Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (2022)

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (1)

• Filed to: Hard Drive Recovery • Proven solutions

There are several reasons to format a hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 10. For instance, you want to make your drive faster when writing large files to it or make the drive works with non-Windows operating systems. No matter what's your reason to format your hard drive to FAT32, you've landed in the right place.

Here is everything you should know about Windows 10 format disk FAT32. So, let's start to learn how to format the drive to FAT32 format and what to do if you lost your important files after the drive formatting.

  • Part 1: What is FAT32 Format?
  • Part 2: Does FAT32 Work on Windows 10?
  • Part 3: Format Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 with Command Prompt/Powershell.
  • Part 4: How to Recover Data from Formatted FAT32 Drive?

Part 1: What is FAT32 Format?

When you get a new hard drive or while reinstalling Windows, the operating system may request you to format the drive. If the choice is given, you get three file systems to choose from - NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32. As the Format dialog doesn't explain what they are, so we will.

A FAT32 file system: It is the oldest of the three ones available for Windows. It is the most common version available of the FAT (File Allocation Table) file system. With the release of Windows 95, this file system was introduced as a replacement for the older FAT16 format used in Windows 3 and MS-DOS.

(Video) Format ANY size drive FAT32 Fat 32 File System In Windows How To

The big advantage of the FAT32 file system is that it's very old. It has been the standard format for hard drives and floppy disks so to maximize compatibility across modern systems including Mac, Linux, and Windows. The maximum size of the file you can store in the hard drive with FAT32 is 4 GB along with an 8TB maximum partition size.

You should use FAT32 on the drives where there is a requirement for maximum compatibility with a wide range of devices, and you don't have any 4 GB or larger file in size.

Part 2: Does FAT32 Work on Windows 10?

Even though the FAT32 format is so versatile and widely used, Windows 10 doesn't allow its users to format the hard drive in FAT32. There is a reason behind it. As it is an extremely old file system and that's why it has two significant limitations:

    • The FAT32 file architecture can't be used on the hard drive larger than 16 TB.

  • The FAT32 file system can't deal with the files which are bigger than 4 GB.

Both are huge issues for most people. That's why FAT32 got its replacement, which is the more modern file system known as exFAT (extended file allocation). The exFAT is better in terms of file-size limit. The only drawback of the exFAT is that it was introduced by Microsoft and that's why owns all the patents. It also means that manipulating this file structure, for instance, write, read and repair operations require a license.

Therefore, there are compatible issues while using exFAT. As a result, it makes the FAT32 file system easy to work with, regardless of the file-size limitations.

Part 3: Format Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 with Command Prompt/Powershell.

When it comes to formatting the drive to exFAT or NTFS file system, you can do with the usual or in-built Windows 10 formatting tool known as Disk Management. But, you can't use the formatting tool if you would like to format FAT32 Windows 10.

However, it doesn't mean there is no way to get the job done. While you can't select the FAT32 file system in the regular Windows 10 formatting tool, you can yet do it without any third-party software.

As formatting means deletion of everything and that's why it is recommended to create a backup of your important files before you proceed further.

So, let's now learn how to format a hard drive to FAT32.

Method 1: Using Command Prompt

Command Prompt is Windows Command Processor and it is used to perform commands in the Windows system. If you are good at working with commands, then you can try to format your hard drive to FAT32 using the command prompt.

Step 1 In the Windows Search, look for the Command Prompt. Once finding it, right-click it and choose "Run as administrator" option.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (2)

(Video) How to Format a USB Drive or External Hard Drive in FAT32 on Windows 10

Step 2 Next, type "diskpart">" hit Enter.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (3)

Step 3 After that, type "list disk">" hit Enter". Type "select disk*", where "*" is the drive number.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (4)

Step 4 Now, you need to type the following commands and press the "Enter" key after each command.

  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=fat32
  • assign
  • exit

In a while, your hard drive will be formatted to the file system - FAT32.

Method 2: Using PowerShell

To format HHD to FAT32 Windows 10, you can use PowerShell if you don't want to use the command prompt. It is a task automation & configuration management framework developed by Microsoft, compromising of a command-line shell and related scripting language. You're probably familiar with this tool if you've been a user of a Windows 10 system for quite some time.

Step 1 To start the process, press the "Windows + X" keys at the same time to open a menu and click the "Windows PowerShell (Admin)" option.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (5)

Step 2 Next, you need to type the command - "format /FS:FAT32 D:" and press "Enter". Here, you need to replace the "D" with your drive letter.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (6)

In a while, it will format your hard drive to FAT32. If you want to format FAT32 in Windows 7, then you can do that using PowerShell as well as the command prompt.

