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Recent OneDrive update limiting file system options to NTFS was intentional

A number of OneDrive users were recently impacted by an update to the app that dropped support for non-NTFS file systems. While at the time it was unclear if this was a bug or intentional, Microsoft has now confirmed in a statement the move was done on purpose.

In a statement to Neowin, Microsoft says:

Microsoft OneDrive wants to ensure users have the best possible sync experience on Windows, which is why OneDrive maintains the industry standard of support for NTFS. Microsoft discovered a warning message that should have existed was missing when a user attempted to store their OneDrive folder on a non-NTFS filesystem – which was immediately remedied. Nothing has changed in terms of official support and all OneDrive folders will continue to need to be located on a drive with the NTFS filesystem.

The major issue with the change was that there was no warning ahead of time, leaving anyone using a drive formatted in a file system other than NTFS high and dry following the update. If the drive you're using to store your OneDrive files if formatted in another file system, such as exFAT or FAT32, you'll have to reformat the drive as NTFS and re-sync your files.

Download OneDrive from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

82 Comments
  • There are serious issues with the user experience on OneDrive and this is one of the manifestations of this issue.
  • For me the app doesn't even open since last month. Lumia 950 one the latest version
  • Just reset the app then?
  • It's not possible for built-in apps
  • You can still reinstall OneDrive on RS2.
  • Yeah on Android and iOS the app is sooooo immensly slow. Especially the photo's part of the app loads very slow and caching seems non-existent. Switched to Google Photos and Drive because of this. I hoped they would fix it but it's been like this for ages.
  • Might be time to drop Microsoft all together now and just go all in with apple and be done with it.  No suprise screwings over by MS anymore.  Devices that work and are supported for years,  no dangling carrots in front of you just to go ......NOPE.  you are not getting that!  I am almost back to the **** microsoft attitude again.  Terrible management and implementation of said "plan".
  • Or just convert your drives to NTFS format, not difficult
  • Some SD cards drastically lose lifetime after being converted from exFAT to NTFS.
  • Maybe cheap Chinese knockoffs from eBay. I have dozens of SD and MicroSD cards that are NTFS formatted and some of them are several years old.
  • Um, what? Hardware is not impacted by the filesystem that is on the disk. NFTS is just the layout of record keeping of file information on the card. If you need to write information to the card, wether you use FAT, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, or any other file system it writes that data to the disk and then keeps a note of where in that data storage to find the file, how long it is, the name of the file, etc.
      Please, educate yourself before writing such things. If what you wrote were true, then it would not be just SD cards that would have shorter lifespans, but SSDs, M.2s, HDDs, and all other storage mediums that NTFS supports would be failing prematurely. Instead, you end up making it clear to everyone how little you actually know.
  • Actually different filesystems can tax storage hardware in different ways depending on type of hardware. So now you're just entirely wrong nohone. Before you try to question my knowledge I'm a long-time former MS employee. All I see you do here is troll others.
  • Oh, you are a long-time former MS employee, so that means that you know everything, right? I could play that same game, listing my credentials (which would most likely outrank you), but there is no way to reveal that information without giving out a lot of personal information and simply, I don't care about some random person on the internet who want's to play the "my co** is bigger than yours" without that person considering that they may be the loser. I don't troll, I make fun of the trolls. If people write stupid things, I like to call them out on it, like the person above who is pretending to want to switch to a different device and OS because of a change in requirements for file systems when they are already a Mac user. If people make a reasonable comment that I agree with or disagree with, then I am reasonable with them in my response to them. If they are clearly making things up, lying, or telling stories for no reason other than to attack, then I am more than happy to mock them for it.
  • Ah yes, the 'my ignorance is as valid as your experience' game. How cute. What a joke. 🤣
  • ...and to be clear as to the genitalia you mentioned? Pfft...like I care about your shriveled sense of self importance.
