In order to use a hard disk or USB memory, it must be formatted and, in addition, have a file system assigned . If these two characteristics are not met, Windows will not directly be able to read or write to said memory or hard disk and will ask us to format it and, incidentally, choose the file system we want. However, do we know which one to choose?
The file system of a drive is responsible for choosing how data is stored within it. Without it, operating systems would not know how to save or access data.
Although there are not many file systems, we may be able to get involved a bit when choosing a file format for our computer. There are the most common ones, like FAT32 and NTFS, and then more specific ones like HFS, APFS or EXT, macOS and Linux file systems that, for example, are not compatible with Windows.
If we do not know the elementary file systems, we recommend you read the following article with the differences between FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT. Thus, when we get to the next step in this tutorial, we will know which system to choose according to the use that we are going to give the unit.
How to change the file system of a drive
The two most common file systems, within Windows environments, are FAT32 and NTFS. FAT32, as we know, is less optimized than NTFS and, moreover, it only allows saving files smaller than 4GB. NTFS, on the other hand, removes these limitations but reduces compatibility with other devices. And then we have exFAT, as an intermediate filesystem between these two.
Be that as it may, to change from one file system to another we have to format, so all data will be lost. Except in a specific case that we will see later.
Therefore, to change the file system of a unit from Windows 10, what we must do is connect the unit to the computer and, from This computer, right-click on it and choose the format option .
A new window will open like the following one. In it we will see the label and the size of the unit. We will also see a section called ” File system ” from where we can choose what we want to give to our unit.
We select, for example, NTFS if we are going to use the hard disk or the drive in Windows mainly and that’s it. Now all you have to do is click on the «Start» button to start the formatting.
When finished, we will have the unit in the new file system.
How to change the file system without formatting or losing data
Because you have to use the formatting tool to change the file system, data is always lost. Although there is an exception to this.
If we have a FAT32 drive with data and we need to save files larger than 4GB on it, we can convert it to NTFS without formatting or losing the data. Although it is a risky process (and a backup is always recommended), it usually does not cause problems.
In the following manual we explain how to transfer a FAT32 drive to an NTFS without losing data.
This trick is not valid for any other file format. To make any changes we will have to format the entire unit.