(Video) How to Format External or Internal Hard Drive to FAT32

Attention: Windows 10 fat32 format will make all your data existed in the hardd rive lose, please backup your important data before formatting the hard drive to FAT32 to avoid data loss.

Part 4: How to Recover Data from Formatted FAT32 Drive?

There are times when you end up losing your important data after performing drive formatting to FAT32. In such cases, a backup comes quite in hand to restore the lost files with ease.

But, what if there is no backup and you want to recover the files stored in the formatted FAT32 drive? In such scenarios, all you need is the best data recovery software like iSkysoft to help you rescue your data.

With the assistance of Recoverit (IS) software, you can get back your lost data in no time. It can help you recover any type of file from your formatted drive. In short, it can recover everything from external drives and computers. It has a simple interface, which makes the data recovery easy even for a non-tech savvy person.

Recoverit (IS)

Why You Should Choose Recoverit to Recover Data from FAT32 Drive

  • Supports file types including photos, videos, audios, documents, graphics, emails, etc. to recover.
  • Using iSkysoft, you can recover data from various storage devices including external hard drive, internal hard drive, memory card, pen drive, etc.
  • It is compatible with Windows as well as Mac system.
  • Whether you lost your files due to device formatting, accidental deletion, virus attack, system crash, etc, every data loss situation is covered.
  • User friendly: Three simple and easy steps to recover files.

Free Download Free Download

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (8) 3,165,867 people have downloaded it

Step 1 Select a location

Install and run Recoverit (IS). Then, select the drive from where you lost the files and click the "Start" button to continue with the process.

(Video) How to Format to FAT32 in Windows 10

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (9)

Step 2 Scan the location

Once hitting the Start button, the software will start the scan process to look for the lost files in your selected drive or location. Here, you can choose filers or define selections, for instance, choose to scan a specific file path or type.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (10)

Step 3 Preview & recover data

Once the scan process finishes, preview the recoverable files. Select the target ones you would like to recover and hit on "Recover" button to get the selected files back on your system.

Format External Hard Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 [Step-by-Step Guide] (11)

Keeping the recoverable data to the location from where you lost them before is not recommended. Instead, choose another safe location.

Conclusion:

That's how to format HHD to FAT32 on Windows 10 PC. Using the methods mentioned here can help you in formatting your hard drive to the FAT32 file system on your Windows system.

In case if there is data loss after formatting the drive, using Recoverit (IS) as soon as possible is strongly ecommended recovering your lost files. Otherwise, you could lose your important files forever.

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FAQs

Can Windows 10 format a drive to FAT32? ›

Fortunately, you can still format flash drives to the FAT32 format in Windows – whether using the integrated tool or third-party tools (which offer more options). Here's how to format a drive to FAT32 in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How do I format FAT32 instead of exFAT in Windows 10? ›

On Disk Management, Right-click on your exFAT USB or external device, select "Format”. Step 4. Set the file system to FAT32, tick "Quick Format" and click "OK" to confirm. When the formatting process finishes, your device is ready for saving and transfer files in the FAT32 format.

How do I format a 64gb USB exFAT to FAT32? ›

Right click on the USB Flash Drive and select Format. The Format dialog box now appears. 8. Select FAT32 in the File System field.

How do I format my external hard drive to FAT32? ›

Select your hard drive in the drives list, right-click on it, and select Format. Set the options as the following and then hit OK. Partition label – enter a name for your drive. File system – select FAT32.

Why can't I format USB to FAT32? ›

There are a few reasons why your USB drive might not be formatting to FAT32. The first reason is that your USB drive might be larger than 32 GB. As a result, it can't be formatted to FAT32. The second reason is that your USB drive might have been formatted using a different file system, such as NTFS.

Is exFAT same as FAT32? ›

FAT32 is an older file system that's not as efficient as NTFS and doesn't support as big a feature set, but does offer greater compatibility with other operating systems. exFAT is a modern replacement for FAT32—and more devices and operating systems support it than NTFS—but it's not nearly as widespread as FAT32.

How do I change USB file system from exFAT to FAT32? ›

Choose your memory card and click Erase to access the disk-formatting settings. Choose MS-DOS (FAT) from the format drop-down list. Click Erase to format. Right-click the drive on desktop and choose Get Info to confirm the FAT32 change.

