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Format to FAT32 for USB or External Hard Drive in Windows 10

Daisy updated on Dec 10, 2020 Partition Master | How-to Articles

How to quickly format a USB drive to FAT32 Windows 10:

format to fat32 windows 10

1. USB under 32GB, format to FAT32 in Windows 10 inbuilt formatting programs

2. USB under and over 32GB, format to FAT32 in Windows 10 using EaseUS FAT32 formatter

  1. Step 1. Open EaseUS Partition Master on a Windows 10 computer
  2. Step 2. Locate and right-click on the USB drive and choose the Format option.
  3. Step 3. Choose FAT32 as the destination file system and click Apply.

There are typically four ways for both average and advanced Windows users to format to FAT32 in Windows 10/8.1/8/7, which has the greatest compatibility than that of the other file systems. For small capacity flash drives, pen drives or SD cards that range from 2GB-32GB, any of the four methods are workable. However, for USB flash drives, HDDs or external hard drives that exceed 32GB, the applicable tools will be restricted to the third-party USB format tool and the Windows Command Prompt.

  1. 1. Third-party USB format tool
  2. 2. Windows 10 Explorer quick format
  3. 3. Windows 10 Disk Management format
  4. 4. Windows Command Prompt

Can't format to FAT32 in Windows 10 with all given disk formatting tools? Directly jump to the final part to get additional fixes for "Cannot Format to FAT32" in Windows 10.

Problem: Cannot Format FAT32 in Windows 10

Mostly, people would like to format a USB flash drive or external hard drive to NTFS. But sometimes, you may want to format a USB flash drive or external hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 10 for some reason, like making the USB or external hard drive faster when writing mostly large files to it or ensuring the compatibility with non-Windows operating systems.

But the problem is that the max partition size of FAT32 is 32GB, which means you can only format devices smaller than 32GB into this file system. From the chart below, you'll have a better understanding of why you can't format USB or external hard drive (more than 32GB) to FAT32:

Comparison of FAT and NTFS

Formatting a USB drive or external hard drive will remove all existing files on the device. Please make sure you have backed up files before formatting to avoid further data loss.

Solution 1. Format to FAT32 Using FAT32 Formatter Windows 10

USB requirements: none

Unlike Windows built-in tools, a professional third-party Windows 10 FAT32 formatting tool can make the formatting to FAT32 process simple and secure. We recommend you try EaseUS partition magic with its Format feature. Besides FAT32, it also supports format USB to NTFS, EXT2, EXT3, and ReFS. 

To freely format USB to FAT32 in Windows 10, follow the simple steps:

Step 1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master, right-click the partition on your external hard drive/USB/SD card which you want to format and choose the "Format" option.

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 1

Step 2. Assign a new partition label, file system (NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3), and cluster size to the selected partition, then click "OK".

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 2

Step 3. In the Warning window, click "OK" to continue.

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 3

Step 4. Click the "Execute Operation" button in the top-left corner to review the changes, then click "Apply" to start formatting your external hard drive/USB/SD card.

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 4

Solution 2. Format to FAT32 Windows 10 via File Explorer 

USB requirements: no more than 32GB. Otherwise, you can only choose to format USB to NTFS.

To format USB under 32GB to FAT32 in Windows 10 Explorer, follow the three steps:

Step 1. Connect USB or external hard drive to Windows 10 PC.

Step 2. Open File Explorer, locate and right-click on the USB drive, select "Format".

Step 3. Set the FAT32 as the target file system, tick "Quick Format" and click "Start" to start the formatting.

Finish the formatting.

When the process completes, click "OK" to confirm. And now your USB is FAT32.

Solution 3. Format USB/External Drive to FAT32 with Disk Management

USB requirements: Similar to the Explorer, your USB drive has to be under 32GB in order to format to FAT32 within the program

Follow the 3-step guide here to format to FAT32:

Step 1. In Windows 10, go to This PC > Manage > Disk Management.

Step 2. Locate and right-click on your USB flash drive or external hard drive, select "Format".

