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I'm a first year MS:CS student, and my data structures class has inspired me to research file systems and their implementations. I recall using ext2, then ReiserFS, then ext3, then ext4, and now btrfs seems like the new thing. I understand (more or less) what changed from each of these, and their relative improvements, but what I don't understand is how NTFS has stayed relevant during roughly the same period of time (looks like the last major version of NTFS shipped with Windows XP).

Was NTFS simply that well spec'd and designed from the beginning, or has Windows been working around some NTFS deficiencies in the interest of not having to rewrite some core parts of Windows from scratch? If that is the case, why are linux distros much more flexible in changing FS (user can even select a different FS at install time).

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  • $\begingroup$ (Beyond politics / marketing strategy, the reasons may include homicide aftermath.) $\endgroup$
    – greybeard
    Apr 19 at 4:45
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  • NTFS is pretty good. From the start it had journaling (unlike ext2), size limits large enough that they would never be an issue (unlike ext2/3), and a flexible design that allowed arbitrary attributes to be defined and attached to files.

  • Developing filesystems for Windows is difficult. The necessary headers and documentation were for years not included in the Windows driver development kit; instead you had to, I think, sign an NDA and pay thousands of dollars for the IFS kit and support. The number of features you'd have to implement to be able to replace NTFS is large. Filesystem design is a black art under the best of circumstances. And Microsoft probably wouldn't want to support a filesystem designed by a third party in the default Windows install no matter how good it was.

  • Your list of popular Linux filesystems isn't all that long. ext2-4 are all pretty similar to each other, and btrfs is similar to ReFS.

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