For small volumes, FAT16 or FAT32 might provide nominally faster access to files than NTFS because:
The FAT structure is simpler.
The FAT folder size is smaller for an equal number of files.
FAT has no controls regulating whether a user can access a file or a folder; therefore, the system does not have to check that a user has access permissions to a file or folder. This advantage is minimal, however, because Windows 2000 still must determine whether the file is read-only, or whether the file is on a FAT or NTFS volume.
NTFS minimizes the number of disk accesses and time needed to find a file. In addition, if a folder is small enough to fit in the Master File Table (MFT) record, NTFS reads the entire folder when it reads its MFT record.
A FAT folder entry contains an index of the file allocation table, which identifies the cluster number for the first cluster of the folder. To view a file, FAT has to search the folder structure.
For operations performed on large folders containing both long and short file names, the speed of a FAT operation depends on the operation itself and the size of the folder. If FAT searches for a file that does not exist, it needs to search the entire folder— an operation that takes longer on a FAT structure than on the structure used by NTFS.
Several factors affect the speed with which Windows 2000 reads or writes a file:
If a file is badly fragmented, NTFS usually requires fewer disk accesses than FAT to find all of the fragments.
For both file systems, the default cluster size depends on the volume size, and is always a power of 2. FAT16 addresses are 16 bits, FAT32 addresses are 32 bits, and NTFS addresses are 64 bits.
The default cluster size for a FAT16 volume is always larger than the default cluster size for either a FAT32 or an NTFS volume of the same size. The larger cluster size for a FAT16 volume, however, means that there might be less fragmentation in files on a FAT16 volume.
With NTFS, the MFT record can entirely contain small files; FAT contains pointers to files. The file size that fits within the MFT record depends on the cluster size and the number of attributes for the file.