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Author Topic: formatting CompactFlash-card; FAT vs FAT32 vs exFAT.  (Read 13693 times)

Posts: 406

« on: June 04, 2011, 01:28:55 PM »

Hopefully someone can comment about the correctness of this posting with regards to the various flavors of FAT.
Up front, please be aware that I have no prior experience with FAT and what I am putting here is a result of Googling over the past 24 hours in a crash-course to glean some info about FAT.
My computer’s OS is Windows XP-SP3.
My rig is a Yaesu FT-950 with DMU-2000.
I need to up-date the DMU.
Yaesu uses CompactFlash-cards towards that end.
Prior to downloading the update-files to my 128 MB card, I want to format the card (just to be sure I have a solid starting point).
In the format-process, I was given three choices, namely---FAT, FAT32 and exFAT.
The default choice was FAT.
Having no idea which choice to pick, I started Googling to learn what FAT is about.
FAT is an acronym for File-Allocation-Table; I presume its job is to organize the “filing-cabinet”.
My impression, as of this posting, is to chose FAT (which apparently really means FAT12).
If my card was 2GB, then I’d use FAT32.
I have no idea what exFAT is for.
Apparently, it is immaterial to the OS whether FAT or FAT32 is used.
So where have I gone wrong?
BTW, this is what I like about ham-radio; always something new to learn.
73 Jerry KM3K

Posts: 244

« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2011, 02:51:05 PM »

Here's the skinny on the fat. It all has to do with platform compatibility and maximum file size.

Sometimes it is important, mostly it is not. For example, I wanted to run a software upgrade for my Sharp LCD TV. The docs said the flash drive had to be FAT16 and they meant it.

The problem with FAT (and it's variations) was the limit of 4GB file size. So they came up with NTFS that doesn't have that limit. But it wasn't compatible with Macs. So they came up with exFAT that is.

There was also an issue about minimum block size. That's the smallest chuck of storage for a given file. Let's say the block size is 100k (made up numbers). Even if the file you were saying was only 20K, it would still take up a 100K block. So if you were dealing with lots of files and a big block space, you'd have a lot of "wasted" space.

On the other hand, if you were dealing with large files, 100MB in size, then a larger block size means fewer "reads" and hence faster transfer of data.

So you see - they are all compromises and the various FATs deal with these issues of maximum file size, maximun block size, and compatiblity between computer platforms.

The good news is  - you don't need to worry about it. Unless some application specifically requires a flash drive with a specific format (They will tell you), Pick FAT (I believe the most compatible) and forget about it.

The be truthful, I don't do that because I have specific goals. I use my flash drives for ReadyBuster under Windows 7 and have reformatted them the NTFS. In addition, I bought an add-on for my Mac that allows it to read NTFS drives.

But if I wanted to have a life instead of messing with such things, I'd stick to what ever was on the flash drive or pick FAT - unless something else was specified.

Paul, K7NHB

Posts: 406

« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2011, 06:31:18 PM »

The good news is  - you don't need to worry about it........Pick FAT (I believe the most compatible) and forget about it.
Hello Paul K7NHB,
Your good news is good news indeed.
In fact, the whole posting was quite informative.
So much so that I'll share the entire posting verbatim with the FT-950 group.
Now, it is full-speed ahead on the DMU-2000 software up-date.
73 Jerry KM3K

Posts: 81

« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2011, 12:05:21 PM »

FAT 16 is the old STANDARD file format.  It was used back in the day where MS-DOS was the operating system, and hard drives were 5-10 MEG, Not GIG meg.  Then eventually we had 20 gig drives and though they were huge.  FAT16 is also the only format that's pretty much compatable with various operating systems.  Nearly anything can read it.

NFTS is the file system for Windows NT.  NT started 3.5, then 3.51, then got Windows 95 interface and was called NT 4.0.  When NT 5.0 came out it was called Windows 2000, when Windows NT 5.0 came out it was called Windows XP, when Windows NT 6.0 came out it was called VISTA, when Windows NT 6.1(ok, maybe it was 6.2 I forget) came along it was called Windows 7.  That's right Windows 6.X is called  7 go figure.  Point being With a modern pc with VISTA, 7, or even XP its actually NT based.  NFTS was a new file system designed to be STABLE, and have security.  Its VERY reliable, and designed for huge hard drive sizes unlike FAT 16  The issue with NTFS is its only compatable with NT.

Mac has a file system, UNIX has multiple file systems, Mainframes have file systems, etc.

With FAT16 then 32 being usable on so many computers most manufactures violated copyright and stole from Microsoft utilizing FAT16 and FAT 32 for digital cameras, etc. etc. etc.  Microsoft chose not to sue basically everyone and lets people utilize fat16 and 32 without having a Windows license for that device. 

Anyway, Fat 16 is limited to the 2 gig size, and Fat32 was introduced with Windows 98 then ME, and can handle much larger file sizes.  I forget, maybe 32-64 gig. 

Both FAT 16 and fat32 are unstable, and have issues, so reformatting from time to  time is necessary.

Bottome line, if your memory stick is 2 gig or less use fat16 max compatability, if its over 2 gig and you actually want to see all the space use fat32 and realize its not compatable with all computer systems.
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