Presently in the install (USB stick) for 32-bit Ubuntu 12.04.1. Want to have dual-boot capabilities between Windows 7 and Ubuntu. Have partitioned hard drive with Windows System (sda1), Windows OS (sda2), Ubuntu (sda3 - with ext4 file system and a "/" mount point), swap (sda4) and need to know what file system to select for the remaining free space (storage) partition with a /home mount point? I presume it to be either FAT32 or ext4, yet I need to be sure that it enables cross-sharing of documents/directories with both Windows 7 and Ubuntu operating systems. Also, is FAT32 an NTFS type of system? Thanks in advance.


3 Answers 3


Since Windows systems support FAT32 and NTFS "out of the box" (And only those two for your case) and Linux supports a whole range of them including FAT32 and NTFS, it is highly recommended to format the partition or disk you want to share in either FAT32 or NTFS, but since FAT32 has a file size limit of 4.2 GB, if you happen to work with huge files, then it is better you use NTFS.

Just to add, if you do it with another type of partition like ext4, btrfs or any other that Windows does not support natively then the files will work in Ubuntu but not in Windows. Heck, in Windows if you try to access that drive it will offer an option to format the drive to NTFS. So this is the reason to stick with either FAT32 or NTFS.

You can actually do this from Ubuntu if you want using for example GPARTED which is found in the Software Center or the Disks utility which comes installed by default.

I even wrote an answer to the support NTFS has in Ubuntu. So no matter which one you decide, both will be supported between both systems and you can have a shareable partition/disk between Ubuntu and Windows.

For several security and performance related issues, /home should never be FAT32 or NTFS. For your case, you should create another partition (Either by taking free space not used by files from an already created partition or using another hard drive) and THIS partition should be the one that is formatted as FAT32/NTFS. This partition will also be the one that will share the information between both, Windows and Ubuntu, not /home. At the end it should look something like this:


/sda1 - Windows (NTFS, FAT32)
/sda2 - Swap
/sda3 - Ubuntu (EXT4)
/sda4 - Shared partition between Ubuntu and Windows (NTFS or FAT32 Format)

This is just a rough sketch but I think it will give you the idea on how to make it so they share each other. If you happen to have 2 hard drives then:


/sda1 - Windows (NTFS, FAT32)
/sda2 - Swap
/sda3 - Ubuntu (EXT4)

/sdb1 - Shared partition between Ubuntu and Windows (NTFS or FAT32 Format)

  • Thanks, Luis. I sounds like I should probably reformat to NTFS thru Windows, after the fact. Thanks again for your assistance. This is now resolved. Jan 10, 2013 at 0:54
  • Oops! Hang on a second - this is the error message i received after choosing FAT32 and then hitting [INSTALL NOW]: The file system type fat32 cannot be mounted on /home, because it is not a fully-functional Unix file system. Please choose a different file system, such as ext2. Me again: Any suggestions? Jan 10, 2013 at 1:03
  • /home should not be either FAT32 or NTFS for many security and performance issues. If you are going to share a disk or partition, you should create another partition specifically for that. Let me add the info in the answer to better explain this. Jan 10, 2013 at 2:01

I don't suggest to use NTFS in Linux, because I found Linux support on NTFS is very poor, its file reading and writing speed is extremely slow. So if you don't need want to use huge files, just use Fat32 or ExtFat.


Set it as NTFS, since both Ubuntu and Windows will be able to read and write to and from the partition. Ext4 isn't natively recognized by Windows, so don't try that. NTFS has several improvements over FAT32, which (for instance) will not let you have a file over 4GB in size.

  • Thank you. As NTFS is not "explicitly" an option, does that mean I choose FAT 32? My options are as follows (as part of the Ubuntu installer):ext2, ext3, ext4, reiser fs, btrfs, jfs, xfs, fat 16, fat 32, swap. and do not use. Thanks again. Jan 10, 2013 at 0:44
  • Yeah fat32 will be fine then! Refer to Luis' comment for more detail!
    – Merri
    Jan 10, 2013 at 0:47

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