What You Should Know
File Explorer: Select Start > This PC > from the menu, click the USB drive, and then choose Format > Start > OK.
Alternatively, start Powershell > type format /fs:fat32: and wait for the procedure to complete.
Drives less than 32GB can be formatted in File Explorer; bigger drives must be formatted using Powershell.
This post will show you how to format a USB drive in Windows 10 using FAT32. It also discusses what FAT32 is in comparison to other formats and what constraints you should be aware of. The instructions are applicable to both Windows 10 and Windows 11; the screenshots are from Windows 10.
How to Use File Explorer to Format a USB Drive as FAT32
The simplest technique is to format a USB drive to FAT32 using File Explorer.
Note: Using this approach, you can only format a disk less than 32GB in FAT32 format. During the formatting procedure, any data previously stored on the USB device is erased.
- Go to the Start menu.
- Click This PC.
- Right-click on the USB Drive.
- Press Format.
- Click Start. (If FAT32 isn’t shown as the file system, select it from the drop-down option.)
- Then press OK.
- Wait for the drive to format before selecting OK to complete the process.
Related: How to Choose Your Disk Space
How to Format a USB Drive in FAT32 Using Powershell Command Line Tools
If you need to format a disk greater than 32GB, you can only do so using Windows 10’s Powershell Command Line Tools. It’s a lot slower than using File Explorer, but it works. Here’s how to use the command line to format a USB device.
Note: Any data previously stored on the USB device is erased during the formatting procedure, as before.
- Click the Search Bar.
- Then type Powershell.
- Next, click Powershell.
- Then type format /fs:fat32 :
- Wait for the procedure to finish.
Note: Formatting in this manner might be time-consuming.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using FAT32
FAT32 is an outdated file system that has been around for quite some time. That indicates it’s not a good match with Windows 10. There are, however, certain reasons why you would wish to utilize it. We take a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of FAT32.
- FAT32 is almost universal. FAT32 is a fantastic choice if you routinely transfer your USB drive between PCs, Macs, Linux systems, and even your phone. This is because of its near-universal compatibility, which allows you to effortlessly transfer data using this file system.
- FAT32 is not compatible with disks greater than 16TB or files larger than 4GB. FAT32 does not support hard disks greater than 16TB. This won’t affect many people right now, but it can’t handle files larger than 4GB. That may be a huge problem nowadays, especially if you edit movies on a daily basis.
- FAT32 is a little slower. FAT32 is somewhat slower than its competitors, NTFS, and exFAT. It may not seem like much at first, but it all adds up, and if you don’t need global compatibility, you should use NTFS or Microsoft’s exFAT file system instead.