FAT 32

The area on hard disk or floppy disk which contains information about all the stored files and unallocated spaces on the disk is known as FAT or File Allocation Table. FAT32 indicates that the size of each entry in the file allocation table of a disk is 32 bits. In other words, it uses 32 bits to address clusters. Second version of Windows 95 (OSR2) implemented FAT32. FAT32 is an advanced version of FAT16.

Structure of FAT 32

• Boot Sector
• File Allocation Table
• Root Directory
• Data area

It has a small cluster size of 4KB and extends up to 32KB. Let us consider a scenario where we should store a data of 2KB on 2GB hard disk on FAT32 file system, since FAT32 has cluster size of 4KB only 2KB is wasted but FAT16 takes up 32KB space thereby wasting 30KB space. The root directory is located only at the beginning of the hard disk, if that part is corrupted then accessing files is a problem in FAT16 file system but in FAT32 directories can be placed anywhere on the hard disk.

FAT32 file system let us to use both the default and backup copy unlike the FAT16, which allows only the usage of default copy and the backup copy is used only by low-level disk utilities to repair the default FAT. In FAT32, if default FAT is corrupted then the system continues to run with backup unless the problem of default is not resolved. FAT32 allows us to have as many files as we want in the root directory.

For hard drives having size greater than 32GB, the booting time is more because it requires time to read all FAT structure. Free space determination on the disk also affects read-write performance. Larger cluster size may calculate incorrect disk space. During Windows XP installation, formatting a volume larger than 32GB is not possible.

Advantages of FAT32

  • Cluster size is small
  • More reliable
  • Supports larger root directory
  • Supports larger hard disks (up to 32GB)
  • Efficiently managing storage space on large had disks
  • Directories can be located anywhere on the hard disk unlike in FAT16 wherein it should be stored only at the beginning
  • The default and the backup copy of the File Allocation Table (both) can be used
  • Boot record of FAT32 is expanded (copy of core data structure)
  • Less prone to single point failures compare to FAT16
  • FAT32 partitions can be dynamically resized
  • Mostly ideal for External Hard Disk devices as this file system is universal for most of the operating system.


  • Less secure
  • Does not support compression of files
  • Hard disks with FAT32 file system are more prone to disk errors
  • Easily fragmented

Related Info

Recover Files from a FAT32 Hard Drive
FAT32 is the file system format used in external storage units including external hard disks, USB flash drives, memory cards, etc. In a hassle you might accidentally delete some data files from these. If you don’t have a copy of these files you get worried about the loss. No more you need to be bothered about loss, as now you can recover FAT32 files.

USB Data Recovery
USB drives are when connected to your computer, it uses FAT32 to read and write data from the system. During the transmission, data from the USB might be lost due to abruptly turning off the system. To retrieve lost / missing data from USB flash drives use Remo Recover software.

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