Nov 03, 2011

What are FAT and FAT file system formats used for?

Windows servers offer three different options for file system format: NTFS, FAT and FAT32. I've never seen anything but NTFS used, so I was wondering what are FAT and FAT32 used for?


FAT was invented for use on floppy disks.  Nearly all computers these days recognize FAT and have BIOSs that can boot from FAT.  FAT is now used on on devices that hope to be be recognized universally, or that are intended as bootable.  CDROMS have FAT-like features to be bootable.  Devices like cameras that connect via USB present a FAT interface  to make their data more widely availble.

Hi bcastle,

Here's a good background article on FAT that you might find interesting:


It's got plenty of details, probably more than you want to read. Heh, heh. But take a look, I think it's a good place to start.

Well, FAT and FAT32 aren't really used for much of anything anymore.  The letters F-A-T refer to file allocation table, which was a way to track disc space allocated to files on small hard drives and disks.  and FAT32was an upgrade to allow 32 bit cluster addresses back when disk drives started to exceed 512MB, and it allowed a max file size of 4GB.  Compare that to NTSF, which allows a max file size of 16TB.  In the end FAT and FAT32 are archaic leftovers that are unreliable and don't have the built in security features of NTFS.  The only use I've seen recently of FAT and FAT32 is as the subject of this question!

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