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FAT32 | File Allocation Table(32) 


FAT32

In order to overcome the size limit of FAT16, while at the same time allowing DOS (disk operating system) real mode code to handle the format, and without reducing available conventional memory unnecessarily, Microsoft expanded the cluster size yet again, calling the new revision FAT32. Cluster values are represented by 32-bit numbers, of which 28 bits are used to hold the cluster number. The boot sector uses a 32-bit field for the sector count, limiting the FAT32 volume size to 2 TB for sector size 512; compare the size limits given below.

FAT32 was introduced with Windows 95 OSR2, although reformatting was needed to use it, and DriveSpace 3 (the version that came with Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows 98) never supported it. Windows 98 introduced a utility to convert existing hard disks from FAT16 to FAT32 without loss of data. In the NT line, native support for FAT32 arrived in Windows 2000. A free FAT32 driver for Windows NT 4.0 was available from Winternals, a company later acquired by Microsoft. Since the acquisition the driver is no longer officially available.

The maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4 GB minus 1 byte or 4 294 967 295 (232−1) bytes. This limit is a consequence of the file length entry in the directory table and would also affect huge FAT16 partitions with a sufficient sector size. Video applications, large databases, and some other software easily exceed this limit. Larger files require another filesystem.

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