  • I see that facts are being down-voted here. Something is wrong. SD card works on serial IO meaning they are slow especially when you want to write to a non-consecutive sector. I assume exFAT uses a single FAT entry at the start of the file system to record file location. NTFS don't work like that. Beside the FAT (Master Bitmap), there are many other secondary stuff like Security maps, File Journals and a secondary Volume Shadow Copy, etc. Every time there's a File IO, all of these needs to be updated and for resilience, they are purposely written at specific location on the physical flash. I have a Strontium 64GB 90MB/s (read) microSD card installed on my Surface 3 formated to FAT32. When I first benchmarked it 2 years ago, it can reach 60MB/s write. It was encrypted with BitLocker-to-Go (which means reformatting to NTFS) due to compliance laws and performance sank. On large files, I'm lucky to hit 30MB/s. When I write multiple files, it's even slower due to NTFS requiring all the writes to be funneled through a serial pipe.
  • Exactly! 😊👍
  • Ok, there's a lot of good information in here, but so far everyone has something wrong. Eric Tay, you're probably losing most of your throughput due to encryption. Encryption is known to kill throughput unless it's hardware encryption, which Bitlocker-to-Go is most definitely not. NTFS has a higher latency and lower throughput in general though, that is correct. Most people in most scenarios won't notice it though. Honestly, the only time I'd really recommend exFAT over NTFS is in the following scenarios (some of them are very real, so I'm not defending MS here): Very large files - the throughput may not make a difference on a majority of usage scenarios, but with large files, the small differences add up. Real-time requirements - continuous HD recording, etc. Compatibility - Most Mac users shouldn't really be affected by this, but it could easily affect some edge cases of Linux users.
    The biggest problem with MS's actions is simply the act of having to reformat. It can be difficult on low storage devices where the SD card has more data than the device can temporarily hold, particularly if not all that data is in OneDrive.
    So yeah, not saying Random Thoughts doesn't need exFAT, but the average user probably doesn't. The pain of converting though can be a real issue for people.
  • Encryption just exasperate bad transfer bandwidth and latency. All I'm saying is for multi file transfer, NTFS will be slower than FAT. Is it possible to use Convert for SDcards? I know for HDD and SSD, it's very painless using Convert.
  • NTFS doesn't have a bad transfer rate though is what i'm saying. Unless you're dealing with very large files extremely frequently, you'll most likely not notice the difference. And Convert *can* work on FAT & FAT32 for sd cards, but not exFAT unfortunately. Edit: to be clear, i'm not faulting anyone for deciding to stay with exFAT over NTFS. if you're using an sd card, there's very little reason to switch unless you actually need NTFS features (like permissions support, etc.). I'm just saying that in the end, if requiring NTFS won't be a deal breaker for a vast majority of people. The initial conversion is what will hurt most people, but after that, many of them will not notice the difference.
  • That is interesting, because when I click on your name, it says that you use an iPhone 6S and a MacBook 12. So if you already use Apple only, how could it be time for you to go to Apple and be done with Microsoft? Or are you just lying, astroturfing to try to generate controversy? Also, if you don't like being forced into a specific filesystem, what are you going to do when Apple forces those Apple devices that you will be buying once you dump Microsoft with High Sierra and iOS to use APFS? An untested new FS, one that Apple has been trying to launch for years and failed over and over and over again?   I will give you props, though. At least you tried to troll. You failed miserably, but at least you tried. No go back to iMore.
  • Don't you know he's bought 3 HP SuperDuper3000 laptops and that makes him a proper Windows 10 fanboy now?
  • I'm seeing a pattern here...
  • Can we get clarification on the differences between the formats again and why we don't already have NTFS by default if that's what they want? 👀
  • FAT based file systems are just simple file structure systems...fairly bare bones. NTFS allows for security features and things like sparse file support. Features that are, honestly, needed for OneDrive Online Files support to work.
  • And also that on FAT32 you can't have files bigger than 4GB
  • Which is precisely why the majority of large storage microSD cards aren't formatted like smaller capacity microSD cards.
