EXT4 Vs NTFS: Comparisons of File Systems

Word has been going around about which file system is better. Many have taken sides but it’s not enough to just take sides without properly reviewing these file systems individually.

This article ext4 vs NTFS will put into perspective what these file systems are all about. It will also help you discover what works best for you.

You will also understand which file system to use in different circumstances to achieve your goal. Ext4 and NTFS file systems were both invented to solve a particular problem.

This problem entails the storage of files. Ext4 has a long history and has been upgraded from ext1 to ext2, then to ext3 and finally to ext4.

The advantage of this file system is that it can function as the first version of ext3. Ntfs is a whole different file system, although it has similar functions as ext4, it is a proprietary file system.

Unlike NTFS, ext4 is an open-source file system that only operates on Linux-based systems. To determine what your file system is, you have to consider what exactly you are looking for in a file system. Let’s dive deeper into EXT4 Vs NTFS.

EXT4 Vs NTFS: Comparison

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Having similar functions as journaling file systems already gives the impression that both file systems can perform the same kind of tasks to some extent. Despite that, there are several differences between them.

Therefore, we would be discussing each file system individually to grasp their special characteristics before comparing them as ext4 vs NTFS.

Everything About Ext4

As earlier stated, ext4 is an open-source journaling file system that is only supported by Linux operating systems.

The full meaning of ext4 is that it is the fourth extended file system. This means that the initial aim for the invention of the file system was to create an external data storage system.

Due to its long history, ext4 is the improved version of ext3 and other versions before it. Let’s take a look at the features of ext4.

Features Of EXT4

It has a large file system that can store sizes of up to 64ZiB and 16TiB of single files. It’s also has a file system that grows to a limit of 64KiB

It has extents that help improve space quality and large file performance of the system, all while reducing fragmentation.

It presents the number of subdirectories in a single directory without any limit. This means there is no limit to the number of subdirectories in a single directory.

Ext4 possesses backward compatibility with ext3 and ext2. This makes it possible for users to enjoy the benefits of ext3 and ext2, even ext4. This combines all the unique capabilities of all three versions to improve user experience.

Ext4 also allows partial forward compatibility of ext3 to ext4. Which helps ext3 users easily migrate to ext4 if they choose.

One unique feature that EXT4 has is the Write Barriers. EXT4 uses it by default, it makes sure that metadata is written correctly and ordered on disk regardless of loss of power to the write caches.

EXT4 possesses a feature called Project Quota, which assigns specific disk quotas to different project IDs. It was added to Linux kernel 4.4 on the 8th of January, 2016.

Another practice feature of EXT4 is the Lazy Initialization feature. The lazy init feature helps clean inside tables and the background. It also speeds up initialization when a new EXT4 file system is being created.

In the EXT4 file system, the Multiblock Allocator feature and the Delayed Allocator feature work hand in hand to allocate files in such a way that they are still connected on a disk.

EXT4 possesses the Faster file-system checking feature, which enables e2fsck to effectively skip unallocated block groups and sections of the inode table. This helps to effectively reduce the time spent in checking the file system.

Ext4 has advanced features of pre-allocation, delayed allocation, checksums, improved timestamp that is measured in nanoseconds, transparent encryption, and others. These features help to improve large file performance and reliability.

As with a lot of good things, ext4 has its disadvantages as well. They include the following;

  • Ext4 doesn’t support certain file attributes, like secure deletion.
  • It can only operate on Linux-based systems. It is not supported by Windows or Macs.
  • There are high possibilities of data loss due to the delayed allocation feature of ext4.

Everything About NTFS

As opposed to ext4, NTFS is a proprietary journaling file system. It was invented by Microsoft in 1993 with Windows NT 3.1.

NTFS is also known as the New Technology File System. It is used for most internal hard drives and system drives. NTFS has a lot of amazing features, they include all of the following;

Features Of NTFS

The NTFS file system supports a 2MB cluster size and an individual size of 16EB at maximum. NTFS has a maximum volume of 16TB when using the standard cluster size of 4KB.0

NTFS is mostly used on Windows but it is supported in both BSD and Linux. This means it has more advantages due to its versatility.

NTFS has a unique way of securing user data by using access control lists and user-level encryption. This way, there is no loss of data as compared to EXT4.

NTFS makes use of hard links. This feature makes searching easier for users as it refers to different file names for a particular file.

For example, if you need to locate everything about NTFS in this article when you click on a hard link named ‘everything about NTFS’ it takes you straight to where that phrase is in the article.

NTFS also makes use of alternate data streams (ADS). ADS is a feature that causes multiple data streams to be linked with a filename.

Another unique feature of NTFS is its ability to compress large files into smaller chunks to free up space.

NTFS operates an Encrypting file system (EFS), which allows user-transparent encryption of any file or folder.

NTFS records metadata changes using the NTFS Log.

The ability of NTFS to store metadata through the use of different hidden files on the drive has proven to improve the speed and performance of the system when reading data.

Another amazing feature of NTFS is the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). This feature is important in that it keeps historical versions of different files and folders on NTFS volumes.

It does this by using the copy-on-write technique to copy old, overwritten data to shadow copies.

NTFS has other amazing features, like Transaction NTFS, which helps to accumulate several changes made to different files and make them into one single transaction.

It also possesses a feature called Disk Quota. This feature allows for disk space restrictions. This means that you can set a certain limit on the amount of disk space you want to use on your system.

The other features of NTFS include Sparse Files and Reparse Points. These features help to improve the functionality, extensibility, and security of the hard disk.

There are various advantages to using NTFS, some of them include:

  • NTFS has no limit to its file size or any realistic partition size by changing the cluster size.
  • The consistency of NTFS files is preserved because of their use of log files and information checkpoints.
  • In situations where there is a power failure or some system mishaps, NTFS uses a change journal to restore information.
  • NTFS has a Resizing feature that helps to either expand or shrink a partition.
  • NTFS does not allow fragmentation by using CompactOS algorithms. This helps to compress the whole system partition and write data in a compressed format. Then these compressed written data are stored in allocated chunks.

NTFS also has its downsides, regardless of all its amazing features. This downsides include;

  • NTFS has limitations on file naming.
  • It does not support the formatting of floppy disks.
  • It can only function when there is a large amount of overhead space.
  • It is not compatible with old operating systems.

Applicability Of EXT4 And NTFS

EXT4 is a file system that is ideal for flash-based storage devices like USB flash drives with very large capacity and SD cards.

On the other hand, NTFS is a file system that is ideal for Windows system drives and other internal or external hard drives with large capacities.


From everything stated so far in ext4 vs NTFS, NTFS is quite different from EXT4 in more than one way. Their differences do not in any way reduce their capabilities.

It only enhances their uniqueness. Now you can choose to use EXT4 for your USB flash drives, while you use NTFS primarily for your Windows system.

Both work best in their own ways. To put it in a better light, you can use NTFS when you need to secure certain sensitive data. While you use Ext4 when you don’t mind losing some data.

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