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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | New Technology File System (NTFS) | NTFS Directories and Files ]

NTFS File Size

One of the most important limiting issues for using serious business applications--especially databases--under consumer Windows operating systems and the FAT file system, is the relatively small maximum file size. In some situations the maximum file size is 4 GiB, and for others it is 2 GiB. While this seems at first glance to be fairly large, in fact, neither is even close to being adequate for the needs of today's business environment computing. Even on my own home PC I occasionally run up against this limit when doing backups to hard disk files.

In the page describing how data is stored in NTFS files, I explained the way that NTFS first attempts to store files entirely within the MFT record for the file. If the file is too big, it extends the file's data using structures such as external attributes and data runs. This flexible system allows files to be extended in size virtually indefinitely. In fact, under NTFS, there is no maximum file size. A single file can be made to take up the entire contents of a volume (less the space used for the MFT itself and other internal structures and overhead.)

NTFS also includes some features that can be used to more efficiently store very large files. One is file-based compression, which can be used to let large files take up significantly less space. Another is support for sparse files, which is especially well-suited for certain applications that use large files that have non-zero data in only a few locations.

Next: NTFS File Naming

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