FAT32 Volume Limitations Cause Issues for Windows 10 Users with Embedded Devices

While Microsoft probably disabled it by design, it now looks like the venerable FAT32 file system has limitations that continue to cause problems for Windows 10 users. Even though you can’t install Windows 10 on a FAT32 volume, Windows 10 still has to support it because it’s one of the only mechanisms for sharing data with almost all devices. Redmond’s engineers disabled the ability to create FAT32 drives larger than 32GB years ago.

For a while, this was fine as people booted off NTFS and only used FAT32 on thumb drives. Eventually, as removable storage grew in size users began to complain. However, recent changes to the way that PC manufacturers design hardware has exasperated the problem.

Users that need to create UEFI-based bootable memory sticks are often required to use FAT32 in some form, even when working with Microsoft’s own ecosystem. It’s hard to format a drive like this to something other than NTFS or exFAT in Microsoft’s own ecosystem. People have complained for several years now that they often need to create larger volumes in order to share data with other operating systems.

IoT devices and other types of embedded systems are making the problem worse to some degree. Smart televisions and the like can often only read USB memory sticks and external hard drives formatted with FAT32. While the 4GB file size limitation can cause problems for 4K video lovers, the ability to create larger volumes would allow A/V fans to watch movies more easily.

Even though most reports call FAT32 an older technology, it’s arguably newer. While the earliest File Allocation Table implementations date back decades, the first version of FAT32 came out over three years after the first NTFS release.

Disk Utility, which is included with macOS, allows users to create FAT32 volumes much larger than Windows. However, recent reports show that this can cause problems because some versions of Disk Utility support partitioning schemes that Microsoft Windows doesn’t.

GNU/Linux and Android implementations also give users the ability to create these volumes, and this solution often avoids the problem of partition table issues according to reports. Some gamers who use Windows 10 as their daily driver have instead turned to a couple of free native Windows utilities.

Kamil Anwar
Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.