Also known as exFAT, The Extensible File Allocation Table was unveiled in 2006 and developed specifically for the Windows CE 6.0 operating system (OS). Although it was originally developed for embedded operating systems and optimized for flash memory cards and devices, it has since gained popularity as an alternate to NTFS (New Technology File System). This is especially true in Windows 8 and later, which feature native support for exFAT booting.
Windows and exFAT
The exFAT file system is compatible with nearly every version of Windows since XP. However, native compatibility is only featured in Windows 7+. Users of earlier versions of Windows will need to install the appropriate updates or service packs in order to utilize exFAT.
Linux and exFAT
Users of various Linux distros can use exFAT, too. It's supported natively starting with Linux kernel 5.4, and it's usable via the FUSE software interface when using an earlier Linux kernel. A version developed by Samsung Electronics is also available for Linux.
Apple and exFAT
ExFAT isn't restricted to Windows and Linux. Apple users, including users of macOS 10.6.5+, iPadOS, and iOS 13.1+, can also utilize the ExFAT file system.
Windows and macOS Interoperability
Users of both Windows and macOS have numerous methods of sharing files between systems. Formatting a portable USB drive with exFAT is a great way to optimize and streamline the process. Since exFAT is compatible with both Windows 7+ and macOS 10.6.5+, and since it supports files over 4 GB on both platforms, it's often used to share files between the two operating systems.
Other Devices and exFAT
The exFAT architecture is seen in other devices, too – even if they're not full-scale implementations with all the features. It's commonly used for data storage in modern consumer devices, including Android smartphones, digital cameras, mobile phones, camcorders, USB flash drives, and SD cards. In fact, exFAT was officially named as the default file system for SDXC flash memory cards that have a storage capacity of more than 32 GB.
Moreover, certain smart televisions, portable music and video players, and media centers utilize exFAT for internal storage. This storage is limited to the factory installed data storage devices, most of which aren't replaceable or upgradeable, but they still provide enough storage space for apps, music, or video files. Microsoft has already obtained licensing agreements with several notable consumer brands, including BMW, LG Automotive, Sony, Sanyo, BlackBerry, Panasonic, and more.
Finally, some solid-state drives (SSDs) are shipped pre-formatted and shipped with the exFAT file system. This is especially true with high-capacity SSDs. Once received and installed by the consumer, these drives can easily be formatted with the desired file system.
Using the exFAT File System
The exFAT file system was developed for use in embedded operating systems, but it quickly caught on with developers, vendors, and manufacturers due to its lightweight and efficient design. While there are modern file systems that are better-suited for general or day-to-day usage and data storage, exFAT does have some advantages that are worth considering in special cases.