What is FAT32?

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What is FAT32?
FAT32 refers to the 32-bit version of FAT or File Allocation Table. FAT is a computer filing system typically used in a variety of portable devices including floppy disks, memory cards, and digital camera devices among others. This filing system is said to be very simple which is why it is commonly used on portable devices. But this particular filing system can also be applied to older operating systems including that of MS-DOS and Windows 9x versions.

The FAT system actually started with FAT12 or the 12-bit version of the file allocation architecture. This was first introduced back in 1980 and was specifically designed for 16-bit microprocessors and floppy disks. This system was capable of handling cluster addresses up to 12-bit values and cluster count could reach up to 4084. FAT12 is then replaced by FAT16 which was initially referred to as the DOS 3.31 Large File System. This version allowed for the handling of files with higher bytes. Size requirements increased over time and FAT32 was eventually developed to address this concern. With FAT32, cluster size was increased with values having 32-bit numbers. As a file allocation system, FAT32 first came out with Microsoft’s Windows 95 OSR2 version.
FAT32 is said to use disk space more efficiently than older file allocation standards or formats. It is also capable of handling drives of up to 2 TB in size. And even if drives have bigger sizes, the FAT32 system allows for the use of smaller clusters which results to better use of disk space. The FAT32 file allocation system also allows relocation of the root folder and at the same time utilizes the backup copy of the file allocation table in doing this operation. This increases FAT32’s robustness and efficiency. Having numerous root folders at various locations is also not a concern with the FAT32 system. This results in the possibility of resizing the FAT32 partitions dynamically.

But not all systems are compatible with FAT32 including old types of motherboards and BIOS. Some also report that FAT32 is actually slower than FAT16 depending on the size of the disk. FAT32 also provides no file security and fault tolerance features which are present with newer file allocation systems such as NTFS.

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