File Allocation Table is a Microsoft File System Format, and is used to store information about the files stored on a Volume. This includes Attributes, File Size, etc.

bgcolor=white FAT12 FAT16 FAT32
Developer Microsoft
Full Name File Allocation Table
(12-bit version) (16-bit version) (32-bit version)
Introduced August 1980 (QDOS) July 1988 (MS-DOS 4.0) August 1996 (Windows 95 OSR2)
Partition identifier 0x01 (MBR) 0x04, 0x06, 0x0E (MBR) 0x0B, 0x0C (MBR)
Structures FAT12 FAT16 FAT32
Directory contents Table
File allocation Linked List
Bad blocks Linked List
Limits FAT12 FAT16 FAT32
Max file size 32 MiB 4 GiB 4 GiB
Max number of files 4077 65517 268435437
Max filename size 8.3 or 255 characters when using LFNs
Max volume size 32 MiB 4 GiB 2 TiB
Features FAT12 FAT16 FAT32
Dates recorded Creation, modified, access
Date range January 1, 1980 - December 31, 2108
Forks Only under OS/2 No
Attributes Read-only, hidden, system, archive, volume name
File system permissions No
Transparent compression Per-volume, Stacker, DoubleSpace, DriveSpace No
Transparent encryption Per-volume only with DR-DOS No



FAT12 is a old FAT Specification that only allows partitions up to 16 MiB. It's normally used now on Floppy Drives, and 16

FAT16 was designed for Hard Drives that were larger than 16 MiB. It uses a 16-Bit Cluster addressing system that allows for Hard Drives sizes up to 4 GiB.

It was used by later MS-DOS versions (Earlier ones using FAT12), as well as Early Windows Versions.

FAT16 has a maximum File Size of 4 GiB, and a Maximum Volume Size of 4 GiB (On MS-DOS, and Windows 9x, they only support up to 32KB Clusters, making the maximum Volume Size they can support 2 GiB). Maximum number of files on a FAT16 Volume is 65536, with the maximum viewable number of files and folders in the Root is 512.


VFAT stands for Virtual File Allocation Table, as is the name given to the Software Driver present in Windows 95 and later, that acts as an interface between software applications, and the FAT File System.


FAT32 was created to supersede FAT16, and was Introduced by Windows 95 OSR2. It uses a 32-Bit Addressing System for Disk Clusters.

Maximum file size on a FAT32 Volume is 4 GiB (A Problem now being encountered for those with DVD Images, as FAT32 cannot handle them is above 4 GiB), but the Maximum Volume Size is under debate.

Windows XP will only format FAT32 Volumes up to 32 GiB, however, other utilities will theoretically format FAT32 Volumes up to 8 Terabytes in size. However, if a FAT32 Primary Partition is greater than 8 GiB, then there is no guarantee that it can be booted.

Maximum number of files on a FAT32 Volume is 4,177,920, with the maximum number of Files and Folders standing at 65,534 per folder.

Filesystem List
Filesystems: FAT | FATX | FAT12 | FAT16 | FATX16 | FAT32 | FATX32 | NTFS | JFS | Ext | Ext2 | Ext3 | HPFS | ReiserFS | Reiser4 | HFS+ | FFS | UFS1 | UFS2 | UFSMacOSX | XFS | OFS | BFS | BeFS | OpenBFS | NSS | NWFS | ODS5 | VxFS | ZFS | MFS | IFS | AFS | TVFS | MinixFS | SkyFS | AtheOSFS | ArlaFS | CDFS | UDF | CFS | DFS | OpenAFS | GFS | DTFS | CODA | UMSDOS | OldBeFS | RFS | EFS
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.