Windows XP exFAT File System Driver

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 29, 2009
Updated • Nov 28, 2012

Microsoft has released an update for Windows XP SP2 and SP3 system that adds exFAT file system drivers to the operating system. The exFAT file system is the successor to the FAT32 file system which comes with several advantages but also a few disadvantages in comparison to both the FAT32 and NTFS system. It was mainly designed to address the growing needs of mobile personal storage on different operating systems. The exFAT file system was initially released with Windows CE 6.0 and added to Windows Vista with the release of Service Pack 1.

The main advantages of exFAT in comparison to FAT32 are the removal of the 4 GB file size limit and support for hard drives with large capacities (recommended maximum sizes for both are 512 TB). The exFAT file system driver will add the option to format removable media with the exFAT file system to take advantage of it. The file system is using a smaller disk space overhead than the NTFS file system. Users reported a disk space overhead of only 96 Kilobytes on a 4 Gigabyte flash drive after formattting it with the exFAT file system. The NTFS file system used more than 47 Megabytes of space for overhead.

Interested users can download the exFAT file system driver update directly from Microsoft to add exFAT file system support to their operating system.

The exFAT file system driver incorporates the following advanced structures to improve performance:

* A cluster bitmap for fast allocation
* A per-file contiguous bit for fast file access
* Better contiguous on-disk layout (useful for recording movies)
* Support for Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) time stamps

The exFAT file system driver is designed for extensibility to enable the file system to keep pace with innovations in storage and changes in usage and to enable OEMs and ISVs to add extensions seamlessly. Specifically, exFAT adds the following features:

* Adds template-based metadata structures to enable custom extensions
* Enables implementations to persist these extensions without having to know their format

The exFAT file system driver adds increased compatibility with flash media. This includes the following capabilities:

* Alignment of file system metadata on optimal write boundaries of the device
* Alignment of the cluster heap on optimal write boundaries of the device

The prerequisites for the update are an installation of Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Service Pack 3.


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  1. kev woodsend said on December 5, 2009 at 1:58 am

    I must admit straight off that I have limited experience with computers. However I received a 64gb pendrive off ebay today which is formatted with exFAT and have had nothing but problems with it. It works fine on windows7 but I’ve got xp and linux ubuntu and mint on some of my systems..First off I tried to reformat it to ntfs -no success quick format just wouldn’t work slow took 6hours then at 99% said it couldn’t format it and just left the stick unformatted. So I reluctantly had to reformat it back to exFAT.I downloaded and installed the xp patch for it which did actually read the drive but disabled my sound.So now I find that without the pendrive inserted my sounds ok but as soon as I INSERT THE DRIVE THE SOUND GOES AND i HAVE TO REMOVE THE DRIVE AND REBOOT THE PC TO GET MY SOUND BACK!, So I’M NOT IMPRESSED

  2. marinheiro said on September 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    maybe it’s for a good cause, but, in my case, it’s a big pile of shit…

    i’m a programmer and i use a bunch of small files (2, 4, 5kb) but exfat uses 128kb of the disk to store them… resuming, i’ve 56.2gb in files that are occupying 86.8gb!!!

  3. Michael said on June 17, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Can exFat be seen in dos ??

  4. Anonymous said on June 14, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    DOESNT WORK!!!!!Help me!!! i have 3 days arround this fuckin problem

  5. Mercy said on February 15, 2009 at 10:08 am

    If I have to do anything extra its worth using it,but for me available space in my device itself seems to be extra :-)

  6. scientus said on February 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    @gokudomatic: for ext3 for windows, this works just fine, esp when you forget a certain file on your linux partition. i havent used it in a year, but at that time the only downside was that journaling was not enabled using the windows side, so if something got messed up while you were using it, the fs would just revert back to the last time you booted linux ;)

  7. Reult said on February 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Write/read access in MB/s to a NTFS USB-flash becomes slow as cluster size is chosen small. Typically the flash is accessible not more than some thousands times a second and this fact reduces the speed of it.

    But if to choose cluster size, say, 64 kB, then at a speed of 15 MB/s (write) only 15 * 16 = 240, or less than 10% of max., writes are needed, thus reducing the speed just by the same low percentage.

    The standard 4 kB cluster size reduces the speed twice or even more. Fragmented files show, surely, the worst speeds. To prevent this, exFAT is needed.

  8. devlin19 said on February 1, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    I agree with Jake if I have to do anything extra its ot worth it

  9. MakeMoneyFastAndEasy said on January 30, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    you can change any fat32 usb key to ntfs file don’t need split files on 4gb.

  10. TK said on January 30, 2009 at 11:57 am

    FAT32 has a FILE limit size of 4GB, some programs impose a file limit of 2GB like the older win9x AVI format.
    Just recently I wrote a 57G byte backup image to my 1TByte FAT32 formated external USB drive and it was split into just under 4GByte files.

    General comment on the new exFAT format, I imagine that the exFAT system also does not support journaling like NTFS does so will have same FAT32 vulnerability to improper shutdown or removal resulting in the need for a scandisk in pre-vista operating systems or disk check in vista and above.

  11. gokudomatic said on January 29, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Alas, a lot of times. DVD iso files, I’m sure you know that.
    And that doesn’t concern only usb sticks, but also shared partitions between Windows and Linux.

    But I use now NTFS because it works well enough now in Linux. I can write without fearing a total break.

    But still, I’m more interested in ext3 driver for windows.

  12. Jake said on January 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I use FAT32 for one simple reason. I can plug in a drive into almost any OS (Windows, OSX, Linux, and so on) and be able to not only read the file, but write to the drive without doing anything special. The moment I have to install anything to make it compatible with whatever system I am trying to us make is pointless to use FAT as all. The whole reason to use FAT32 is because it just works. The size limit can be a pain, but how often are you moving a file that large anyway.

  13. Doc said on January 29, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    “removal of the 4 GB file size limit”

    FAT32 has a file size limit of 2GB, not 4.

  14. Dave said on January 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    The exFAT system was not developed for current flash media, but for the SDXC card with up to 2TB coming by this March. If you want to learn more, google “SDXC card”.

  15. Transcontinental said on January 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Charax, I was wondering the same thing. I just tried to read the ExFAT formatted (and filled) USB stick on my neighbor’s computer, and the stick appeared to be not formatted… so, it may be a security benefit, but not in terms of universality at this time ;)

  16. Charax said on January 29, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Won’t an exFAT-formatted USB stick be unreadable in most operating systems (all XP ones without this system driver and all Vista pre-SP1 systems)?

    In that case unless you’re only using your USB stick on your own systems, formatting it in exFAT seems like a phenomenally bad idea.

  17. Transcontinental said on January 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    ExFAT has disadvantages on NTFS, but none, on the opposite, on FAT32 and moreover FAT, is that correct?
    I’ve just installed this ExFAT driver, and formatting a USB key proposed indeed ExFAT as well as previous FAT and FAT32. All seems correct at this point.

  18. DarkGenesis said on January 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    You wrote: ” but also a few disadvantages in comparison to both the FAT32 and NTFS”

    What ares theses few disadvantages ? I don’t find anything about that in the MS article ?

    Thank you in advance Martin.

    1. Martin said on January 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm

      Well devices that are using the exfat file system cannot use Readyboost. The NTFS system supports advanced data structures among other things.

  19. Transcontinental said on January 29, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I have the feeling this is a major issue, thanks a lot Martin.

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