Ext4 vs NTFS vs HFS+: Differences and Which One Should You Use

Ext4 vs NTFS vs HFS+

Ext4, NTFS, and HFS+ are common file systems used by a computer to store information on a hard drive. These file systems have their pros, cons, compatibility, and applicability. Now, we will discuss NTFS vs Ext4 vs HFS+ in detail.


Ext4 is the fourth extended file system as well as a journaling file system that was a series of backward-compatible extensions to Ext3. The stable version of Ext4 was officially released in 2008. At present, it has become the mainstream file system for most Linux distributions.

  • Good performance when dealing with large files
  • Greatly reduces disk fragmentation
  • Back compatible with Ext2 and Ext3
  • Allows an unlimited number of subdirectories
  • Boasts delayed allocation, journal checksums, pre-allocation, and some advanced features
  • Not supported by Windows and Macs natively
  • Delayed allocation feature could trigger potential data loss


NTFS refers to New Technology File System developed by Microsoft and introduced in 1993 with Windows NT 3.1. As a proprietary journaling file system, NTFS is the most widely used file system in the Windows NT family. It is generally suitable for system drives and most internal hard drives.

  • Almost has no realistic partition size or file size limit by changing cluster size
  • Allows users to set File Compression when running out of disk space
  • Provides transparent and strong encryption of any files or folder on an NTFS volume
  • Uses log files and checkpoint information to automatically restore the consistency of the file system
  • Uses CompactOS algorithms that compress the entire system partition and avoid fragmentation by writing compressed data in contiguously allocated chunks
  • Adds the Resizing feature to shrink or expand a partition
  • Uses a change journal to restore information when a power failure or other system problems occur
  • Enables users to set disk quotas that limit the amount of space users can consume
  • Limitations on file naming
  • Not support floppy disk formatting
  • Requires a large amount of “space overhead” to function
  • Support read-only for macOS
  • Can read and write on Linux and BSD that has a free and open-source NTFS driver


HFS+ is known as Mac OS Extended developed by Apple Inc. and was introduced in 1998 with the release of macOS 8.1. On the HFS+ file system, the volumes are divided into sectors that are usually 512 bytes in size, and then the sectors are grouped into allocation blocks. Its maximum file size and volume size can be up to 8EB.

  • Encrypts volumes and access them from any versions of Mac OS X and macOS.
  • Compresses files or folders
  • Uses Unicode to name items
  • Cannot be read by Windows unless using third-party software
  • Can’t mount HFS+ drives or partitions greater than 2TB on some Linux distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu
  • The support to HFS+ will be stopped on February 6, 2040

Which One Should You Use

According to the above comparison of NTFS vs Ext4 vs HFS+, we can draw some conclusions. One of the biggest differences between them is that their supported operating system. The Ext4 file system is mainly used on Linux, while the NTFS file system is commonly used on Windows, and the HFS+ file system is suitable for macOS.

Bonus: How to Format Your Drive to Ext4/NTFS on Windows

In some cases, you may need to format your drive to a supported file system. For instance, you need an Ext4 and NTFS file system for dual boot Windows and Linux. Although Microsoft Windows provides built-in utilities to format a drive to NTFS, they can’t help you format to Ext4. In addition, these utilities have limitations on formatting a large capacity drive.

Bottom Line

This post mainly focuses on Ext4 vs NTFS vs HFS+. Ext 4 is the default file system for Linux, while the NTFS file system is commonly used on Windows and HFS+ file system is suitable for macOS. If you are trying to format a drive to Ext4 or NTFS on Windows, you can use MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Ext4 vs NTFS vs HFS+ FAQ

Can Windows read Ext4? Can Windows 10 read Btrfs?


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