FAT

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File Allocation Table (FAT) is a partially patented file system developed by Microsoft for MS-DOS, and is the primary file system for consumer versions of Microsoft Windows up to and including Windows Me.

The FAT file system is considered relatively uncomplicated, and is consequently supported by virtually all existing operating systems for personal computers. This ubiquity makes it an ideal format for floppy disks and solid-state memory cards, and a convenient way of sharing data between disparate operating systems installed on the same computer.

The most common implementations have a serious drawback in that when files are deleted and new files written to the media, their fragments tend to become scattered over the entire media, making reading and writing a slow process. Defragmentation is one solution to this, but is often a lengthy process in itself and has to be repeated regularly to keep the FAT file system clean. More

FAT exists in two versions: FAT16 and FAT32.

  • FAT16 is the original FAT filesystem, dubbed FAT16 only after being replaced by FAT32. It has a maximum partition size of 2 GB. It's still commonly used on floppy disks and small (< 2 GB) flash media drives.
  • FAT32 was introduced with Windows 95SE. It expands the maximum partition size to 2TB, however, Windows 2000 and XP only allow the creation of up to 32GB FAT32 partitions. FAT32 has a file size limit of 4GB.

The Linux kernel supports both versions of FAT. In commands and configuration files, FAT16 is often referred to as "msdos", and FAT32 as "vfat".

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