One of the real stellar part of moving away from Billy-G's bloated legacy is that you can have an OS that has a file system that is not NTSF or FAT32. It astounds me as to how much better the Personal Computer experience becomes by just not using those two File Systems and using literarily anything else.

Why is windows still after all this time forced to use such archaic File Systems? Is there some sort of technical reason they are stuck with it? I wonder how much Windows could be improved as a product if there was just a mocing away from them?

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    I'm not sure this is retrocomputing, NTFS was in fact great back in the day (it's prior to XFS for example). If the question is why modern Windows is still using it, that's not RC but if I had to guess, backwards compatibility? ReFS is available since Server 2012 and some version of Win10 but hasn't been defined as the default filesystem yet.
    – kouta-kun
    Jun 5, 2023 at 13:47
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    The body of the question reads as emotionally charged, and does not specify precisely what the problems are. This has the effect of prompting for emtionally charged, and similarly vague, answers along the lines of "MS sucks, amirite?" But the close vote is because the question is about modern, and uninteresting, systems. Jun 5, 2023 at 14:02
  • @kouta-kun Emotionally charging is what you call it, I call it infuriating. Excuse my hyperbole, It was mainly done for comedic effect.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:39
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    I think you missed me, it was @Героям слава that called it emotionally charged :P
    – kouta-kun
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:40
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    It just reads as trolling. It's only 'comedic' if you share your pov, which unfortunately seems to be contempt. There's too much of that online elsewhere, weakening those sites, it's not a welcome addition to this site.
    – TonyM
    Jun 5, 2023 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


Windows started as an MS-DOS shell, so naturally, it used whatever MS-DOS used, the FAT file system. One of the main reasons why Windows became so popular was that it integrated very well with existing MS-DOS software and drivers. FAT16 and FAT32, while not great, made sense as extensions of FAT. Replacing them with a different file system would have likely required a rewrite of the MS-DOS core, which is something Microsoft didn't want to invest in, since it was already planning on replacing the 9x kernel with NT.

Microsoft realized pretty early that this MS-DOS legacy was creating a lot of problems, and holding Windows back, which is why they started working on Windows NT pretty early on. But, the market wasn't ready to switch in 1993 when Windows NT 3.1 launched, since a lot of people still relied on DOS software and drivers.

Today, FAT32 stuck around because it is fairly easy to implement, making it a very attractive option for cheap embedded devices. It is also patent free, since all the patents already expired, unlike exFAT which requires buying a license. Also, it has widespread support between all OSs, making it an attractive option for portable storage devices.

NTFS is a modern and very reliable file system. Sure, it has a ton of legacy, like any other format that has evolved for a long time, but that doesn't make it bad. Microsoft has been trying to build alternatives, like WinFS and ReFS, but making a reliable file system is not easy. If you are familiar with BtrFS, it has been in development for many years, and people are still having issues with it. Putting an experimental file system in an operating system used by millions or even billions of people is not a good idea. People expect the operating system to be one of the most stable pieces of software on their computer, and that also applies to storage.

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    A couple of minor quibbles: FAT16 was developed early on, with no relation to Windows; and DOS supports pluggable file systems, so it would have been possible to use a different file system without rewriting “the MS-DOS core” (with some limitations, e.g. 8.3 names). Jun 5, 2023 at 14:26

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