The advanced features of NTFS (New Technology File System) like recoverability in the event of a system failure, file compression, security controls for files, EFS (Encryption File System), Disk Space Quota management, etc., has made it preferable over FAT file system. Unless in situations like using multiple-boot configuration – NTFS is an ideal file system to use for your hard drive.

Before Formatting an NTFS volume
For better performance of your NTFS volume it is essential to evaluate which type of files will be stored in the volume and how big they will be. This is to decide whether to use the default cluster size for the NTFS partition or manually configure it. Clusters are units in which files of a file system are managed. Choosing an ideal cluster size not only saves the disk space but also improves the performance of the volume.

Choosing a Cluster size
The default cluster size values of NTFS formatting in Windows NT/2000/XP are as follows:

Size of Logical Volume (Drive Size) Default Cluster Size
< 512 MB 512 Bytes
> 512 MB to 1GB 1 KB
> 1GB to 2GB 2 KB
> 2 GB * 4 KB

* greater than 2 TB is not supported in Windows NT due to limitations of MBR

A manual partition can be assigned cluster size values as 512 bytes, 1KB, 2KB, 4KB, 8KB, 16KB, 32KB, 64 KB. However a cluster size more than 4 KB does not support compression on volumes (You might have seen that the default cluster size is not exceeding 4 KB in the above table).

If you are going to use your HDD for saving regular working documents like xls, doc, etc., it is good to use small cluster size so that disk space is not wasted. However, if you will be saving large multimedia files than it will be good to use large cluster size. This will help in improving performance of the Logical Volume.

Maximum sizes in NTFS
NTFS has certain limits for file size, volume size and number of files per volume. The limits, according to Microsoft, are as follows…

  • The maximum size of an NTFS volume is 256 Terabytes minus 64KB (Thus, even a PC with 1TB of disk space can be formatted into single NTFS volume without any issues).
  • The maximum size of a file you can store in an NTFS volume is 16Terabytes minus 64 KB.
  • The maximum number of files you can store in a NTFS volume are 4,294,967,295. However, if the number of files is exceeding 300,000, it is recommended to disable automatic short-file name generation (use this link to find the procedure http://support.microsoft.com/kb/210638). This will speed up file and folder access of the system.

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