exFAT vs FAT32: Difference and Comparison

Although file systems are crucial to dealing with computer data, their consequences aren’t obvious. As a result, deciding on a file system might be difficult. When it comes to formatting an external device, such as a portable hard drive, Memory stick, or USB flash drive, you have two options FAT32 or exFAT.

Key Takeaways

  1. exFAT supports larger files and partitions than FAT32, making it more suitable for modern storage devices.
  2. FAT32 works on almost all operating systems and devices, whereas exFAT compatibility is limited.
  3. exFAT performs better with large files and reduces file fragmentation compared to FAT32.

exFAT vs FAT32

FAT32 is an older file system with a maximum file size of 4GB and a maximum volume size of 2TB, making it unsuitable for large files or volumes. ExFAT is designed to address the limitations of FAT32, with a larger maximum file size of 16 exabytes and a maximum volume size of 128 petabytes.

exFAT vs FAT32

The exFAT file system was first launched in 2006, and it was later added to prior versions of Windows with the upgrading of Windows XP and Vista. exFAT is a lightweight file system similar to FAT32, suitable for flash drives, but without the additional functions and overhead of NTFS and the limitations of FAT32.

The File Allocation Table keeps track of all your files and assists the computer in finding them on the drive. This makes it easy for the computer to identify data and allows for smaller clusters, which increase the hard disk’s performance. A FAT32 partition must also be smaller than 8TB in size, which isn’t a big deal unless you’re utilizing super-large hard drives.

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison exFATFAT32
Stands ForExtensible File Allocation TableFile Allocation Table-32
CompatibleCompatible Not Compatible
ConfigurationNeeds ConfigurationDoesn’t need any Configuration
SizeThere are no limitations.A FAT32 partition with a size of more than 8 TB.
Works Windows and Mac OS Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and almost anything having a USB port.

What is exFAT?

exFAT was first released in 2006, and With Windows XP and Vista updates, it was later incorporated into prior versions of Windows. It’s a flash-drive-optimized file system. It’s meant to be a small file system comparable to FAT32 but without the new features and overhead of NTFS and the limitations of FAT32.

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exFAT has extremely high file and partition size restrictions. This implies that if your flash drive or SD card is formatted with exFAT, you may store files that are greater than 4 GB each. ExFAT is a stringent improvement over FAT32, and it’s the ideal option for external devices that need a lightweight file system without the file size limitations of FAT32. In addition, exFAT is more compatible than NTFS.

While Mac OS X only supports NTFS in the read-only mode, Macs support exFAT in full read-write mode. Installing the proper software on Linux allows you to access exFAT devices. While exFAT’s compatibility does not exactly match that of FAT32, it is more universally compatible than NTFS. While macOS only supports NTFS in read-only mode, exFAT is supported in full read-write mode on Macs. Installing the proper software on Linux allows you to access exFAT devices.

What is FAT32?

The oldest file system is FAT32. It was first introduced in Windows 95 as a replacement for the previous FAT16 file system. The antiquity of this file system offers both advantages and problems. It is the de-facto standard due to its age. Purchased flash drives are frequently formatted in FAT32 for best compatibility with current PCs and other devices, anything with a USB port.

Being older, on the other hand, has its drawbacks. A single file on a FAT32 drive cannot be larger than 4 GB. A FAT32 partition must be less than 8 TB in size, which is a minor stumbling block if you have a new, good mechanical disc. While this file system is suitable for USB flash drives and other removable media, it is not suitable for internal storage. It doesn’t have the permissions and other security measures that the more current NTFS file system has.

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Modern versions of Windows cannot be installed on FAT32 devices but must be installed on NTFS drives. It doesn’t have the permissions and other security measures that the more current NTFS file system has. In addition, the latest versions of Windows cannot be installed on FAT32 formatted discs; they must be installed on NTFS formatted drives. FAT32 is a better version of FAT because it utilizes more bits to distinguish each group on the disc.

Main Differences Between exFAT and FAT32

  1. exFAT stands for Extensible File Allocation Table, whereas FAT32 stands for File Allocation Table-32
  2. exFAT is compatible, whereas FAT32 is not compatible.
  3. exFAT needs configuration, whereas FAT32 doesn’t need configuration.
  4. exFAT has any partition size, whereas FAT32 has 8TB of size.
  5. All Windows, Linux, and Mac OS versions, and virtually anything else with a USB port are compatible. FAT32 works with all Windows versions and the latest versions; however, Linux users may need to install additional software.
  1. https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.08653
  2. https://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO202125659039589.page

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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14 thoughts on “exFAT vs FAT32: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This is a very informative and well-researched article. I appreciate the detailed comparison of exFAT and FAT32. The exhaustive nature of the article is highly commendable.

  2. The detailed information on the compatibility of exFAT and FAT32 with various operating systems is enlightening. The article provides valuable insights into the practical implications of choosing between the two file systems.

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  3. The detailed analysis of exFAT and FAT32 in the article is commendable. The comparisons drawn between the two file systems are thorough and elucidative, catering to readers with a keen intellectual interest in the subject.

  4. The references provided at the end of the article testify to the rigorous research undertaken by the author. The scholarly nature of the content and the evidence-based approach are indicative of the article’s credibility.

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  5. The section detailing the history and development of exFAT and FAT32 is insightful and adds depth to the comparison of the two file systems. It is evident that the author has conducted thorough research on the topic.

  6. The section explaining the main differences between exFAT and FAT32 effectively highlights the key distinctions between the two file systems. The comprehensive nature of the article is truly impressive.

  7. The comparison table provides a clear and concise summary of the differences between exFAT and FAT32. It is an effective tool for understanding the distinctions between the two file systems. The article is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to gain in-depth knowledge on the subject.

    • I agree. The detailed parameters of comparison and the subsequent analysis make this article an invaluable resource for those looking to understand the intricacies of file systems.

    • The comparison table is certainly an asset in comprehending the nuances of exFAT and FAT32. It presents complex information in an accessible manner, facilitating a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

  8. The historical context provided for FAT32 and exFAT is a welcome addition to the article, offering a holistic view of the evolution of file systems. The deliberation on the differences between the two systems is particularly informative.

    • Indeed, the historical context enhances the reader’s understanding of the subject matter. The article adeptly combines historical insights with technical analysis, resulting in a comprehensive resource on file systems.


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