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There are many different types of digital storage devices accessible these days. External hard drives, memory cards from digital cameras, USB flash drives, and various types of RAID arrays are just a few of the storage options that are already available.

Data is stored in the form of files (such as papers, photos, or databases) that must be arranged on the disk and quickly accessed when necessary. Suppose you're looking for a broad review of file systems and how they vary from one another in terms of data management on any storage device. In that case, this article can help you out.

File System

A file system, often known as file management or FS, is a system for storing and retrieving data from a computer or other storage device (e.g., a hard drive). Typically, a file system comprises directories, which are collections of files.

Files and extra folders may be found in directories. Today, NTFS is by far the most widely used file system under Windows.

file system

Having two files with the same name without file management would be impossible. Using a tree structure to arrange files is the most frequent method for navigating the working directory and its subdirectories.

Example of File Systems

There have been a variety of file systems in use throughout time on computers. The most popular file systems are shown below.

  • exFAT
  • FAT (e.g., FAT16 and FAT32)
  • HFS
  • NTFS
  • GFS
  • UDF

How File Systems Function

A file system is a form of index for all the data stored on a storage device. It serves as a repository for that data. This kind of storage includes hard drives, optical drives, and flash drives.

When naming files, file systems have established rules that govern their naming conventions, such as the maximum amount of characters in a name and which characters may be used. Many file systems don't care about the case when it comes to file names.

Metadata in file systems includes not just the file's name and size but also information on the file's properties, placement, and hierarchy. Metadata may also tell you how much space is left on the disk and how many open blocks there are.

An additional feature of a file system is the ability to define a file's path using the hierarchy of directories. Depending on the operating system, a file may be put anywhere in the directory hierarchy, including a subfolder. There are hierarchical file systems in both PC and mobile operating systems.

file system

Partitioning the storage media is necessary before any files or directories can be stored there. Partitions are sections of the hard drive or other storage devices that are managed independently by the operating system.

The main partition has one file system, while some operating systems permit the creation of many partitions on a single drive. The data on a separate partition will be secure if the file system on one disk is damaged.

Different File System Types

There are a plethora of file systems to choose from. Structure and logic, as well as traits like speed and flexibility, are unique to each of the several types. Certain file systems were developed with certain uses in mind.

The three basic kinds of file systems are disk-based file systems, network file systems, and virtual file systems.

Disk-Based File Systems

Hard disks, CD-ROMs, and diskettes are all examples of the physical medium on which disk-based file systems are stored. It is possible to write disk-based file systems in a variety of forms. Typically, a disk-based file system is coupled with a certain media device.

  • UFS on a hard drive
  • HSFS on CD-ROM
  • PCFS on a diskette
  • UDF on a DVDs

However, these connections are not limiting. UFS file systems, for example, may be established for CD-ROMs and diskettes.

Network-Based File Systems

Network-based file systems may be accessed across the network. Network-based file systems are normally housed on a single computer, usually a server. Other computers on the network may access them. To manage dispersed files and directories, you may export them from the server and mount each one on your own computer using NFS.

Virtual File Systems

Special kernel information and features are accessible via virtual file systems, which are memory-based file systems. In most virtual file systems, storage space is not used. CacheFS, on the other hand, stores cache in a separate file system on the hard drive. Another example of a virtual file system using swap space is the temporary file system (TMPFS).


Without a file system, a storage device would hold a large amount of data that would be indistinguishable from the operating system since they would be stacked on top of each other. Consider a room that is overrun with stacks of paperwork.

The same would be true for a storage device without a file system, making it an ineffective piece of technology. I hope so, now that you understand the file system.

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Written & Updated by Justin Kenny

Justin Kenny is a writer & editor of DoYourData. He joined DoYourData in 2016 and focuses on writing articles about Windows data recovery, Mac data recovery, external device data recovery, hard drive clone, data erasure, Mac cleanup, computer issue fixes, etc. He is a super fan of Apple devices and is big on testing new digital device and system utility software.

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