What there is to know
- Cards under 32 GB: right-click SD card in File manager > Formatselect FAT32then click Begin > OKAY.
- For larger cards, use a third-party tool such as the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool.
- On a Mac, open disk utilitythen click on your SD card > Wipe off > Format > MS-DOS (FAT) > Wipe off.
This article explains how to format an SD card to FAT32, including instructions for Windows and macOS.
Before formatting a large SD card to FAT32, check the specifications of the device you want to use with the card. Some devices that require the FAT32 system are unable to read larger cards even with the correct file system, so check that your card is within the limits of your device.
The basics of formatting
You can format most SD cards to FAT32, but the process is a bit trickier on Windows than on macOS. The problem is that the built-in Windows format tool does not allow you to format a device using FAT32 if it is larger than 32 GB.
You can format larger SD cards in Windows, but only with a third-party tool. The built-in format tool on Mac will allow you to format large SD cards without any third-party application.
Formatting your SD card will delete all files from the device. If you don’t want to lose your files, back up your data before continuing.
How to Format an SD Card to FAT32 with Windows
If your SD card is 32GB or less, you can format it to FAT32 with Windows Disk Management utility or Command Prompt, but the easiest way is to use File Manager. If you have a card with more than 32 GB of storage, skip to the next section for instructions on using a third-party tool.
Here’s how to format an SD card to FAT32 using Windows File Manager:
Select This PC in File Manager, then right-click your SD card in the Devices section.
Click on Format.
Click the File System drop-down menu and select FAT32.
Click on Begin.
Click on OKAY.
The SD card will be formatted immediately after clicking OK.
How to Format a Large SD Card to FAT32 with Windows
Windows does not give you the option to select FAT32 if your device has more than 32 GB of storage. If you want to use this file system with a large SD card, you need to use a third-party tool. There are many free and paid applications that can accomplish this goal, but HP USB Disk Format Tool is a free and lightweight option from a trusted source.
Here’s how to format an SD card larger than 32GB to FAT32 on Windows:
Navigate to the HP USB Disk Format Tool on Softpediaand click FREE DOWNLOAD.
Select your source of download.
Save the file to your computer.
Right-click HPUSBDisk.exe in File Explorer and select Execute as administrator.
Click the device drop-down menu and select your SD card.
Click the file system drop-down menu and select FAT32.
Name the SD card if desired, then click Begin.
The formatting process will start now, so only click Start if you’re ready.
How to Format SD Card to FAT32 on Mac
You can also format your SD card to FAT32 on a Mac and you can use the built-in Disk Utility app regardless of the card size. This method requires you to choose the MS-DOS (FAT) file system, but it is the same as the FAT32 system you would select in Windows.
Here’s how to format an SD card to FAT32 on a Mac:
Open disk utility.
Click on your SD card in the External section.
Click on Wipe off.
Rename the map if desired, and click the Format scrolling menu.
Click on MS-DOS (FAT).
Click on Wipe off.
The SD card will start formatting as soon as you click Erase.
Why can’t Windows format large SD cards to FAT32?
FAT32 is an old file system with limitations that newer file systems do not have. FAT32 places a strict limit on the amount of space a device can have. It also cannot handle large files.
Microsoft has removed the option to use FAT32 on large storage devices due to these limitations, and it’s generally considered a good idea to use a different file system if possible. The only reason to use FAT32 is if you have a device, like a camera, that can’t use any of the new options.
Why can’t I format my SD card to FAT32?
You may not be able to format your SD card to FAT32 if it exceeds 32GB and you are using Windows. It’s also possible that the SD card is write-protected, which might require you to physically flip a small switch on the side of the card. If it is digitally write protected, you will need to disable it using the Diskpart utility on Windows or Disk Utility on Mac.
How can I check if my SD card is formatted in FAT32?
In Windows, right-click the SD card icon and select Properties, then find the format information in the Properties window. On a Mac, right-click the SD card name in the Finder or in the Locations column of an open folder, then select Obtain informations. You will find formatting information in the Info window, under General and next to Format.
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