How to Format a USB Drive in FAT32 on Windows 10

Wipe your USB drives easily

This article teaches you how to format a USB drive in FAT32 on Windows 10. It also explains what FAT32 is compared to other formats and other limitations you need to know.

Format a USB Drive in FAT32 Using File Explorer

Using File Explorer to format USB to FAT32 is the easiest method.

It's only possible to format a drive smaller than 32GB in FAT32 format using this method. Any data previously contained on the USB drive is removed during the formatting process.

  1. Click the Start Menu.

    Windows 10 desktop with Start Menu highlighted
  2. Click This PC.

    Windows 10 Start Menu with This PC highlighted
  3. Right-click the USB Drive.

    Windows 10 This PC with USB Drive highlighted
  4. Click Format.

    Windows 10 desktop with This PC open and a USB drive right clicked with Format highlighted on menu
  5. Click Start.

    Format USB Drive dialog with Start button highlighted

    If the File system isn't listed as FAT32, click on the drop-down menu and choose it.

  6. Click OK.

    Format USB Drive dialog with the OK button highlighted for agreeing to it
  7. Wait for the drive to format then click OK to finish the process.

Format a USB Drive in FAT32 Using Powershell Command Line Tools

If you want to format a drive larger than 32GB, then your only option is to use Windows 10's Powershell Command Line Tools to do so. It's a much slower process than through File Explorer, but it works. Here's how to format a USB drive using the command line function.

As before, any data previously stored on the USB drive is removed during the formatting process.

  1. Click the Search Bar.

  2. Type in Powershell.

    Windows 10 Search Bar
  3. Click Powershell.

    Windows 10 search bar results with Powershell highlighted
  4. Type format /fs:fat32 :

    Windows 10 Powershell with format code typed in
  5. Wait for the process to complete.

    Formatting this way can take a long time.

Pros and Cons of Using FAT32

FAT32 is an old file system that's been around for many years. That means it's not an ideal fit for Windows 10. However, there are reasons why you might want to use it. We delve into a brief overview of the pros and cons behind FAT32. 

  • FAT32 is near-universal. If you frequently move your USB drive between PC, Mac, Linux system, and even your phone, FAT32 is a good choice. That's because it has near-universal compatibility, so you can easily share files using this file system. 
  • FAT32 can't be used on drives larger than 16TB or files larger than 4GB. FAT32 isn't able to work with hard drives larger than 16TB. That won't affect many users yet, but it cannot deal with files over 4GB in size. That can be a big issue nowadays, especially if you regularly edit videos. 
  • FAT32 is slightly slower. FAT32 is somewhat slower than its alternatives—NTFS and exFAT. It might not make a huge difference at first, but it all adds up, and if you don't require universal support, you may as well use NTFS or Microsoft's exFAT file system instead. 
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