Will exFAT work for FAT32? ›

So no, exFAT is not the same as FAT32 and was introduced as a replacement for FAT32. The most significant advantage of using exFAT is that there are practically no limitations on partition size, whereas FAT32 supports files up to 4GB and partition size is 8TB at the max.

Is NTFS the same as FAT32? ›

NTFS and FAT32 file systems differ in the following ways: The FAT32 file system cannot store individual files larger than 4 GB, while the NTFS file system can. Compared to FAT32, the NTFS file system has higher disk utilization and can manage disk space more effectively.

How can I convert NTFS to FAT32 without losing data? ›

Step 1: Press "Windows" + "X" and select "Disk Management". Step 2: Right-click on the dedicated partition and select "Shrink Volume". Step 3: Type the size you want to shrink and select "Shrink". Step 4: Once the volume is shrunk, format the drive to FAT32, and move the data from NTFS to the new FAT32 partition.

How do I Format my hard drive to FAT32 using command prompt? ›

Manually forcing Windows to format as FAT32
  1. In the Start menu, type cmd , and then click the entry for the cmd program.
  2. At the command prompt, enter diskpart (you might have to approve this operation as an administrator). ...
  3. Enter list disk .
  4. Enter select disk X , where X is the number of your selected disk.
  5. Enter clean .
18 Jan 2018

How do I format a 128GB USB to FAT32 in Windows 10? ›

Format 128GB USB into FAT32 within three steps
  1. In the main user interface, right-click the partition on 128GB USB flash drive or SD card and select Format Partition.
  2. Set the file system of partition to FAT32 and then click OK button.
  3. You'll return to the main interface, click Apply and Proceed after confirmation.
14 Mar 2022

Can a 64GB SD card be formatted to FAT32? ›

If the 64GB SD card is a new SD card, you can see an unallocated space there. Right-click it and create a FAT32 based partition with “Create Partition”.

Can you format FAT32 larger than 32GB? ›

You can format USB drives larger than 32GB with FAT32 by using the format command in PowerShell or Command Prompt—the command uses the same syntax in both tools. The downside to doing this is that it can take a long time.

How do I format a 2TB external hard drive to FAT32? ›

Right-click the 2TB hard drive and select "Format Partition". Step 2. Choose "FAT32" in the File System drop-down menu. You can also change cluster size, and partition label on this window.

How do I change my external hard drive from NTFS to FAT32? ›

Methods to convert NTFS External hard drive to FAT32
  1. Open the Disk Management in Windows.
  2. Right click on the external hard drive and select “Format…” in the drop-down menu.
  3. Select “FAT32” in the “File system” line and then choose “Quick format”.
  4. Finally click “Start” to format, and this process may cost you minutes.
7 Mar 2022

How do I format a 1tb hard drive to FAT32? ›

Format HDD to FAT32 via Windows built-in tools
  1. In Disk Management, right-click the HDD partition and choose Format.
  2. Click Yes to confirm this operation.
  3. In the pop-up window, click the drop-down menu of the file system and choose FAT32. Then, click OK.
10 Mar 2022

How can I tell if my USB drive is FAT32? ›

Plug the flash drive into a Windows PC then right click on My Computer and left click on Manage. Left click on Manage Drives and you will see the flash drive listed. It will show if it is formatted as FAT32 or NTFS.

What is the largest drive size for FAT32? ›

The FAT32 file system uses smaller clusters than the FAT file system, has duplicate boot records, and features a root directory that can be of any size and can be located anywhere on the disk or partition. The maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4 GB.

How do I open FAT32 on Windows 10? ›

Replies (3) 
  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Locate the file folder which is asking for permission.
  3. Then right click on the folder and click on Properties.
  4. Click on the User account and click on Edit button.
  5. Then click on Allow permission for the folder.
18 Aug 2016

Which is newer FAT32 or exFAT? ›

FAT32, the last major revision, is the only version still in general use today. In comparison, exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) was developed by Microsoft in 2006, specifically for flash memory like SD cards and flash drives.

How can I convert exFAT to FAT32 without losing data? ›

How to Convert NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT without Losing Data - YouTube

Why is exFAT better than FAT32? ›

FAT32 is for transferring smaller files from device to device. exFAT is for storing large files on external drives and flash storage devices. Their use isn't limited, but you may find your experience with formatting easier with these two rules.

Can Windows 10 Format exFAT? ›

There are many file formats that Windows 11/10 can read and exFat is one of them. So if you are wondering if Windows 11/10 can read exFAT, the answer is Yes!

