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Difference Between FAT and FAT32

FAT vs FAT32

FAT (File Allocation Table) is a file system used on computers. Its function is to map out which areas of the drive are unused and which areas of the drive contain files. A file system is very important as it facilitates the seamless reading and writing files to the drive. FAT32 is just one of the variants of FAT that appeared as it evolved to adapt to the increasing requirements of computing. It is the latest and most widely used in the succession of FAT variants.

FAT32, as could be easily discerned by the 32 suffix, uses 32 bits to represent each cluster value. The more notable FAT variant that preceded FAT32, commonly known as FAT16, uses 16 bits; older versions of FAT used 12 and 8 bits. More bits directly translate to more locations that can be addressed and more total usable storage. FAT32 can have partitions of up to 2TB or 2000GB, which is significantly more compared to the 4GB limit that can be addressed by FAT16. FAT32 also has a 4GB limit to the size of individual files.

Although hard drives with capacities of 2TB or more are not yet very common, a certain shortcoming of FAT32 has prompted the move towards other more superior file systems like NTFS and Ext3. Despite falling out of favor in most operating systems, FAT32 still manages to persist. Due to its age and popularity, FAT32 has become the file system of choice for removable media like flash cards, USB drives, and even for the internal memories of cameras and mobile phones. Using FAT32 means that the device will very likely work with whatever operating system it is connected to.

Right now, FAT32 is the only version of FAT that is still widely used. However, as capacities of storage media begin to increase, the weaknesses of FAT32 would become clearer. There are other FAT replacements on the horizon like exFAT, but it is meant for newer, removable media like SDXC. For current media with capacitites of under 32GB, FAT32 is still the most appropriate version of FAT to use.


1.FAT32 is just a variant of FAT.
2.FAT32 uses 32 bits while other variants of FAT use less.
3.FAT32 has the highest capacity among different FAT variants.
4.FAT32 is the only variant of FAT still in widespread use today.

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