What Is Fat 32?


Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME use a file system called FAT32. Microsoft introduced FAT32 to improve upon the FAT file system used in earlier versions of Windows and MSDOS.


  • Microsoft introduced FAT32 with Windows 95 version OSR2 in August 1996, one year after Windows 95's initial release.


  • FAT32 reduces some of the limitations from the original FAT file system. While FAT drives cannot exceed 2 GB, FAT32 pushes through that limitation with a 2 TB maximum drive size.


  • Some of FAT32's limitations exceed the size of files created with today's computers. For example, FAT32 cannot store files bigger than 4 GB.


  • On a computer with a modern operating system such as Windows XP, installing FAT32 on the boot partition only makes sense if the computer needs to dual boot into an older OS such as Windows 98.

Expert Insight

  • Nothing in FAT32 prevents files from being written all over the disk partition. This means a directory listing could take a very long time if two files are on opposite ends of the partition. Because of this, Windows limits the maximum drive size to 32GB even though FAT32 itself supports drives up to 2 TB.

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  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Blake Patterson
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