Is exFAT better than NTFS? ›

In a debate regarding exFAT vs NTFS vs FAT32, NTFS is the best format for storage devices with Windows operating system. However, exFAT is best for portable storage devices due to more efficient power and memory management. It also allows you to use a storage device on both Windows and macOS.

Is exFAT slower than NTFS? ›

NTFS is faster as an internal drive file system. It consistently outperforms exFAT efficiency and uses fewer system resources. However, exFAT acts faster when used as the file system for external drives as the read/write speeds are handled differently over USB connections and between operating systems.

Should USB drive be FAT32 or NTFS? ›

If you need the drive for a Windows-only environment, NTFS is the best choice. If you need to exchange files (even occasionally) with a non-Windows system like a Mac or Linux box, then FAT32 will give you less agita, as long as your file sizes are smaller than 4GB.

Which format is best for external hard drive? ›

The short answer is: use exFAT for all external storage devices you will be using to share files. The long answer is the same - just with reasons! FAT32 and exFAT are the remaining options you're given once you rule out the more 'native' file systems as above.

Why is there a 4GB limit on FAT32? ›

2. Why Are FAT32 Drives Limited to 4GB Files? Since FAT32 is 32-bit, the maximum possible value (all 1's) for that 32-bit field is 2^32, which counts to 4 Gigabytes. Hence FAT32 can support a maximum file size of 4GB.

Does formatting to FAT32 delete everything? ›

But if you are trying to reformat an used hard drive or external hard drive, like converting NTFS to FAT32 or vice versa, your important files stored on the disk will be all deleted, which is quite frustrating.

Can you partition an external hard drive with NTFS and FAT32? ›

Yes its possible. you can yourself try this while logged into your PC. Yes, there's no problem at all, and in fact it's a common scheme for those who want to store a system image on the hard disc (bypassing Microsoft's own backup, that is). Just do it!

How do I format a SSD to FAT32 in Windows 10? ›

How do I convert to FAT32?
  1. Right-click This PC/Computer and select "Manage".
  2. Click Disk Management, right-click your target device and choose "Format".
  3. Name the drive and select the file system as "FAT32".
  4. Click "OK".
18 Sept 2022

Can you format a 5tb to FAT32? ›

Windows doesn't make it easy to format a partition larger than 32 GB with the FAT32 file system. However, FAT32 actually supports up to 16 TB hard drives, and most operating systems permit up to 2 TB. Windows 32 GB restriction is an artificial limit that you can bypass.

Can you format a 500GB HDD to FAT32? ›

When your 500GB drive is originally formatted with NTFS file system, you can convert the drive to FAT32 without formatting via AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional. The whole process can be simple and fast, let's get to know it.

How do I format a 128GB USB stick to FAT32? ›

FAQ about Formatting 128GB USB Flash Drive
  1. Right-click your USB and then choose Format.
  2. In the pop window, select the file system as FAT32, then click OK.
  3. Click the Execute Operation button.
8 Sept 2022

How do I format my SD card 128GB to FAT32? ›

Tutorial: Format 128GB SD Card to FAT32 (in 4 Steps)
  1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master, right-click the partition you intend to format and choose "Format".
  2. In the new window, enter the Partition label, choose the FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4 file system, and set the cluster size according to your needs, then click "OK".
22 Sept 2022

What is the default cluster size for FAT32? ›

Default cluster sizes for FAT32
Volume sizeWindows NT 3.51Windows NT 4.0
256 MB–8GB4 KB4 KB
8GB–16GB8 KB8 KB
16GB–32GB16 KB16 KB
32GB–2TB32 KBNot supported
6 more rows

What does FAT32 mean? ›

(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.

How do I know if my SD card is FAT32? ›

Locate the SD card drive, right-click it, and choose “Properties”. Step 3. In the “Properties” window, you can what is the format of your SD card. Here is FAT32 format.

Is 128gb too big for FAT32? ›

You can't format a volume whose size is larger than 32GB using FAT32 file system in Windows. If you want to format a volume larger than 32GB, use NTFS file system.

