Everyone gets bummed when their latest pen drive displays much less storage than it should have. The culprit is usually the file format. What do all these file formats mean? How do they differ? And most importantly, which is the best file format for a USB drive?
In this article we'll go over what a file system is, the FAT32 standard, and several ways to format a storage device to FAT32 on Windows A file system is a standardized way of organizing data on a computer storage device like a flash drive or HDD. A file system divides a storage device into virtual compartments, almost like a wall of post office boxes, and keeps track of all the information that gets stored in each box. Of those three common formats, FAT32 is the oldest and most widely supported. Meanwhile, macOS can only read NTFS drives, and you would need to install third-party software to write back to the drive. These days, the only reason why you'd choose to format a drive to FAT32 is for compatibility. For example, if you need to boot up an old computer, maybe with a different operating system, and backup some of its files.
Formatting a USB drive is almost like formatting any other drive. You can either go with the default settings or you can figure out what the various options mean and use the ones that best suite your use case. We'll help you with the latter, so you can select the optimal settings when you format your USB drive. The formatting options you can customize are File system , Allocation unit size , Volume label , and Format options. You can also Restore device defaults in case your custom settings aren't working.
Last Updated: July 17, Tested. This article was written by Jack Lloyd. He has over two years of experience writing and editing technology-related articles. He is technology enthusiast and an English teacher.