Step 3. Set the USB file system to FAT32, tick "Perform a quick format" and click "OK" to confirm.

Format USB to FAT32.

Solution 4. Format to FAT32 Windows 10 Using Command Prompt

USB requirements: none

Some experienced users or administrators prefer to use command lines to execute some operations on Windows PC. It's also an applicable way to format your flash drive or external hard drive to FAT32 in Windows 10.

Note: Be careful while using command lines on your PC to format USB drive. Any improper operations would cause serious issues.

Here are the details of how to use CMD, DiskPart or PowerShell command lines formatting device:

Option 1. Use CMD - Command Prompt

Step 1. Type command prompt in Windows 10 search bar or right-click on "Windows icon" > select "Search", and type cmd.

Step 2. Right-click on "Command Prompt" and select "Run as Administrator". 

Open Command Prompt to format device .

Step 3.  Check the USB label and type Format /FS:FAT32 O: at the prompt and hit "Enter".  (Replace O: with the drive letter of your USB drive.)

Windows 10 will begin formatting the USB flash drive or external hard drive into FAT32.

Format USB to FAT32 via CMD.

Step 4. Type exit when the process has completed.

Option 2. Use DiskPart 

Step 1. Right-click on Windows icon, select "Search" and type: command prompt.

Right-click on Command Prompt and select "Run as administrator".

Step 2. Type diskpart in Command Prompt and hit Enter.

Step 3. Hit Enter each time when you type below command lines in DiskPart to quick format hard drive:

  • list disk
  • select disk 2 (Replace 2 with your USB disk number)
  • list volume
  • select volume 10 (Replace 10 with the volume number of the USB drive that you want to format)
  • format fs=fat32 quick
Click to copy

Step 4. Type exit and hit Enter to close the program when DiskPart reports it has successfully formatted the USB.

Quick format USB to FAT32 with diskpart command.

Option 3. Use PowerShell

Step 1. Right-click on Windows icon and select "Windows PowerShell Admin", click "Yes" to open it.

Step 2. Check the USB drive label, type Format /FS:FAT32 o: in PowerShell and hit Enter.

Format USB to FAT32 via PowerShell.

Step 3. Type exit when the formatting process completes.

Additional Fixes for "Cannot Format to FAT32" in Windows 10

If you met a problem while formatting USB or Windows warns that Windows was unable to complete the format, don't worry. In this part, you'll learn why you can't format to FAT32 in Windows 10 and how to resolve this issue effectively.

Windows was unable to complete the format.

Reasons for Why You Can't Format to FAT32

To find the right solution for your case, it's important to find out the causes that stop you from formatting devices to FAT32. Here are the main reasons:

  1. 1. File system error, bad sectors exist on USB/external hard drive
  2. 2. The USB drive contains 2 partitions or the partition need for formatting to FAT32 is not the first primary partition
  3. 3. The partition in USB or external hard drive is larger than 32GB
  4. 4. The USB drive or external hard drive is write-protected

So how to resolve these issues, switching your USB drive to FAT32? Follow the quick fixes to troubleshoot the problem of FAT32 format in Windows 10.

Fix 1. Check disk error, fix file system errors or soft bad sectors

To do so, both free partition manager software - EaseUS Partition Master and Windows Disk Check will work.

Method 1. Use EaseUS partition manager software to check and fix disk error

Step 1. Open EaseUS Partition Master on your computer. Then locate the disk, right-click the partition you want to check, and choose "Check File System".

Check Partition - Step 1

Step 2. In the Check File System window, keep the "Try to fix errors if found" option selected and click "Start".

Check Partition - Step 2

Step 3. The software will begin checking your partition file system on your disk. When it has completed, click "Finish".

Check Partition - Step 3

Method 2. Run Disk Check in Windows File Explorer

Step 1. Open File Explorer, locate and right-click the USB or external hard drive and click "Properties".

Step 2. Go to "Tools" and click "Check" under Error-checking.

Check USB drive error.

Step 3. Select "Scan and repair drive".

