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Definition: FAT32


(File Allocation Table32) The 32-bit version of the FAT file system. Employed on Windows PCs prior to the more advanced NTFS file system, the FAT32 format is widely used for USB drives, flash memory cards and external hard drives for compatibility between all platforms. However, the exFAT file system extends the maximum file size from 4GB to virtually unlimited (see exFAT).

More Advanced than FAT16
Introduced in 1996, FAT32 increased capacities (see below) and supported 255-character names (see long file names). In the event of drive failure, FAT32 can relocate the root directory and use the backup copy of the FAT table. FAT32 also reduced cluster waste by having smaller cluster sizes when drive capacity was so small that any reduction was meaningful (see cluster). For more on the FAT architecture, see FAT and file system.




A Flash Drive in a Mac
The Mac's Get Info (equivalent to Windows Properties) classifies this 16GB USB drive in the machine as an "MS-DOS" device. Curious about the 1969 date? See epoch.



          -------Maximum--------
          File   Volume   Number
          Size    Size    Files

 NTFS     16TB   256TB    4.3G

 exFAT    16EB    64ZB    **

 FAT32     4GB     2TB      4M

 FAT16     4GB     4GB     65K

 FAT12     **      16MB     4K

 ** limited by volume size