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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 platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android tablets, etc.).

More Advanced than FAT16
Introduced in 1996, FAT32 was a major advancement over FAT16 in storage capacity (see table below). It also supported long file names rather than the eight-character convention in DOS (see 8.3 names). In the event of disk failure, FAT32 can relocate the root directory on the disk and use the backup copy of the FAT table. FAT32 also reduced cluster waste by having smaller cluster sizes at a time when drives were so small that any reduction was meaningful (see cluster). For more about the FAT architecture, see FAT and file system. See exFAT and NTFS.

A Flash Drive in a Mac
The Mac's Get Info (equivalent to Windows Properties) classifies the 2GB USB drive in the machine as an "MS-DOS" device. Curious about the 1969 date? See epoch.

           FAT16   FAT32       NTFS
 Size of   4GB     2TB         2TB+

 Size of                       Size of
 File      2GB     4GB         Drive

 OS        DOS
 Support   OS/2
           Win95   Win95(OSR2)
           Win98   Win98
           WinNT   WinNT       WinNT(SP4)
           Win2K   Win2K       Win2K
           WinXP   WinXP       WinXP
                   WinVista    WinVista
                   Win7        Win7
                   Win8        Win8
                   Win10       Win10