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Is exFAT the same as FAT32?

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If you are a computer user, you may have heard the terms exFAT and FAT32 about USB flash drives, hard drives, or memory cards — exFAT and FAT32 are the two most common file systems used in data storage devices.

But do you know what these file systems are and how they differ? This article explains everything you need to know about these file systems, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to choose the best one for yourself.

What are exFAT and FAT32 file systems?

The exFAT and FAT32 are file systems designed to work with external or internal storage devices like memory cards, USB flash drives, external hard drives, or digital cameras.

A file system is a set of rules and structures determining how the data is stored, organised, accessed, and managed on a storage device. Moreover, a file system also affects the device’s performance, compatibility, security, and reliability.

exFAT file system

exFAT stands for Extended File Allocation Table, a newer version of the FAT file system introduced by Microsoft in 2006.

It is an improvement over the FAT32 file system regarding capacity, compatibility, and efficiency. exFAT can support larger files and volumes than FAT32, up to 16 exabytes (EB) and 128 petabytes (PB).

Moreover, exFAT can work with more operating systems and devices than FAT32, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, PlayStation, Xbox, and more.

The newer version also means more speed and efficiency. exFAT is more efficient than FAT32 regarding disk space storage and allocation speed.

FAT32 file system

FAT32 stands for File Allocation Table 32-bit, an older version of the FAT file system. It was introduced by Microsoft in 1996.

FAT32 is a simple and widely compatible file system that works with any operating system and device. However, the FAT32 file system has many limitations, making it less suitable for modern storage devices. FAT32 can only support files up to 4GB and volumes up to 2TB.

File SystemsStorage supportOperating system
exFATFile up to 16 exabytes (EB) and volumes up to 128 petabytes (PB)Multiple OS: Windows, macOS, Linux
FAT32File up to 16 exabytes (EB) and volume up to 128 petabytes (PB)Although it supports multiple OS, it fails due to less file and volume support

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How to choose between exFAT and FAT32?

The choice between exFAT and FAT32 will depend on several factors, such as the size of files and volumes, the compatibility of OS and device, and the storage device’s performance.

Below are certain guidelines that will help you in selecting the right file system for yourself:

  • Choose exFAT if you need to store larger files or volumes.
  • Use exFAT if you need to use your storage device with multiple OS.
  • If your storage device is old, FAT32 would be your right choice.
  • If you want your storage device’s highest compatibility and reliability, you must go for FAT32.
Stores larger files and volumesStores fewer files and volumes when compared to exFAT
Can be used with multiple OS and devicesCannot be used with multiple storage devices; Does not supports multiple OS
Less reliableMore reliable

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How to format your storage device to exFAT or FAT32?

Formatting your storage device allows you to change the device file system. However, all your data will be erased to create a new file system.

Here are the steps to format your storage device in Windows:

Step 1: Connect your storage device, right-click on the external drive, and select Format from the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Now, select the file system you want and click Start. If you want a detailed formatting procedure, unmark the Quick Format box.

In conclusion, we can say that exFAT is not the same as the FAT32 file system. Both are different file systems with their merits and demerits. exFAT is a more advanced and newer file system when compared to FAT32.

The choice between the file systems will depend on your preference, device hardware and the volume of files you need to transfer or store. To change the file system to exFAT or FAT32, you must format your external hard drive.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: [email protected]