VFAT - Virtual File Allocation Table

Written by John Harris, Updated on October 10, 2023

VFAT (Virtual File Allocation Table) is a FAT file system extension introduced with Windows 95, which allows long file names to relax the 8.3 file name convention followed by the original File Allocation Table (FAT). The FAT file system limits file names to the 8.3 naming convention, which allows a maximum of eight characters before the period and no more than three characters after the period. It also imposes certain other rules for naming a file such as file name must begin with a letter or a number; it cannot contain white spaces, etc.

Long File Names in vFAT

To use long filenames (LFN) in addition to classic 8.3 filenames (SFN), an optional program extension is introduced along with the existing FAT file system structure. This transparent method of allowing long filenames in the FAT file system without changing its directory structure is known as VFAT or Virtual File Allocation Table. This extension is referred to as a driver, as users with operating systems other than Windows 95 have to install and use it in order to access the FAT partitions written by Windows 95. The VFAT extension uses 32-bit code, runs in protected mode, and makes use of VCACHE for disk cache.


  • The VFAT extension allows filenames that can contain up to 255 characters, unlike a maximum of 8 characters in FAT.
  • It also relaxes the traditional naming conventions followed by the FAT file system i.e. a VFAT filename can consist of white spaces, and multiple periods and is not case-sensitive, although it preserves the case of filenames.
  • The operating systems without VFAT extension can access the files under their short filenames with no restriction.
  • VFAT is also compatible with most modern data operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android VFAT is supported by most modern operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.


  • While VFAT may support LFN, other file systems may not, so you may risk losing data when copying files over to another file system.
  • When you create a long file name with VFAT, it creates two filenames – one is the actual filename visible to Win 95, 98 & Win NT, and the other one is a DOS alias, an abbreviated form of a long filename. Due to this, a single long filename occupies up to 21 directory entries, thus the number of files in a root directory will be limited to a mere 24 files, unlike in FAT, on which this limit is up to 512 files. Hence, you should use long filenames very rarely in the root directory.
  • VFAT cannot hold files that are larger than 4GB. This seems to be a fairly major drawback considering that most modern-day media files such as games and movies exceed the limit.
  • VFAT is fairly slower when compared to NTFS and exFAT as it uses a simple file system that is not as efficient.

Related Information

Lost File Recovery Windows XP
When you copy files are from vFAT OS to non-vFAT OS, long file names might be missing. You can recover missing files from Windows OS with Remo Recover utility.

Recover FAT32 Partition
Due to virus corruption you might format a FAT32 partition. Are you worried about the data loss? You need not worry anymore. It is possible to restore data from the formatted FAT 32 partition with the best Windows recovery software.

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