What is a file system?

The file system controls how data is stored and received. Without a file system, all the information kept in the storage device would be like a data stack where it would be difficult to tell where any data is starting and where it ends.

By separating the data into smaller parts and giving each part a name, the information is easily separated and identified. The way a group of data in a paper-based information system is called a file. The structure and logic rules used to manage groups of information and their names are called "file systems".


There are several types of file systems. Each has its own structure, its logic, speed of accessing data, flexibility, security, maximum file size, etc. Some file systems are designed to be used for specific applications. For example, the ISO 9660 file system is designed specifically for optical disks.

File systems can be used on different types of storage devices that use different types of media. As of 2019, the hard disk drive is one of the major storage devices and is projected to remain the same in the future. File systems are also used in other types of media, including SSDs, magnetic tapes, and optical disks.

Some file systems are used on local data storage devices; Others provide file access via network protocols (for example, NFS, SMB, or 9P clients). Some file systems are "virtual", which means that these files are created when needed (such as procfs and sysfs). The file system provides access to both the data and the metadata inside those files.

File System Architecture

Each file system has two or three layers. Sometimes all layers in a file system are explicitly separated, and sometimes the function of all layers is combined into one layer.

  • Logical file system - These file systems are related to the user application, such as an application program to open (OPEN) the file and read (READ) its data and then close (CLOSE) the file to the application program interface ( Application Program Interface). This layer provides file access, directory-related tasks, and security-related operations.
  • Virtual file system (optional) - This layer is not required to be present in every file system, this layer is used to manage virtual files.
  • Physical file system - This layer is related to the physical operation of a storage device (such as a disk). It processes the physical blocks to be read or written. It handles buffering and memory management and is responsible for the physical location of blocks in specific locations on the storage medium. 

The physical file system interacts with the device drivers or with the channel to run the storage device.


There are many types of file systems and all file systems have different logic, structure, and structure. The type of file system can vary according to the operating system and the needs of that operating system. As you may be aware, the three most popular operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Mobile operating systems include Apple iOS and Google Android.

Major file systems include the following:


FAT is a full-form file allocation table, a very old, simple, and reliable file system supported by Microsoft Windows. FAT was made in 1977 for floppy disks but was later made usable for hard disks. File Allocation Table is used by the operating system to locate files on disk. A file can be divided into several segments and the FAT keeps track of all the pieces of a file. In DOS systems, the FAT system is stored after the boot sector.


  • In MS-DOS, under the FAT file system, the file name could have a total of 8 characters.
  • In Windows 2000, the file name of the FAT file system could be 255 characters with its location.
  • The file name may contain "/ [] =, ^? A" "
  • In the FAT file system, the file name starts with the letter Alphanumeric.
  • Space and (.) Dot can be used in the file name.
  • FAT does not support folder security. The user logged on locally to the computer has full access to the files and folders in the computer's FAT partition.
  • FAT provides quick access to files. The speed of file access depends on the file type, file size, and the number of files in the folder.


The FAT32 file system is an improved version of the FAT file system. It can be used on hard drives ranging from 512 MB to 2 TB. One of the most important features of FAT and FAT32 is that they provide compatibility with other operating systems other than Windows 2000.

FAT32 File System Features

  • Partition size - FAT32 increases the number of bits used to address a cluster. A cluster is a group of sectors. This reduces the size of each cluster. It supports the use of hard drives (up to 2TB) of high capacity.
  • Access Speed ​​- FAT32 provides a better ability to access files on a hard disk of more than 500 MB or less than 2 GB in size. It also allows for better utilization of disk capacity.


NTFS is the full form New Technology File System, it is fully supported in all versions of Windows from Windows 2000 to the present.

NTFS File System Features

  • The file name can be up to 255 characters.
  • In the file name "/ <> * | Almost all the letters except: can be used.
  • If you want the name of the file, then it can be either lowercase or upper case in English, both of them will remain the same.
  • NTFS provides file and folder security. Files and folders under the NTFS file system are more secure than FAT. Security is maintained by assigning various permissions to files and folders.
  • It is also easy to maintain security at the local and network level. File-related permissions can be assigned to individual files and folders. Each file or folder in an NTFS partition has an access control list. It defines a user and group security identifier (SID) and the privileges assigned to them.
  • In the NTFS file system, files can be compressed and stored up to 50 percent.
  • NTFS is highly reliable. Under this, it can be recovered even after the file is finished. It uses transaction logs to automatically update the file and folder logs.
  • This file system has the capability to withstand large amounts of faults. This means that if a transaction fails due to a power or system failure, the logged transaction is used to retrieve the data.


Global File System

The Global File System (GFS) is a file system for the Linux OS, a file system based on a Shared Disk. GFS provides direct access to shared block storage and can be used as a local file system.

GFS2 is an updated version that does not contain features included in the original GFS, such as an updated metadata system. Under the terms of the GNU General Public License, both the GFS and GFS2 file systems are available as free software.

Hierarchical file system

The full form of HFS is the hierarchical file system. The HFS file system is used with the Mac operating system (Mac OS), which was created in 1985 for floppy and hard disks. Then it started being used for Mac OS. This file system can also be used with CDs.

F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System)

F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System) is a flash file system that was initially developed for the Linux kernel by Samsung Electronics. The purpose of F2FS was to build a file system that takes into account the characteristics of NAND flash memory-based storage devices (such as solid-state disks, eMMC, and SD cards), the kind of storage devices that are used today in mobile devices. Widely used in systems ranging from server to server.

The maximum file size under this file system can be up to 3.94 TB, and a maximum of 16TB of storage disk can be used in this file system.


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