Hardware Software Windows

How do I format a hard drive in FAT32?

Format a hard drive in FAT32
See how it's done? Format a disk to FAT32

Sometimes you need to format a hard drive in FAT32 – for example, the PlayStation 4 requires an external drive to be in this format. But, in Windows, it’s sometimes not an option you’re given. What is FAT32 and how do you convert a disk into the format?

What is FAT32?

FAT32 is a 32-bit file system, originally introduced with Windows 2000. Unlike FAT16, FAT32 allows for much larger drives and individual files. Although, by default, both Mac and Windows uses alternative (and better) formats, the advantage of FAT32 is that it’s supported by both operating systems and Linux, for good measure.

So, a drive formatted with FAT32 will work with pretty much any operating system, hence its advantage for portable, external drives.

Formatting a hard drive to FAT32 with Windows

The problem for Windows owners is that it won’t give FAT32 as a formatting option if the drive capacity is greater than 32GB. But that’s not to say it can’t be done, you just need to find alternative means.

If you know what you’re doing with DOS, then the simplest solution is to use the FORMAT command. For example:

format /FS:FAT32 X:

Where X: is the drive you’re wanting to format. I’ve read that at 1TB and above even DOS will complain, however I found that it wouldn’t even work with a 512GB drive.

The alternative solution is to use a free program. I’d recommend both Verbatim FAT32 Tool and FAT32 Formatter.

Formatting to FAT32 on Mac

If you’re using a Mac:

  • Launch Disk Utility
  • Select your external drive in the list on the left of the Disk Utility window
  • Click “Erase”
  • Give the volume a name and select “MS-DOS (FAT)” as your file format
  • Finally, click the “Erase” button

Now read this: How do you clear disk space on a PlayStation 4?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.

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