While Chrome OS works with a wide variety of file system formats, that isn’t the case across the board for every operating system. Old versions of Windows, for instance, won’t work with the newer NTFS files system but Windows 10 supports FAT32, exFAT and NTFS. MacOS doesn’t fully work with NTFS out of the box but supports both FAT32 and exFAT. Chrome OS works with and supports all of these formats and more. There are upsides to utilizing the latest file system in NTFS for sure, but these aren’t make-or-break differences for most users.
What is much more important is the ability to format drives in the right layout for the right operating system. For example, if you know you are cleaning up a drive to be used mainly with a Mac, you don’t want to go with NTFS. If you are reformatting it to work with a camera or a particular Linux distro, you need to do a bit of homework to find what that file system setup needs to be in order to format the drive to properly work with the device.
Unfortunately for Chromebook users, the ability to format an external drive and choose your file system setup hasn’t been there up until now. You were basically stuck with the exFAT format and, though that isn’t terrible, if you needed to drop back to the older but more compatible FAT32 setup, you simply couldn’t. Nevermind the fact that you also didn’t have the option to upgrade the file system to NTFS and take advantage of the upgrades either.
In Chrome OS 78, that’s all changing. Behind a simple flag that can be found here (chrome://flags/#file-manager-format-dialog), a new feature will enable a new interface when you go to format your drive and give you more options than you had prior. This new dialog will allow the user to choose between FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS for the external drive. Though I’d put money on the fact that few people really know the difference or care much about file systems, this is one of those system utilities that a modern computer should simply be able to do.
As Chrome OS continues to evolve and grow over time, little utilities like this are things that users will not only be looking for: they’ll expect them. Things like this are what will continue setting a Chromebook apart from devices like the iPad Pro that does a few laptop-like things, but when push comes to shove, simply fails at many simple utility tasks that Chromebooks are finally getting good at.