  • exFAT removed that limitation and so you don't really see FAT32 anymore, except on volumes of 32GB or smaller maybe. The volumes could theoretically hold more, but its uncommon due to incompatibilities with some MS tools.
  • NTFS is a journaling system and has high overhead for extra features (permissions support, encryption support, extra reliability due to system faults, etc.) This ultimately affects latency and throughput. Most users in most scenarios won't notice a difference. However, many SD cards come preformatted with exFAT by default these days because that's how they achieve those speed ratings. exFAT has significantly lower latency and higher throughput than NTFS due to not caring about those other features, and as Random Thoughts mentioned, it's just a simple file structure with some additions over FAT32 to overcome most of its problems (volume limitations, file size limitations are the big ones). It does well in scenarios where you need real-time recording, such as in cameras that record 24/7 (very large contiguous files gain *huge* performance gains on exFAT). Cameras gain a benefit from exFAT, and SD cards are popular in cameras.
  • I already format my SD card on NTFS and was done for the first time when I insert the SD card in my laptop knowing that I'll be use thia for One Drive, Music, Photos and Videos. We all use SD cards because we don't have enough space on system  SSD's. This is why we are putting One Drive there. On my another laptop which I have a SSD and a hard drive I have One Drive stored on hard which is NTFS formated. My opinion: to more drama.
  • Some advance notice would have been nice, but I can't imagine this is a problem for too many people.  NTFS has been the default file system since what, Windows 95?  If you locally store your OneDrive files on an external hard drive I guess this can be an issue but I just don't see too many people changing the file path on their own from the default. 
  • Windows XP for consumer Windows. 9x versions of Windows were FAT only (minus add-ons you could install for some support). It originally debuted with Windows NT 3.1 in 1993.
  • Does Windows XP support current implementations of OneDrive though?
  • That wasn't his question. He was asking when NTFS became the default file system. 😊 For consumers that was XP. 😊
  • If you are still using FAT or FAT32, there is no excuse. That stuff is ancient technology and so limiting, especially the 4gb file limit. exFAT is usually used for removable storage for cross platform and OS compatibility. Usually not used as the main OS drive. On a other related note, OneDrive mobile app is really slow for me on my 950XL on both production build and latest insider builds since forever. Sometimes it works great. Often times not.
  • It's your third sentence that's got people irked. exFAT is pretty much the standard for SD cards these days. Got an entry level Surface Pro and want to expand its storage? Pop in an SD card and sync OneDrive there. And then this...
  • Does this affect the exFAT formatted SD card in my Android phone? Seems to be working just fine....
  • Nah, they're probably just talking about Windows PC's. The internal storage on Android isn't formatted as NTFS either, so if this change applied there, you couldn't use OneDrive on Android phones (or iPhones, for that matter) at all.
  • You do not have to reformat. The volume can be converted from the command line.
  • https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb456984.aspx
  • I had no idea this existed. I really wish they included a link to this in their stupid warning message that popped up. Or simply sent this to OneDrive users prior to the change.
    Edit: Nevermind. Just noticed you still need to reformat for exFAT.
  • Interesting, had no idea this was possible.
  • It works only on FAT, not exFAT. exFAT storage will need reformatting.
  • In other news, I can't get Word 2016 to run on my old TRS-80 floppy drives for some reason.
  • I'm waiting for the load from cassette to finish... Finally got a splash screen though!
  • SD cards are formatted with exFAT by default. Everyone here keeps on slamming FAT32 as being ancient, but exFAT has real usage scenarios and isn't obsolete.
  • Hello fellow old people
  • Storing personal files like this in FAT32 or exFAT is a major security faux pas. Anyone can just take the card out and read all of your sync'd files on any other machine or device. It's an absolutely horrible decision if you put anything approaching personal on OneDrive. Honestly, they should just remove the ability to Sync OneDrive to SD Cards once the placeholders come back.
