Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When you format a SD card you can specify whether you want to use FAT or FAT32. If you select FAT what does that actually use? Doesn't it have to be FAT12, FAT16 or FAT32?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

I believe the FAT option uses FAT16.

Confirmed by this link on the Tom's Hardware Forums (emphasis mine).

Of course it sees and can also format FAT16 partitions: I always format my flash drives, CF and SD with FAT16, because embedded systems, like cameras and mp3 players don't read FAT32 (only the very new models).

But of course you must create a partition not larger than 2GB, because that is the FAT16 physical limit. In the Format context menu you'll find the FAT32 and FAT options. FAT stands for FAT16.

Note that, when the post says "only very new" devices read FAT32... that was posted in 2006. Regardless, I believe that answers your question.

share|improve this answer

FAT12 has a maximum size of 32MB and is rarely used these days. FAT16 has a maximum size of 2GB, so it's suitable (but not necessarily most appropriate) for non-HC SD cards. Beyond 2GB, you need FAT32.

FAT is a generic name for “any of the FAT variants” or “whichever FAT variant is most appropriate”, but some older software may take the 1995-ish view that FAT32 is a new thing that doesn't deserve to be called FAT.

You don't say which software you're using to format the SD card, so it's impossible to say what its FAT setting actually means. However, if it offers a choice between “FAT” and “FAT32”, it's highly likely that it uses “FAT” in the “FAT16” meaning.

share|improve this answer

I also suspect that many cameras have limitted memory for storing the FAT itself, and use a FAT implementation that insist on the whole FAT to be copied in RAM, so on larger media card, you may have to use a dedicated tool that formats your FAT32 card with larger clusters so that the number of clusters (and therefore the size of the File Allocation Table) remains small enough (typically under 1MB?).

If you have information that confirms/infirms this, I'm eager to read it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.