What Is File Allocation Table (FAT)
Definition: File Allocation Table (FAT) is a file system that was created by Microsoft in 1977. FAT is still in use today as the preferred file system for floppy drive media and portable, high capacity storage devices like flash drives.
FAT was the primary file system used in all of Microsoft’s consumer operating systemsfrom MS-DOS through Windows ME. NTFS is the primary file system on Microsoft’s newer operating systems but FAT is still a supported option.
The File Allocation Table file system has seen advancements over time primarily due to the need to support larger hard disk drives and larger file sizes.
Below is more information on the versions of the FAT file system:
- FAT12 – The initial version of the FAT file system, FAT12 was introduced in 1977, even before MS-DOS, and was the primary file system for Microsoft operating systems up to MS-DOS 4.0. FAT12 supports drive sizes up to 32MB.
- FAT16 – The second implementation of FAT was FAT16, introduced in 1988. FAT16 was the primary file system for MS-DOS 4.0 up to Windows 95. FAT16 supports drive sizes up to 2GB.
- FAT32 – FAT32 is the latest version of the FAT file system. It was introduced in 1996 for Windows 95 OSR2 users and was the primary file system for consumer Windows versions through Windows ME. FAT32 supports drive sizes up to 8TB.
exFAT is another files system supported by Windows and other devices and is intended for use primarily on flash drives.
Also Known As: FAT
Examples: “I had an old hard drive full of data that was utilizing the old FAT16 file system but I was still able to hook it up and use it with my Windows XP PC because FAT is still supported.”