How to Format a USB Drive to FAT32 on Windows 10 and Windows 11

Use File Explorer (drives smaller than 32GB) or Powershell (for drives greater than 32GB)

What to Know

  • File Explorer: Go to Start > This PC > right-click the USB Drive > Format > Start > OK.
  • Or launch Powershell > enter format /fs:fat32 : and wait for the process to finish.
  • You can format drives smaller than 32GB in File Explorer; for larger drives, you must use Powershell.

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. Instructions apply to both Windows 10 and 11; screenshots are from Windows 10.

How to Format a USB Drive as 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. Select Start icon.

    Windows 10 desktop with Start Menu highlighted
  2. Select 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. Choose Format.

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

    Format USB Drive dialog with the OK button highlighted for agreeing to it
  7. Wait for the drive to format then select 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. Select the Search Bar.

  2. Type in Powershell.

    Windows 10 Search Bar
  3. Select 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. 
  • How do I format an SD card to FAT32?

    To format an SD card to FAT32, select This PC in File Manager and right-click your SD card in the Devices section. Select Format and choose FAT32 from the File System drop-down menu. Select Start > OK.

  • What is FAT32?

    FAT32 is the latest version of the File Allocation Table (FAT) file system. It supports drive sizes up to 2TB and can go as high as 16TB with 64KB clusters. A FAT32 volume can hold up to 268,173,300 files using 32KB clusters.

  • How do I format USB to FAT32 on Mac?

    To format a USB flash drive to FAT32 on a Mac, connect the drive to your Mac, open Disk Utility, and select the flash drive. Rename the USB drive and select MS-DOS(FAT) as your format option. Select Erase.

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