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What is FAT32 and Possible Problems on FAT32

Table of Contents

1. What is FAT32?
2. The Features of FAT32 - The Difference between FAT32 and FAT16?
3. The Defection and Limitation of FAT32
4. FAT32 VS NTFS and how to convert
5. Problem - RAW file system on FAT32 and how to convert

What is FAT32?

FAT32 is a file system that was invented in August 1996. FAT32 is a type of disk partition format in Window system in which the configuration files of every sector are expressed by 32 bytes. FAT is a widely used file system that was used not only on computer systems but also on most memory cards. FAT32 is the most recent one. Before FAT32, there are FAT12 and FAT16. Compared with these two types of file system, FAT32 increased its ability of disk management and it supports drives up to 2TB in size. However, Microsoft Windows 2000 only supports FAT32 partitions up to a size of 32 GB. Besides, the FAT32 file system allows for a default cluster size as small as 4 KB so that it allows using space more efficient.

The Features of FAT32 - The Difference between FAT32 and FAT16

1. FAT32 makes it much easier and effective to save information because it adopts a smaller cluster.
2. FAT32 is more flexible and reliable because it can relocate root directory and use the backup copy of the FAT files. What is more, the boot record on FAT32 drive is included in a backup copy of critical data structures so that it decreases the possibility of computer system crash.
3. Compared with FAT16, FAT32 supports disk drives up to 2TB in size, but it cannot support disk drives less than 512MB. In addition, Windows 2000 based on FAT 16 supports partition of only 2GB while Windows 2000 based on FAT32 can support partition of 32GB.

The Defection and Limitation of FAT32

FAT32 has many functions and advantages, but one defection of FAT is when you delete some files and write some new information in it, it cannot write down the complete piece of files. In such a situation, it will slow down the speed of write and read after a long time. What is more, when FAT32 is run under Windows XP system, there are many limitations, for example:
1. Users cannot increase the use of clusters in volume of FAT32 because the volume of FAT32 must contain 65,527 clusters at least.
2. Cluster cannot more than 64KB, or some programs may mistakenly calculate the disk space.
3. The maximum number of cluster is 268,435,445 in a FAT32 and the volume of each cluster must be less than 32KB.
4. Users can not reduce the volumes of clusters in FAT 32.
5. Users cannot use the FAT file system to format a volume that is more than 32GB during the installation of Windows XP.


1. FAT32 is not as safe as NTFS.  
2. FAT32 is slower than NTFS.
3. FAT32 is less space-efficient.

4. FAT32 volumes can be converted to NTFS volumes. NTFS cannot be converted to FAT32 without reformatting.

How to convert FAT32 to NTFS without data loss

The following Guide is from Microsoft:

To convert an existing FAT or FAT32 volume to NTFS, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt.
  2. At the command prompt, type the following, where drive letter is the drive that you want to convert:
    convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs
    For example, type the following command to convert drive E to NTFS:
    convert e: /fs:ntfs
    Note If the operating system is on the drive that you are converting, you will be prompted to schedule the task when you restart the computer because the conversion cannot be completed while the operating system is running. When you are prompted, click YES.
  3. When you receive the following message at the command prompt, type the volume label of the drive that you are converting, and then press ENTER:
    The type of the file system is FAT.
    Enter the current volume label for drive drive letter
  4. When the conversion to NTFS is complete, you receive the following message at the command prompt:
    Conversion complete
  5. Quit the command prompt.

Raw Error on FAT32 Drive/Card

Devices like memory card, hard disk drive, USB drive etc often uses the file system FAT32. We use these device very frequently to store our digital data like photos, videos, important files etc. However there are many possible reasons that may bring the FAT32 drive to become RAW and warns you "the drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now?"

What is RAW dirve, or namely RAW file system? RAW means not used or explored. When you see such error, your drive has problem on its file system. The only way is to format it. However it is not that simple since there are data inside. You need to restore data from raw drive at first.

How to convert RAW drive to FAT32?

Format the drive from raw to fat32 and then you finish the conversion.

Resources Related with FAT32

Convert raw to fat32 ntfs

The tips and software to guide you the right steps when you see raw error on a fat32 drive.

Memory card photo restore

References on FAT32 and its problems and solutions

What is RAW file system

RAW problem on a forum

How to convert fat fat32 to ntfs