Formatting FAT32: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

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Formatting FAT32: 7 Steps (with Pictures)
Formatting FAT32: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

FAT32 is a widely used file system for computers of all shapes and sizes. FAT32 has many advantages over other well-known file systems; almost every operating system can write to and read from it, and it doesn't have a built-in security system so it's easy to work with. Although FAT32 is widely supported, it is not often set as the default format on most machines. Computers with the Windows operating system use the NTFS system by default, Linux generally uses the Ext4 system and Apple machines use the HFS Plus system. When using external drives with different systems, it can be an advantage to format the drive in the FAT32 file format. Formatting a drive is a fairly simple process. If you buy an external hard drive, it is usually formatted NTFS, but that is easy to change. Formatting is easiest via Windows Explorer, but it is also possible via the command prompt. This offers a little more flexibility, but also leaves more room for errors and is a lot more cumbersome. If you still want to use this method, follow the steps below.


Format FAT32 Step 1

Step 1. Make a backup of all the data you want to keep

Formatting a hard drive will completely delete all data on it. Move the files you want to keep to another drive or computer.

Format FAT32 Step 2

Step #2. Open Command Prompt

Hold down the "Start" key and then press the "r" key, or click the "Start" button, and select "Run." Then type "cmd" in the dialog box. This will then open the Command Prompt window.

Format FAT32 Step 3

Step 3. Enter the format command

In the command window, type the following command: "format /FS:FAT32 X:" replace the letter "X" with the letter of the external hard drive (you can find this via Windows Explorer).

Format FAT32 Step 4

Step 4. Press Enter to confirm

Windows will warn you that formatting will erase all data on the drive. Type "Y" to confirm that you want to continue. Wait for the formatting to finish before removing the external drive; the time required for this depends on the size of the disk.

Method 1 of 1: Formatting an external drive to FAT32 in Mac OS X

Step 1. Open the Disk Utility application

Start by opening the Finder window and click on "Applications" in the left panel. Scroll down until you see the "Disk Utility" icon and double click on it to launch the application.

Step 2. Select the external hard drive you want to format

In the left panel, select this drive by clicking on it. Click the "Erase" button on the right panel to open a dialog box with formatting options.

Step 3. Format the drive to FAT32

In the drop-down menu that now appears, select "FAT32". Click "Erase" to start formatting. Wait for this process to complete before removing the drive or attempting to use the drive.


  • If you're having trouble formatting a large hard drive to FAT32 with the default program, you may want to try the SwissKnife program, which allows you to format larger volumes.
  • Note that most operating systems format standard USB sticks with FAT32. Since USB sticks are used so much for quickly sharing data between computers, the FAT32 system is the best in this case.

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