Or select and check both "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of back sectors", then click "Start".

Run windows check to repair USB.

Fix 2. Delete all partitions and create a new FAT32 partition on USB drive

If your Windows system (version before Windows 8.1) or your USB drive doesn't support to create two primary partitions, the computer won't be able to recognize nor format the non-primary partition on USB drive to FAT32.

The solution toward this problem is to delete all existing partitions on USB and create a new FAT32 partition:

Step 1. Connect USB to PC and open Disk Management.

Step 2. Locate and right-click the primary partition on USB and select "Delete Volume", click "Yes" to confirm.

Step 3. Right-click on the logical partition on the USB drive, select "Delete Volume".

Step 4. Click "Yes" to confirm. 

Delete USB partitions.

Step 5. The logical partition will become free space, right-click on it and select "Delete Partition", click "Yes" to confirm.

Step 6. When the USB becomes unallocated, right-click on the unallocated space and select "New Simple Volume" > "Next".

Step 7. Follow the on-screen instructions to specify volume size, drive letter and set file system to FAT32, click "Next" > "Finish" to complete.

Create FAT32 USB partition.

After this, you've successfully converted your USB or external hard drive to FAT32 and you don't need to format this drive again.

Fix 3. Select NTFS as the file system or split USB larget partition to smaller FAT32 partitions

As you've learned in the beginning, the max size of the FAT32 partition is 32GB, which means you can only format devices smaller than 32GB into this file system.

In other words, when your USB drive partition is larger than 32GB, you can't format it into FAT32. There are three solutions to this issue:

  • Method 1. Apply EaseUS Partition Master to format USB to FAT32

Unlike Windows built-in tools, EaseUS Partition Master can simply format your USB drive even bigger than 32GB to FAT32 with ease. All you need is to go back to the partition manager to directly format your USB to FAT32 without any limitation.

  • Method 2. Set NTFS as the file system of your USB drive

NTFS supports to save a single file that is larger than 4GB and supports to create a partition larger than 32GB. 

If you only want to keep one partition on the USB drive, make full use of the drive space, the best choice is to set the NTFS as your USB drive. 

Method 3. Divide USB partition into small ones (less than 32GB) with FAT32

The other way is to split the USB partition into small ones and format them into FAT32:

Pre-conditions: Windows system (versions after 8.1) and USB drive both support two or more partitions.

Step 1. Use Disk Management to delete the USB partition.

Step 2. Create two or more partitions smaller than 32GB with the FAT32 file system. 

Split large USB to FAT32 partitions.

Fix 4. Remove USB write protection and format USB to FAT32

When the USB drive is write-protected or locked with a password, you can't directly format it into FAT32. Here are the detail steps to resolve this problem:

First. Remove USB write protection and unlock USB

You can refer to this link to remove USB write protection on Windows 10/8/7. Or you can try to use EaseUS M Tool to simply remove USB lock in 3 steps:

If you are not professional in computing management and not familiar with command lines, don't worry. EaseUS R&D team has promoted a fresh kit for helping you resolve the write-protection issue on your hard drive, external hard drive, USB or SD card, etc., devices.

EaseUS Tools M is a practical computer fixing tool that is safe and light-weighted. It's a perfect alternative to the command line. 

Use this one-click tool to solve the write-protection issues on your own:

Step 1: DOWNLOAD and install EaseUS Tools M for free.

Step 2: Run EaseUS Tools M on your PC, choose the "Write Protection" mode.

Step 3: Select the device which is now "Write-Protected" and click "Disable" to remove the protection.

Remove Write Protection from storage devices.

Next. Format USB to FAT32

After removing the USB write protection, you can apply any one of the above-provided solutions in Part 1 to format your USB drive to FAT32.

Final Word

This page tells how to format a USB or external hard drive into FAT32 and resolve the issue of being unable to format USB to FAT32. It also includes helpful solutions in formatting devices bigger than 32GB into FAT32 without data loss.

If you want to convert devices into NTFS without formatting, refer to How to Convert FAT to NTFS for help.

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