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This disc formatting utility allows you to create larger file sizes than you would be able to using your PC alone

This disc formatting utility allows you to create larger file sizes than you would be able to using your PC alone

Vote: (533 votes)

Program license: Free

Developer: Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd.

Version: 1.07

Works under: Windows

Vote:

Program license

(533 votes)

Free

Developer

Version

Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd.

1.07

Works under:

Windows

Pros

  • Formats drives larger than 32GB
  • Runs extremely quickly
  • Portable app that doesn't have to be installed
  • Creates compliant file systems for mobile devices
  • Extremely simple interface makes formatting easy

Cons

  • Has to be run as an administrator
  • Drives have to be checked after creation
  • Full format can take hours

FAT32 Format is a storage device utility that allows users to format nearly any drive with the FAT32 file system. It ignores limitations imposed by Windows, thus giving you the freedom to format drives larger than 32GB with this file system. It adheres to all of Microsoft's own data structure specifications, which means that these devices should work with any device they're plugged into.

Cluster sizes as low as 512 bytes and as large as 65,536 bytes are offered as options, so you can fine tune the app to create the exact kind of file system you'd like. Users of mobile devices and cameras can select an option that will work with their equipment. As long as the quick format option is selected, formatting should only take a few moments.

Running FAT32 Format as a regular user won't work, so you'll have to give it administrator access. When you first run the program in this way, you'll probably get a Microsoft User Account Control prompt asking you if you want to run it. Assuming that you agree to it, you'll be given a window that's almost identical to the one Windows gives you whenever you want to format a drive.

The big difference will be the fact you don't have any file system options. Every data structure created by FAT32 Format will feature a 32-bit file allocation table. USB memory sticks and secure digital cards that are 4GB in size or smaller can be formatted with the FAT16 file system using Windows' own tools, so this isn't a bug so much as it's a feature. For that matter, any drive that's 32GB or smaller can usually be formatted with the FAT32 file system in Explorer, so most users are only going to turn to FAT32 Format if they've had some problem with the default tools they were given.

Though it does support a full format option, this could theoretically take hours. System administrators could potentially use it to securely clear out old drives, though another tool might be preferred for this job. Nevertheless, it's nice that the app provides this feature because it may be needed to restore functionality to a non-working thumb stick.

Drop-down menus are offered to select the drive letter you want to format as well as the preferred allocation unit size. Extra care should be taken to only ever select the proper drive letter, since FAT32 Format could accidentally erase a perfectly good file system otherwise. This is true of any format utility, so it isn't necessarily a bad mark against this particular piece of software, but users do want to be careful.

As long as they've selected the right drive letter, however, FAT32 Format will follow all of the other settings without question after providing the user one last chance to cancel their format orders. A readout of command line debugging information is offered in a small text window underneath the options menus, which may be useful for those interested in how data structures are created.

These are also vital for programmers and those creating file systems to work with specific devices. For example, some Bluetooth speakers include USB and SD card slots that give users the option to load an external storage device with music or radio shows to listen to. These speakers generally only work with 12, 16 or 32-bit FAT file systems. They might also have other specific requirements. By watching the debugging window, tech-savvy users can be sure that they met all these guidelines and can start listening right away.

While FAT32 Format was designed with this kind of user in mind, it's also quite useful for gamers who want to be able to pass content back and forth between a console. Many game consoles can mount 1-2TB external hard disk drives, but they can't read anything other than FAT32 on something this large. FAT32 Format can create a fully compliant file system that will work with these devices. Gamers can then add movies, music or software titles to the drive and play them from their console.

Bigger FAT32 structures are going to require fairly large allocation clusters and they might take as much as 10 seconds to mount, but their lack of other types of overhead make them ideal for this sort of application. FAT32 Format doesn't add any of its own overhead, so it shouldn't interfere too much with the storage size of any drive that it formats. Once the process is over, however, there is one additional step that most users will want to take.

Basic disk scans have to be run any time you create a file system with FAT32 Format, since it isn't an official formatting app. Use of the standard Windows chkdsk command line utility is more than sufficient to make sure that the application didn't make any mistakes and it usually only takes a few seconds to run on an empty drive. As soon as the inspection is over the drive should normally be safe to use. Any device formatted with the utility is just like any other drive as far as system software components are concerned, so they're free to manipulate just like usual. You can create folders on them and move files over with ease.

Volume labels are always an option as well. FAT32 Format has a text bar where you're free to enter in a volume label, though it's normally best if you enter something in all upper case letters. Spaces are allowed, as are the few special characters found in traditional 8.3 file names. That means you can name your new volume something that has a pound sign or exclamation point in it without getting an error message.

