FAT32 vs NTFS decision for two drives


Apr 17, 2012
I am about to purchase my second external hard drive, with the intent of using both to create a (same) backup of my computer's data (i.e. I want redundancy, as my readings indicate HD failures are far from uncommon).

Two questions I'd welcome guidance on please:

1. My current HD (which holds much data) is formatted as FAT32 (I am using a PC with Windows 7); I understand that NTFS has some advantages, so considered converting it to NTFS (and setting the new one up as NTFS from the get-go). However if there is some possibility that, further down the line, I may want to use my files on a Mac, should I consider keeping the first drive as FAT32 and setting up the second as NTFS?
Also, follow-up question, are there any risks to the files involved in doing a FAT32 to NTFS conversion?

2. Can you suggest some reliable, user-friendly, well-performing and free programs to conduct and schedule occasional back-ups? (Ideally I am after a program that can handle incremental backups and can start on its own when the drive is plugged in, even if it was not plugged in at the exact time of the scheduled backup)

Thanks in advance!


Jun 13, 2006
Are all the drives you're referencing in #1 external? If so, I'd recommend keeping both of them FAT32. Reason for this is NTFS doesn't play nicely with removable storage (nor Macs, as you've noticed :) ). Though NTFS says it supports external/removable, it's not "friendly" with it. If you were to never remove this external drive, then NTFS would be fine.
Essentially, you MUST use the Safely Remove device menu in the system tray, or you are almost certain to corrupt data on the drive. Even when using this, it can still corrupt data (typically because the OS says it's ok to remove, but actually it still needs another second or 2).

If it happens that one of the drives you're referencing in #1 is internal, go NTFS. Unless you're worried about the Mac side.

As for converting FAT32 to NTFS, there is always a slight risk of losing data. But I've done this a number of times and never had a problem. Keep in mind, you can't go the other way (NTFS to FAT32) without a reformat.

Look at the backup built in to Win7. Very simple, it's free, does incremental. In the initial wizard, make your recovery disk and you can restore from a baremetal system. Pretty cool.

EDIT: Consider cloud backups also. I use Carbonite, but Mozy, LiveDrive and many others are out there that have good reviews. That initial backup takes forever (mine took 5mo - 450GB), but afterwards you basically have a backed up system. Period. I do backup locally to a NAS, but the online/cloud backup solutions are about as user friendly as it gets.


To solve your issues -> http://ntfsonmac.com/

That site will discuss the options of using NTFS on a mac. Anyways I haven't converted a drive from FAT32 to NTFS but I will say you should get many benefits in Win7 from going to NTFS depending on the drive type FAT32 is horrible.

2. not sure as I don't use such software honestly... (probably should..)


yes, you should take your own risk to converting it to NTFS,
FAT32 (file allocation table 32) which means you have limit of 137 gigs capacity, no compression, no quota, no encryption so this one is very secureless. you will probably notice the speed of your computer slow down when you fill up the drive.

NTFS (new technology filling system) this one is the best for now and very secure which means you can enrypt your folders that no one can get access without your permission and NTFS is really fast as compared to FAT32. anyway there is no way to converting.
if its FAT32 just leave it be don't bother converting its not an OS drive it will be fine

converting i have never see it go wrong just make sure regardless to back your data up etc if you really want to

best backup software - the *BEST* solution is to use windows built in tool ROBOCOPY (doesnt come with xp because its rubbish) - make a batch script for it and use task scheduler to run it whenever or use a desktop shortcut to run it etc

simple example:
robocopy /s c:\ e:\BACKUP /xj /xd windows *temp* "*program files*" /xf *.tmp *.dmp *.lnk

description: syncs the c drive to a backup folder on e drive skipping the windows folder and program files folder, temp files, links etc skipping junctions (/xj - win vista/7 - needed setting) - only copy's whats new (first run = slow, after that all runs are very fast)

you can customise it to do what you want its far better then any flashy automated rubbish out there and its free with windows.