exFAT is a file system, that, on paper, seems to solve a long-standing issue among people using both Mac OS and Windows: compatibility. I thought that such a goal deserved some thoughts, especially because, in my experience, this is a relatively unknown file system, compared to others like FAT or NTFS.

Natively, Windows can read and write NTFS, but Mac OS can only read it. On the other hand, Mac OS can read and write HFS but Windows cannot even read it, let alone write it.

Up to some time ago, the common solution was to use FAT32, which is readable and writeable without issues by both operating systems. The problem is that FAT32 has a 4GB file size limitation that might take it out of the question today in 2016.

exFAT (which stands for Extended FAT) solves this issue and updates the file system to today’s standards when it comes to file size. It is still readable by both operating systems (although you need to configure it in a certain way to make it work on macOS), so this looks like the definitive candidate to replace FAT32, NTFS, Fuse and everything else you might be using now.

The fact is, things are not so easy. If you do a quick search online, you will find out that several people have reported some reliability issues with this file system, especially when not ejecting it properly. This comes down to the fact the exFAT is not journaled and only uses one partition table, which makes it more prone to corruption.

However, in my own experience, I have never had exFAT pull things like these on me, and I have been using it on and off for months now, on several drives (mostly USB drives and external hard drives). The only thing I make sure to do every time is to properly eject these drives before removing them. So, it might indeed be more “delicate” as a file system, if you take proper care of it I think you should be fine.