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Understanding Clusters

Large hard disks are inherently inefficient. Formatting a disk divides the disk’s magnetic medium into small storage areas called sectors, which usually hold up to 512 bytes of data. A large hard disk can contain tens of millions of sectors, so it would be too inefficient for Windows Vista to deal with individual sectors. Instead, Windows Vista groups sectors into clusters, the size of which depends on the file system and the size of the partition, as shown in Table 15.1.

Table 15.1. Default Cluster Sizes for Various File Systems and Partition Sizes
Partition SizeFAT16 Cluster SizeFAT32 Cluster SizeNTFS Cluster Size
7MB–16MB2KBN/A512 bytes
17MB–32MB512 bytesN/A512 bytes
33MB–64MB1KB512 bytes512 bytes
65MB–128MB2KB1KB512 bytes
129MB–256MB4KB2KB512 bytes
257MB–512MB8KB4KB512 bytes
513MB–1,024MB16KB4KB1KB
1,025MB–2GB32KB4KB2KB
2GB–4GB64KB4KB4KB
4GB–8GBN/A4KB4KB
8GB–16GBN/A8KB4KB
16GB–32GBN/A16KB4KB
32GB–2TBN/AN/A4KB



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