Data Recovery

ReFS vs. NTFS: Everything You Need to Know

Summary: With improved features like automated metadata checks and support for large volumes, ReFS or Resilient File System was introduced as a successor to the NTFS. However, even with numerous improvements, people are still skeptical of moving to this file system. Let’s study the differences between these two file systems and see which one is better.

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While formatting an HDD, you get to choose the file system along with other related settings. You can choose from FAT, exFAT, or NTFS. As per recent reports, Microsoft is testing support for a new file system to Windows 11 – ReFS or Resilient File System. This new addition has pushed many users on the edge and sparked the ReFS vs. NTFS debate. If you are wondering which file system is best for you, read this post for a detailed comparison.

What is NTFS?

NTFS, or New Technology File System, is a popular file system used in many storage devices. Microsoft introduced this file system in 1993 with Windows NT. It was developed as a journaling file system to supersede FAT32 and address its limitations.

With features like file system compression, disk quotas to conserve disk space effectively, and enhanced performance & security, NTFS took over the world by storm. To this date, all the latest storage devices are formatted to this file system by default.

However, despite the numerous benefits, its shortcomings, such as the inability to handle data corruption, limited compatibility with non-Windows devices, etc. gradually came into light.

Let’s look at some more advantages and disadvantages of NTFS below.

Advantages Disadvantages
Uses log files & checkpoints to restore data after a reboot or a system failure.

Limited compatibility and support for non-Windows computers and external devices.

Its dynamic cluster management allows it to allocate and map a new cluster for the data alongside remapping the bad sector.

Limited scalability compared to ReFS. Supports a maximum file or volume size of 256TB.

ACLs or Access Control Lists, along with user-level encryption, helps users encrypt their data.

No automatic data/file corruption repair mechanism. This leads to unexpected data loss.

Allows users to add folder or file-level permissions for certain user groups or users.


These disadvantages necessitated an improved file system. Thus came the ReFS or Resilient File System.

Now that you’re aware of NTFS’ advantages and limitations, let’s understand what is ReFS and how it compares with NTFS in terms of scalability, interoperability, and storage.

What is ReFS?

Mainly intended for enterprise use, ReFS or Resilient File System is the newest file system introduced by Microsoft in 2012 with Windows Server 2012. Originally developed as a replacement for NTFS, it was designed to address its limitations by improving upon the existing features like data availability.

ReFS offered new features like added support for larger data clusters, improved scalability, and resilience against data corruption.

Unlike NTFS, which was built from scratch, ReFS was developed using some code borrowed from NTFS. It uses B+ tree structure containing a root, internal nodes, and leaves. ReFS uses the allocation-on-write or copy-on-write method to execute read-write operations in one go, thereby bringing down the memory usage, disk usage, power consumption, etc..

ReFS takes full advantage of Storage Spaces. When combined with it, the file system uses various background features like automatic repair, automatic metadata integrity checks, and more to avoid data loss. Unlike NTFS, where the user has to type in the CHKDSK command to find and repair any corruption, ReFS has automated this process and performs this check on its own.

There’s another area where ReFS offers improved performance and functionality. When used with virtual machines, ReFS uses block cloning, which reduces storage space consumption by creating linked copies of a master file. These linked copies occupy less space than the original file and can be created quickly.

Another great feature that the virtual machine takes advantage of in ReFS is Sparse VDL. Sparse VDL or Sparse Valid Data Length drastically reduces the creation time of Hyper-V virtual machines by using the zero-filing files technique.



ReFS is resilient to data corruption

Windows cannot use ReFS to boot

Improved scalability for large data sets

ReFS is a resource-intensive file system. It impacts IO processes when installed on individual PCs.

Automatic metadata integrity check

It cannot convert NTFS data to ReFS.

Mirror-accelerated parity to improve performance & efficient data storage.

ReFS misses out on features like file system compression & encryption, hard links, etc.


Now that we have a clear understanding of ReFS and NTFS, let’s see an overall comparison.



Non-resilient to data corruption

Resilient to corruption

Supports up to 256TB file/volume size

Supports up to 35PB file/volume size

Uses log files & checkpoints for manual restoration of the disk

It uses automated checks while reading and writing data

Improved performance with techniques like file compression, disk quota, resizing, etc.

It uses techniques, such as mirror accelerated parity for improved performance & efficient storage. It uses sparse VDL & block cloning for enhanced performance of virtual machines.

Compatible with almost every Windows version.

It is compatible with only newer versions of Windows, like Windows server 2012 & Windows 8.1 or later.

File level snapshots not available.

File level snapshots available.

Thin provisioning is only available in the Storage Spaces.

Thin provisioning is available as a general feature.

Block cloning not available.

Block Cloning for increased performance and data availability without compromising storage space.

Sparse VDL not available.

Utilizes sparse VDL for faster creation of VMs

Which is Superior?

With a clear distinction of the advantages, disadvantages, and features of both NTFS and ReFS discussed above, it becomes easy for us to pick the right file formatting system.

If you are looking for a file system replacement for your personal computer, ReFS still has a long way ahead to become the perfect file system for individual PCs.

With a long list of missing features, ReFS is still not ready to be used on personal computers. However, if you are looking for a file system for a high-performance server or a Hyper-V virtual machine for file-level storage, then ReFS is the perfect choice. It can handle large amounts of data while safeguarding against data loss.

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