The NTFS file system

December 2016

The NTFS file system

The NTFS file system (New Technology File System) is based on a structure called the "master file table" or MFT, which is able to hold detailed information on files. This system allows the use of long names, but, unlike the FAT32 system, it is case-sensitive, which means that is capable of distinguishing lower-case and upper-case letters.

As far as performance goes, file access on an NTFS partition is faster than on a FAT-type partition, as it uses a high-performance binary tree to locate files. The theoretical limit on the size of a partition is 16 exabytes (17 billion TB), but the physical limit of a disk is 2TB.

It is at the security level, that NTFS differentiates itself, as it allows attributes to be defined for each file. Version 5 of this file system (standard under Windows 2000 (alias NT 5)) brings even more new features, including heightened performance and per-volume disk quotas defined for each user. NTFS v.5 should also support remote administration...

The master file table

The File Allocation Table is a table of numeric values each cell of which describes the allocation of clusters of a partition, in other words, the state (used or not used by a file) of each cluster in the partition on which it is located.

The NTFS file system is based on a different structure, called a master file table, containing records about the files and directories of the partition. The first record, called a descriptor, contains information on the MFT (a copy of it is stored in the second record). The third record contains the log file, a file containing all actions performed on the partition. The following records, making up what is known as the core, reference each file and directory of the partition in the form of objects with assigned attributes. This means that the information concerning each file is stored in a file, which is itself registered inside the MFT. The MFT is therefore a storage structure of the data in the partition, and not a list of clusters.


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