  • Remove sync to SD cards? Might as well have Windows refuse to run on any device with 32 GB storage then.
  • well, forcing NTFS fixes your SD card security issues. At that point, its as secure as a removable usb drive. While I agree with you, many people don't always worry that much if their machine stays home. Add on top of that, SD cards are formatted exFAT by default for the most part. So, if you didn't have a reason to change (security is really the only one... exFAT technically performs better, even if not noticeable for the most part), you probably wouldn't have.
  • I don't understand why people would be using Fat or Fat32. So not sure why people would be complaining. Someone please explain, I just cannot see a reason to run Fat32 anymore.
  • They probably had a preformatted memory card. Cards advertised for use with cameras are generally preformatted with a FAT variant.
  • FAT(32) does still have its uses. For example, a multi-OS PC with a secondary drive common to all the installed operating systems. If the secondary drive was formatted with NTFS, applying security to a (new) file may use an SID specific to the OS you happen to be using at the time. If you then switch to the other OS, the SID and the security permissions associated with it may be unrecognisable. This could even result in the file being inaccessible. In any case, over time the file system security on the common volumes is likely to become a mess of orphaned SIDs and incomprehensible effective security permissions. FAT avoids this issue because it simply doesn't support file system security. There are, of course, down sides to using FAT like 4 GB file size limitation and use of local times for timestamps instead of UTC like NTFS uses (causes problems with daylight savings). Generally speaking, on Windows systems you should be using NTFS these days unless there is a good reason not to.
  • exFAT is what most people were probably using, not FAT32.
    Edit: Almost all SD cards come preformatted with exFAT since its the only way to reach their rated speeds. Plus, there are real performance gains on various camera usages (continuous recording, etc.)
  • What is ntfs?
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTFS
  • Looks like Microsoft is privileging enterprise users and professionals that store lots of small files, binary files, source code, etc which is better supported on NTFS than exFAT which is more suited for storing movies, images or mp3 files. What most folks should know is that if they have a Mac, an external HDD needs to be formatted into FAT or exFAT while if you're on Windows is better if you use NTFS since it is faster when you have thousands of files split across lots of directories. Developers know about this.
  • It would be shocking if someone had been intentionally using exFAT or FAT32 instead of NTFS filesystem in the modern age.
  • No, its not. exFAT still has very real use cases. There's a reason SD cards come preformatted that way. Moreover, if you didn't need the features of NTFS and relied on an SD card for additional storage, why would you go out of your way to change it?
  • This bit me (or rather my Mom.) And since I take care of her machine, I was going nuts trying to figure out what was going on. She has a low-end HP Stream 11 for browsing the web, email, Facebook, and light-duty Office work. The HP Stream is cheap, but resource-limited (2 GB of RAM and only 32 GB of eMMC storage.) OneDrive originally could only be setup on the C:\ drive, but that would eat into the limited storage, which made it extremely difficult to upgrade to Windows 10 (or to future versions.) When OneDrive was later upgraded to support external storage (like SD cards), it solved a major problem for this computer. Her OneDrive files could now be taken off the C:\ drive, and moved to the D:\ drive (a standard exFAT-formatted SD card.) OneDrive worked fine, syncing continued, and there were no problems - until Microsoft silently made this change. I managed to solve this for her by pure chance. Recalling that OneDrive originally didn't support external storage because it only liked NTFS drives, I logged out of OneDrive, backed up the files to a USB thumb drive, formatted the SD card for NTFS, moved the files back to the SD card, and setup OneDrive again. Voila. Syncing resumed, and OneDrive is working properly again. However, Microsoft could have EASILY gave a heads-up that this change was going to happen and saved me a couple hours of my time. Or - if they only wanted OneDrive to support NTFS external drives, they should have made that requirement when they originally gave it removable drive support. I'm glad her machine is working fine again (still waiting for the Creator's Update, though), but just ticked off that Microsoft once again has a communication problem.
