format usb to fat32

How to Format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10

The file system FAT (File Allocation Table) from Microsoft was the absolute industry standard for a long time. FAT12 was followed by FAT16 and finally FAT32, until nowadays many drives also use formats like NTFS or exFAT as a basis. Especially under Windows 10 NTFS is getting more and more common. Therefore it is not rare that you have to know how to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10 to use it without restrictions.

Especially older devices or certain camera types only accept memory sticks in FAT32 format. Even an exchange between Windows and Mac is possible. You don’t even have to use third-party software solutions to be able to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10. Similar to the method of formatting to increase partition size, Microsoft already includes a practical on-board tool for this purpose.

The diversity of storage media is reflected in the file systems
Source: Esa Riutta from Pixabay

Be careful if you have important documents or images on the USB flash drive. There are always possibilities without data loss, which we will present to you in the following.

How to Format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10:

So let’s start with the default option for all Windows 10 users:

Convert a USB Stick to FAT32 on Windows 10

The steps described below can be performed for all storage media that are currently connected to your PC. You can use the Disk Management of Windows 10 to display your current drives.

  1. Open Windows Explorer – for example by clicking on any folder.
  2. In the left column, you should see your USB stick under This PC. Select it with a right click and press Format.
  3. As you can see in the screenshot, you usually have three options under File System. How to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10, select the appropriate entry.
  4. You don’t have to change the other settings. You can also modify the name of the volume at this point if you want to.
  5. Finish the process with clicking on Start. As soon as the wizard is finished, you can insert your converted USB stick.
How to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10

Note: For this method to work smoothly, the total size of the hard drive must not exceed the limit of 32 GB. Otherwise, the FAT32 (default) entry will not even appear in the list of options for Windows 10. In some cases this can lead to error messages, whereupon you have to clean up your drive.

Format Used and Full Storage Media to FAT32

The previous instruction has a disadvantage: Windows deletes all elements on the storage medium during the conversion. If you still have important documents on your USB stick, Windows 10’s on-board tool won’t be of much help. You have to rely on an external tool.

As always, the choice of freeware on how to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10 is huge. We can recommend the Partition Assistant from AOMEI whose latest version is available for free for private use. You might even discover more useful features, so it’s worth upgrading.

Convert data to FAT32
Source: AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard

Note: However, no files can be converted to FAT32 that have a size of more than 4 GB. This is generally true for the file system and is independent of the tool used.

Undo: From FAT32 to NTFS Again

If you want to learn not only how to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10 but converting it back to NTFS, you can again rely on Microsoft’s on-board tools. This technique works for both Windows 10 Home as well as Windows 10 Pro and also all other common variants:

  1. Start the Windows Command Prompt. The easiest way to do this is to use the Run command (Windows logo key + R), where you type cmd.
  2. A window with a black background opens. At the already selected position, you enter the command convert K: /FS:NTFS. K stands for the identifier of the drive you want to format from FAT32.
  3. Confirm your input with Enter. Depending on your settings, you may have to confirm your entries. Afterwards, you’re one!
To format NTFS from FAT32

Now you know how to format USB to FAT32 on Windows 10. If you have any other problems with Windows, feel free to check out our blog posts. A good first step to prevent problems in the future is, for example, to disable automatic updates in order to prevent interfering mechanisms. For Windows Defender however, you should not switch off the “Windows” option without further ado – especially if you are using freeware as described above. Unless you have a strong, additional virus protection.