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How to Format an SD Card to FAT32

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  • Posted on 22nd Sep, 2022 18:05 PM

You can format small SD cards to FAT32 in Windows through File manager and big cards with a third-party tool, or Disk Utility in macOS

What to Know

  • Cards under 32GB: Right click the SD card in File Manager > Format, select FAT32, then click Start > OK
  • For bigger cards, use a third party tool like the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. 
  • On a Mac, open Disk Utility, then click your SD card > EraseFormat > MS-DOS (FAT) > Erase.

This article explains how to format an SD card to FAT32, including instructions for both Windows and macOS.

Before you format a large SD card to FAT32, check the specifications of the device that you want to use with the card. Some devices that require the FAT32 system are incapable of reading larger cards even with the right file system, so verify 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 little more complicated in Windows than in macOS. The issue is the built-in Windows formatting tool won’t let you format any device using FAT32 if it’s larger than 32GB.

You can format larger SD cards on Windows, but only with a third-party tool. The built-in formatting tool on Mac will let you format large SD cards without any third-party apps.

Formatting your SD card will delete all of the files from the device. If you don’t want to lose your files, back up your data before proceeding.

How to Format an SD Card to FAT32 Using Windows

If your SD card is 32GB or smaller, you can format it to FAT32 with the Windows Disk Management utility or command prompt, but the easiest way is to use File Manager. If you have a card with more than 32GB 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:

  1. Select This PC in File Manager, and right click your SD card in the Devices section.

  2. Click Format.

  3. Click the File system drop down, and select FAT32.

  4. Click Start.

  5. Click OK.

    The SD card will be formatted immediately after you click OK.

How to Format a Large SD Card to FAT32 Using Windows

Windows doesn’t provide you with the option to select FAT32 if your device has more than 32GB of storage. If you want to use this file system with a large SD card, then you need to use a third-party tool. There are a lot of free and paid apps that can accomplish this goal, but the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool is a free, lightweight option from a reputable source.

Here’s how to format an SD card over 32GB to FAT32 in Windows:

  1. Navigate to the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool on Softpedia, and click FREE DOWNLOAD.

  2. Select your download source.

  3. Save the file on your computer.

  4. Right click HPUSBDisk.exe in File Explorer, and select Run as administrator.

  5. Click the device drop down, and select your SD card.

  6. Click the file system drop down, and select FAT32.

  7. Name the SD card if you want, and click Start.

    The formatting process will start now, so only click start if you’re ready.

How to Format an SD Card to FAT32 on a 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 size of the card. This method requires you to choose the MS-DOS (FAT) file system, but it’s the same as the FAT32 system you would select in Windows.

Here’s how to format an SD card to FAT32 on a Mac:

  1. Open Disk Utility.

  2. Click your SD card in the External section.

  3. Click Erase.

  4. Rename the card if you want, and click on the Format drop down.

  5. Click MS-DOS (FAT).

  6. Click Erase.

    The SD card will start formatting as soon as you click Erase.

Why Can’t Windows Format Large SD Cards in FAT32?

FAT32 is an old file system with limitations new file systems don’t have. FAT32 places a hard limit on how much space a device can have. It also can’t handle large files.

Microsoft 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 newer options.

  • Why can't I format my SD card to FAT32?

    You might be prevented from formatting your SD card to FAT32 if it's larger than 32GB and you're using Windows. It's also possible that the SD card is write protected, which could require you physically flip a small switch on the side of the card. If it's digitally write protected, you'll need to disable it using the Diskpart utility on Windows or Disk Utility on Mac.

  • How can I check if my SD card is FAT32 formatted?

    In Windows, right-click the icon for the SD card and select Properties, then look for the format info in the Properties window. On a Mac, right-click on the SD card name in the Finder or in the Locations column in an open folder, then select Get Info. You'll find formatting information in the Info window, under General and next to Format.

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