USB drives and flash drives (thumb drives) are always formatted with the FAT filing system. However, there are advantages to converting them to NTFS.
The FAT filing system is ancient and it has been around since the earliest days of PCs. It is very straightforward and because of this, it has become a sort of standard that is supported by other operating systems.
No matter whether you use Windows, Linux or MacOS, you can plug in a FAT formatted USB disk drive or flash drive and it just works. This is great if you need to use a drive with different types of computers.
Windows PCs use the NTFS filing system for the boot disk, drive C: and this is because it supports, larger capacity disks, is more stable and reliable, and offers security features that aren’t in FAT.
For example, files on NTFS drives can be compressed to save space or encrypted for security. NTFS is a superior system for storing files.
Format the drive
If you only ever use a USB drive or thumb drive on Windows PCs, it is a good idea to convert the file format it uses to NTFS. The simplest method is to format it.
Formatting erases the contents, so it should not be done on a drive containing files, but if you have just purchased a new drive, it is empty anyway, so go ahead.
Open an Explorer window and select This PC (or Computer) in the sidebar on the left.
Right-click the drive to format on the right and select Format on the menu. Check that the right drive has been selected because you are about to erase the contents.
In the Format window, select NTFS for the file system and Default allocation size below.
Enter a short name for the volume label and tick the Quick Format box.
Click Start. It takes just a few seconds with small USB sticks and not much longer with large USB drives. You can then use the drive.
Convert the drive
What if there are already files on the drive you want to convert to NTFS? If the drive is a small capacity USB thumb drive, such as 8 or 16GB, you could copy the contents to the PC’s disk drive, format the thumb drive, and then copy the files back.
For large thumb drives and large USB drives there might not be sufficient disk space on the PC’s drive to do this.
There is an alternative to formatting and a drive can be converted. This keeps all the files and folders and just changes the file system. No files are changed or lost, which makes it convenient for large drives with lots of files.
Hold down the Windows key and press R, then type cmd into the Run box.
At the command prompt, enter:
convert e: /FS:NTFS
where e: is the drive you want to convert. Replace this drive letter with whatever letter your USB drive uses.
Press enter and the command converts the drive. When it has finished, the drive can be used as usual.
~ Roland Waddilove