  • They did. That's why they said it was a bug that the error message didn't pop up and prevent non-NTFS locations from being used. 😊 Just curious, but why didn't you convert to NTFS instead of all the extra steps?
  • Have you tried going to Microsoft's Windows site? I remember seeing a link to the CU installer on there. It was the only way to install it on my 32 GB 8" tablet--after uninstalling or moving a bunch of apps to the SD card to free up enough space for the installer to work.
  • Who isn't using ntfs any more?
  • SD card users...
  • Other than FAT and exFAT, storages using Microsoft's newer file system ReFS are also not supported any more.
  • They were never supported. It was a bug.
  • Yeah, though an advanced notice will be appreciated. The buggy warning aside, is there any other indication that OneDrive on Windows are not supposed to be use on non NTFS file system?
  • Who the hell uses FAT32 in 2017?
  • People were using exFAT on SD cards. This mainly had an impact on SD card users.
  • I didn't realize I formatted my Micro SD card in my Surface with FAT32 until this bug got me. Fortunately I only have my OneDrive files on the 128GB card and was able to just reformat. All fine now. Lesson - pay attention next time I put a Micro SD card in a device to the formatting...
  • Why are people using a file system from the 1980s and then complaining about it not working with cloud in 2017? Are you still complaining that Office Max stopped carrying your brand of typewriter ribbons? Are you still complaining that you can't get new releases on Betamax? Frankly, Windows shouldn't even allow the option to format drives in FAT anymore. That was a stopgap measure to allow backwards compatibility with legacy systems while people weened themselves off of FAT in the 90s. Get on your telegram or drive your Model T to grandma's house and tell her: FAT is dead.
  • Except exFAT isn't dead and is better in many scenarios, particularly scenarios involving SD cards.
  • I am complaining for the fact they never sent out any info on doing this....Just did it, and only said it after people thought it was a bug.  Thats shady right there.   
  • Only if you're a conspiracy theorist.
  • Really....so if MS just pulled something from your system that you used etc....without warning you would be fine with it?????thats ****** up thinking and logic right there.   I know this is just and "inconvinienice"  BUUUUUTTTTTT,  Warning it was coming would have been nice.....Again,  Its looking more and more it time to move ALL my computing devices elsewhere.   Sad too.   
  • Quit the amateur dramatics, everyone knows you're a long time Windows10/MS hater who owns nothing but Apple products.
    Now just run along there's a good little iSheepie
  • And he gets hated on for raising a valid point. What happens to user choice? Don't use one drive? I don't think it's cool to pull feature plus doing it without notice. Look in the mirror first before calling others sheeple.
  • You don't have to reformat your drives, nor to re-sync all the files, you can just do this: press the Windows Key (to open the start menu)
    type "cmd"
    you should see Command Prompt in the best match section, right click on it and select Run as administrator
    press yes in the User Account Control dialog
    enter "convert /FS:NTFS /NoSecurity /X" (ex: convert D: /FS:NTFS /NoSecurity /X)
    wait a bit and you're done
  • for FAT32 maybe, not exFAT.
  • I think what's not really being pointed out in the article and is confusing a lot of people is that exFAT is extremely common for SD cards. So while most people may not have been impacted by this problem if they don't use an SD card, it probably hit a majority of SD card users. I find it funny that the easiest way to expand storage in the entry level Surface Pro is with an SD card. So many folks that are all-in with Microsoft may have been hit pretty hard. Plus, any low storage device probably relies on an SD card for extra storage.
  • seems like it wasn't just a warning message.  it actually did work to store on FAT.  Now it doesn't?
  • I got this message just the other day. I am actually a bit miffed at Microsoft. I have my OneDrive directory running off of disks configured using Storage Spaces and formatted with Microsoft's new ReFS filesystem. You would think they would at least support OneDrive on their next generation filesystem. I know ReFS isn't as feature rich as NTFS but it's going to be a big inconvenience to either reformat to NTFS or add additional storage so I can use all 1TB of my OneDrive space.