When playing with filesystems and partition, I realized that when I created a ext file system on my USB drive and plug it to Windows, I am forced to format it. On the other end, when building a FAT partition on Windows, and plugging it to my virtual machine, Linux is perfectly able to read and mount my FAT partition.

1 - Why can't Windows read Linux filesystems?

2 - What's the key difference that allows Linux to do it, yet Windows can't?

closed as too broad by Thomas Dickey, Rui F Ribeiro, Thomas, RalfFriedl, mosvy Jan 26 at 20:59

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Windows can’t read “Linux” file systems (such as Ext4 or XFS) by default because it doesn’t ship with drivers for them. You can install software such as Ext2fsd to gain read access to Ext2/3/4 file systems.

Linux can access FAT file systems because the kernel has a FAT file system driver, and most distributions enable it by default.

There are cases where Linux distributions won’t be able to access a Windows-formatted USB key by default: large keys are typically formatted using ExFAT, and the Linux kernel doesn’t support that. You would have to install a separate ExFAT driver in this situation.

There’s nothing inherent in Windows or Linux which limits their ability to support file systems; it’s really down to the availability of drivers. Linux supports Windows file systems because they are very popular; this then provides a common basis for file exchange, meaning that there is less need for Windows to support Linux file systems.


The above is correct.


Microsoft is very strongly against opensource software, which directly includes linux. This can be confimed by any actions taken by Microsoft in the past, even the recent overtake of github by Microsoft was agreed by majority in the opensource community that it is an action by Microsoft to control and monitor its competition.

It would be easy to make Windows read EXT4 natively, but windows doesn't want to support such a action and promote a file system made for linux. Even though I dont agree with it, it's a note worthy business decision that makes sense. I quote the below.

Most of the ext file systems are written in code which is available in GNU/GPL. If MS uses them, they will have to release a part or full source code of Windows which links to the file system.

  • MS has become much more open source friendly in the recent years – phuclv Jan 26 at 15:44

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