In windows 10, when you want to format a partition specifically as FAT32 (for example an SDcard that is going to be used in your phone) when you right-click the disk and choose format, only NTFS and exFAT are shown as possible format options.

Is there another way, preferably without installing an additional tool or booting into a different mode to format as FAT32?

  • If your use-case is specific to phones and no other situation then I believe most phones will format it for you. – MonkeyZeus Feb 17 '17 at 15:46
  • @MonkeyZeus true, but I ran into the instance where my phone formatted the card to an unknown layout. my pc would not detect the contents and asked me to format the drive for me. Now, the card works both in my phone and in my pc at the same time. – LPChip Feb 17 '17 at 16:47
  • How big is the SD card to be formatted? – Nayuki Feb 17 '17 at 18:44
  • @Nayuki in my case 64GB. I ended up having to use a third party tool afterall. – LPChip Feb 17 '17 at 22:04
  • Be glad your card was only 64 GB. It looks like there are multiple limits prone to affect FAT32 around the 128GB mark. (I'm not offhand sure if a 128GB would give full capacity easily, I suspect not, but surely not anything larger.) The first of significance may be 129,613,440KB imposed by LBA28, but even if you get past that (which is probably easy with modern equipment/software), but there's also a 133,693,376 KB limit affecting FAT32-specifically. – TOOGAM Mar 5 '17 at 18:59
up vote 10 down vote accepted

While LPChip's answer is 'correct' and should work in most cases unless the partition is over 32gb. I typically use a bit of third party software from ridgecrop that does the same thing but handles larger partitions. I've used their command line fat32formatter extensively over the past few years.

They have a GUI tool that more or less does what it says on the tin now. Formatting speeds are crazy fast and I've not had any issues with it.

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  • I indeed ended up using a Verbatim FAT32 format tool to do it for me due to the filesize of 64 gigs being too big. Therefor this answer is accepted, as its technically what I had to do. – LPChip Feb 17 '17 at 16:48
  • @LPChip you mean the partition size was larger than the built-in tool would use for fat32? – JDługosz Feb 17 '17 at 18:41
  • @JDługosz I mean that its a 64GB card, which was formatted to exFAT by windows, and when I wanted to reformat it to FAT32, it said the card was too big for FAT32. – LPChip Feb 17 '17 at 22:03
  • I completely didn't realize your answer was a self answer. Had issues with this in the past, and the ridgecop tool's kind of a standard standby for me ;) – Journeyman Geek Feb 18 '17 at 2:22

Yes.

The GUI version of format is limited only to NTFS and exFAT, probably because this is what you'll ever need on Windows.

Luckily if you run format from the command prompt, you can specify far more options to format your disk in.

Format /? shows the following:

Formats a disk for use with Windows.

FORMAT volume [/FS:file-system] [/V:label] [/Q] [/L[:state]] [/A:size]
 [/C] [/I:state] [/X] [/P:passes] [/S:state]
FORMAT volume [/V:label] [/Q] [/F:size] [/P:passes]
FORMAT volume [/V:label] [/Q] [/T:tracks /N:sectors] [/P:passes]
FORMAT volume [/V:label] [/Q] [/P:passes]
FORMAT volume [/Q]

  volume          Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon),
                  mount point, or volume name.
  /FS:filesystem  Specifies the type of the file system (FAT, FAT32, exFAT,
              NTFS, UDF, ReFS).
  /V:label        Specifies the volume label.
  /Q              Performs a quick format. Note that this switch overrides /P.
  /C              NTFS only: Files created on the new volume will be compressed
                  by default.
  /X              Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary.  All opened
                  handles to the volume would no longer be valid.
  /R:revision     UDF only: Forces the format to a specific UDF version
                  (1.02, 1.50, 2.00, 2.01, 2.50).  The default
                  revision is 2.01.
  /D              UDF 2.50 only: Metadata will be duplicated.
  /L[:state]      NTFS Only: Overrides the default size of file record.
                  By default, a non-tiered volume will be formatted with small
                  size file records and a tiered volume will be formatted with
                  large size file records.  /L and /L:enable forces format to
                  use large size file records and /L:disable forces format to
                  use small size file records.
  /A:size         Overrides the default allocation unit size. Default settings
                  are strongly recommended for general use.
                  ReFS supports 64K.
                  NTFS supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K.
                  FAT supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K,
                  (128K, 256K for sector size > 512 bytes).
                  FAT32 supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K,
                  (128K, 256K for sector size > 512 bytes).
                  exFAT supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K,
                  128K, 256K, 512K, 1M, 2M, 4M, 8M, 16M, 32M.

                  Note that the FAT and FAT32 files systems impose the
                  following restrictions on the number of clusters on a volume:

                  FAT: Number of clusters <= 65526
                  FAT32: 65526 < Number of clusters < 4177918

                  Format will immediately stop processing if it decides that
                  the above requirements cannot be met using the specified
                  cluster size.

                  NTFS compression is not supported for allocation unit sizes
                  above 4096.

  /F:size         Specifies the size of the floppy disk to format (1.44)
  /T:tracks       Specifies the number of tracks per disk side.
  /N:sectors      Specifies the number of sectors per track.
  /P:count        Zero every sector on the volume.  After that, the volume
                  will be overwritten "count" times using a different
                  random number each time.  If "count" is zero, no additional
                  overwrites are made after zeroing every sector.  This switch
                  is ignored when /Q is specified.
  /S:state        Specifies support for short filenames (enable, disable)
                  Short names are disabled by default
  /I:state        ReFS only: Specifies whether integrity should be enabled on
                  the new volume. "state" is either "enable" or "disable"
                  Integrity is enabled on storage that supports data redundancy
                  by default.
  /DAX[:state]    NTFS Only: Enable direct access storage (DAX) mode for this
                  volume.  In DAX mode, the volume is accessed via the memory
                  bus, boosting IO performance.  A volume can be formatted
                  with DAX mode only if the hardware is DAX capable.
                  State can specify "enable" or "disable".  /DAX is considered
                  as /DAX:enable.

As you can see, /FS:filesystem allows you to format as

FAT (fat16), FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, UDF and ReFS.

  • 1
    there's also a maximum size limit of fat32 files on newer versions of windows. – Journeyman Geek Feb 17 '17 at 13:42
  • Yes, I found out the hard way when my format was completed. :( Used a tool instead, but already had posted the answer. I will accept your answer and leave mine as it is because that shows the picture clearly. Thanks for helping out in the community. :) – LPChip Feb 17 '17 at 15:02
  • Nobody needs exFAT on Windows. Anything except NTFS is for portability. Microsoft is simply trying to pretend that exFAT is portable, when it would be a lot more useful to format in FAT32. – Zan Lynx Feb 17 '17 at 20:31
  • I've documented the output by Win2K/XP's format as "Logical Disk Manager: Volume size too big." I'm guessing that carried onto Win10. Win9x would have no problem with this. It's not a limit to FAT32 in general, but specifically to this piece of software (the FORMAT command in some versions of Microsoft Windows). Using other software ought to work great, as you've now experienced. – TOOGAM Mar 5 '17 at 19:03

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