Chances are Android 14 will support a new file format

Old-school NTFS meets new-school Android

The format wars are almost over – no, it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of. For as long as they could, Android phone owners have plugged in external drives to move files around for one reason or another. But if your drive was formatted in something other than FAT32, they’ve probably been out of luck. These days, Google is helping Android make a determined comeback on tablets and other large form factors that could be plugged into those external drives with those tough form factors. Part of that comeback means overcoming the NTFS hump.


In June, we covered the slowness that caused Pixel phones on Android 13 to support exFAT. The situation there was more confusing because the individual Android OEMs (not Google, though) had a support license from Microsoft at the time that company owned the format. When he released exFAT to the public domain, he sparked a development chain to integrate support on the Linux kernel, downstream Android kernel, and subsequent device kernels.

NTFS, also a pioneer format from Microsoft, had a different story when it came to Linux support. Our entry point is quite recent, however, as NTFS read/write capabilities were incorporated into kernel version 5.15. Esper’s Mishaal Rahman reported on an Android 13 kernel based on this version which appeared in August.

However, there are some major caveats that would prevent NTFS support from being enabled with upcoming software updates or on new devices. The biggest one was that the volume daemon, Android’s storage mount service, needed to be updated to support NTFS – something that’s still in Google’s hands.

The good news is that, according to Rahman, Google has just created and integrated a utility that fixes common NTFS problems. This could be a sign that the company is actively moving forward on a fuller implementation of NTFS support and opens up the possibility that applicable Android 13 devices as well as any device on a future version of Android will get this benefit. Don’t get too hopeful if you have an Android 13 device, though, as Google is pretty much the only OEM that would do the work to increase the Linux base for its device kernels. In short, we could be in the running for NTFS support on all Android 14 devices if Google keeps up its pace.

If that sort of thing gets your goat going, you might want to get familiar with another file format, this one read-only, which Android is eager to get OEMs to partake in.

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