it while installing programs, Windows operating systems, and games on an NTFS partition using a Globally Unique Identifier Partition Table (GPT) or Master Boot Record (MBR) disk type.

What is the Maximum Size of NTFS?

The NT File System is designed to support large volumes. Though the older versions of the file system can support volumes as large as 256 terabytes, the newer versions can support volumes as large as 8 petabytes on Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, or newer.

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However, the volume sizes supported by this file system will typically depend on the number and size of the clusters as well as the type and version of the operating system used. For example:

  • A 1 KB cluster will support a maximum size of 16 EiB on any regular operating system.
  • A 2 MiB cluster will support a maximum size of 8 PB on Windows 10 V1709, Windows Server 2019 or later operating systems.
  • A 64 KB cluster will support a maximum size of 16 TB on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 or earlier operating systems and up to 256 TB on Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 or later operating systems.

The different partition sizes supported by NTFS facilitate supporting such large file sizes and volumes. Ideally, with a maximum number of (232 – 1) clusters supported, the NTFS supports the following maximum cluster size limit:

  • For a cluster size of its default 4 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 16 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 8 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 32 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 16 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 64 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 32 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 128 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 64 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 256 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 128 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 512 TB.
  • For a cluster size of 256 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 1 PB.
  • For a cluster size of 512 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 2 PB.
  • For a cluster size of 1024 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 4 PB.
  • For a cluster size of 2048 KB, the largest volume or file size supported is 8 PB.

You must note here that if you want to use a volume with a larger cluster size than the maximum limit supported by the Windows version you are using, you will get a STATUS_UNRECOGNIZED_VOLUME error.

Also, remember that the apps and services may enforce extra limits on the sizes of files and volumes.


  • Enhanced application speed
  • Efficient utilization of disk space
  • Reduction in I/O
  • Reasonable cluster and volume maximum size
  • Easy file recovery
  • Long file name support with backward compatibility
  • Improved local security
  • More flexible space allocation using disk quotas and file system compression
  • Extended length path support
  • Supports BitLocker drive encryption
  • File system journaling
  • Clustered storage
  • Spanning volumes support
  • Large hard drive support


  • Older technologies cannot access the modern capabilities of it
  • Read-only support on Mac computers
  • No guarantee for bandwidth and performance
  • High fragmentation of large compressible files
  • Compressed system files may fail to boot properly
  • Resizing issues
  • OneDrive requirement

Should You Use NTFS for USB?

Yes, you may use NTFS for USB drives, provided that you are using it on Windows operating systems only.

Otherwise, you should ideally use the exFAT or Extensible File Allocation Table file system if you work in both Windows and Mac environments.


So, from this article, you now surely know that the NT File System is very helpful in storing and organizing data on a hard drive.

It will support almost all operating systems and boost the overall performance of the system and your productivity.

Available in different versions, NTFS is very easy to set up and manage.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.