How do I format a SSD to FAT32 in Windows 10? ›

How do I convert to FAT32?
  1. Right-click This PC/Computer and select "Manage".
  2. Click Disk Management, right-click your target device and choose "Format".
  3. Name the drive and select the file system as "FAT32".
  4. Click "OK".
18 Sept 2022

How do I format a 128GB USB to FAT32 in Windows 10? ›

Format 128GB USB into FAT32 within three steps
  1. In the main user interface, right-click the partition on 128GB USB flash drive or SD card and select Format Partition.
  2. Set the file system of partition to FAT32 and then click OK button.
  3. You'll return to the main interface, click Apply and Proceed after confirmation.
14 Mar 2022

Can you format 1tb HDD to FAT32? ›

Connect your external hard drive to your PC.

If the drive is larger than 2 TB, you can't format it as FAT32. If your goal is to make the drive compatible with as many operating systems as possible, use the exFAT file system instead.

Is exFAT the same as FAT32? ›

The exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table)) is more advanced and superior to FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32), supported by more devices and OS, and it's the best solution for removable devices and flash drives. So no, exFAT is not the same as FAT32 and was introduced as a replacement for FAT32.

How do I change my external hard drive from NTFS to FAT32? ›

Methods to convert NTFS External hard drive to FAT32
  1. Open the Disk Management in Windows.
  2. Right click on the external hard drive and select “Format…” in the drop-down menu.
  3. Select “FAT32” in the “File system” line and then choose “Quick format”.
  4. Finally click “Start” to format, and this process may cost you minutes.
7 Mar 2022

Can a 2tb drive be formatted in FAT32? ›

FAT32 Format works with Windows XP through 10 and supports up to 2 TB partition size. You can choose the allocation unit size and give the partition a new volume label.

Is NTFS the same as FAT32? ›

NTFS and FAT32 file systems differ in the following ways: The FAT32 file system cannot store individual files larger than 4 GB, while the NTFS file system can. Compared to FAT32, the NTFS file system has higher disk utilization and can manage disk space more effectively.

How do I format a 128GB USB stick to FAT32? ›

FAQ about Formatting 128GB USB Flash Drive
  1. Right-click your USB and then choose Format.
  2. In the pop window, select the file system as FAT32, then click OK.
  3. Click the Execute Operation button.
8 Sept 2022

Can you format FAT32 larger than 32GB? ›

You can format USB drives larger than 32GB with FAT32 by using the format command in PowerShell or Command Prompt—the command uses the same syntax in both tools. The downside to doing this is that it can take a long time.

How do I convert exFAT to FAT32 for free? ›

exFAT to FAT32 FAQ

Download exFAT to FAT32 converter MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition. Backup important files in the US stick with MiniTool Partition Wizard in advance. Then right-click the exFAT partition and select Format Partition. Choose FAT32 file system and follow the prompts to apply it.

How do I format a 500GB external hard drive to FAT32? ›

The whole process can be simple and fast, let's get to know it.
  1. Run AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional, go to “All Tools”>“NTFS to FAT32 Converter”.
  2. In the pop-up window, choose “NTFS to FA32” and click on “Next”.
  3. Choose the partition that is originally formatted to NTFS on 500GB HDD and click “Next”.

How do I force a FAT32 format? ›

Step 1: To enter the Power Menu, press WIN + X and choose Command Prompt with Administrator permission. Keep track of the drive letter. Step 2: Type format /FS: FAT32 into the command prompt and hit the Enter key. Step 3: The operation result should now be shown, and the drive should be ready to use.

What is the largest drive size for FAT32? ›

The FAT32 file system uses smaller clusters than the FAT file system, has duplicate boot records, and features a root directory that can be of any size and can be located anywhere on the disk or partition. The maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4 GB.

Which is newer FAT32 or exFAT? ›

FAT32, the last major revision, is the only version still in general use today. In comparison, exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) was developed by Microsoft in 2006, specifically for flash memory like SD cards and flash drives.

How do I convert my USB from exFAT to FAT32? ›

Open File Explorer. Right-click on the USB flash drive, select “Format”. Select “FAT32” as the file system. Press the OK button to begin the conversion process.

Should I use NTFS or exFAT? ›

In summary, for USB drives, you should use exFAT if you're in a Windows and Mac environment, and NTFS if you're only using Windows.

Videos

1. How to format storage USB with FAT32 on Windows 10
(SureCanDo)
2. Format USB to FAT32 - Quick Guide
(Chris Waite)
3. How to Format USB Drive Larger Than 32GB to FAT32
(Britec09)
4. Format FAT 32 On Windows Using CMD
(Tech Today)
5. How to Format a FAT32 Partition in Windows 10: Ask Max!
(The Broken Life)
6. How to Format your Hard Drive to Fat32
(Cammy Charron)

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