Whenever you create a new volume without giving it a label, a blank one is filled in that simply cuts out any custom names in Explorer. There's no requirement that users have to add a label. Rather, FAT32 Format includes this as a matter of convenience. Considering that other operating systems like GNU/Linux and macOS may automatically mount drives based on their labels, it may be a good idea to give one to any device that's going to be used on more than one machine.

Interoperability is probably the best feature offered by FAT32 Format. Information technology professionals who have to trade files with machines running something other than Windows can format their devices with this app before loading them full of whatever materials they wish to trade. Once they plug the device into another machine, it will load it the same way it would have accessed any other drive.

External hard drives and solid state disks are often formatted with NTFS, which may be hard for non-Microsoft operating systems to read. FAT32 Format will make short work of these disks by trashing their existing data structures and creating new basic ones that are primitive enough to mount with full read and write support on other machines. While FAT32 may be somewhat slower than NTFS in many situations, it's far more compatible.

Smart televisions and entertainment centers should be able to read volumes created with FAT32 Format as well, which may help to broaden its appeal. Unfortunately, this particular use case might make some users run into an unusual problem that plagues FAT32 file systems. Regardless of how much space is left on a device, they can't ever hold a file that's bigger than 4GB in size.

Since this is a limitation of the file system itself, the developers of FAT32 Format haven't been able to find a way around it. With the exception of those who have to transfer high definition video files or large virtual machine disk images, it's unlikely that many users are going to run into it. That being said, it's a good idea to keep this in mind before using the utility. Fortunately, it's possible to pair FAT32 Format up with an archive splitting program that can let you cut huge objects into smaller chunks. This makes it possible to get around this problem with a minimum of effort.

Since FAT32 Format ignores the existing state of a disk, you should be able to use it regardless of what kind of partition table is currently on your storage device. In theory, Windows can mount external devices that have an existing GUID partition table or one drawn via the driver's master boot record. However, the operating system is only ever able to automatically mount the first primary partition it comes across. FAT32 Format gets around this limitation by treating every disk it formats as one big storage space.

Each time the formatting utility is run, it creates one big volume with all of the space that's presented to it. Whenever you plug the device into a port or slot, Windows will then display it as though it were a single pool to deposit objects in. Volumes created by the program will work equally well with File Explorer and the command line. Best of all, this happens regardless of what kind of underlying technology said device relies on.

Unlike the actual disk utilities that come with Windows, FAT32 Format doesn't make any judgement based on whether you're formatting solid state media or a disk with rotating platters. Users who might have found it difficult to get a 32-bit file allocation table written to a real hard disk will be able to do so with just a few clicks. Retrocomputing enthusiasts who regularly have to create large volumes to work with older operating systems will find this feature especially practical. Ironically, it might also prove attractive for those who prefer simpler file systems for use in production environments.

Due to the artificial 32GB limit imposed on FAT32 volumes by Windows, photographers and coders will often format their backup drives with NTFS or exFAT. While these are robust file systems, there are those who have a strong preference for simpler ones. Sophisticated file systems often have additional data structures, as well as journals, that could eventually start to cause wear and tear on storage devices. Users who find themselves in this kind of situation may want to consider using FAT32 Format before storing files on a device in order to ensure that they have the simplest information structures possible.

Keep in mind that using this or any other format utility destroys the existing storage matrix on a volume, which essentially erases it. That means you'll always have to back everything up that you want to save before using it. In many cases, however, this is actually a feature since it can be used to clean off old drives that have a number of obsolete older files on them that you won't ever need to use again. Corrupted devices can also get cleaned off with just a few click using the app's default options.

Perhaps most important is the fact that users will never have to install FAT32 Format. It's a portable app that's deployed as a single executable binary file. Simply unpacking it is all that's needed to run it. Users can even delete it once they're done, which is useful because it's unlikely that most people are going to have to run it very often unless they're providing support in an IT lab. Nevertheless, the file size is so small that you're unlikely to run into any problems if you just decide to leave it on your boot drive.

Due to its ease of use and convenient ability to get around some of Windows' more unusual limitations, FAT32 Format will likely become a fixture in technician's tool kits for many years to come.

Pros

  • Formats drives larger than 32GB
  • Runs extremely quickly
  • Portable app that doesn't have to be installed
  • Creates compliant file systems for mobile devices
  • Extremely simple interface makes formatting easy

Cons

  • Has to be run as an administrator
  • Drives have to be checked after creation
  • Full format can take hours

Pros

  • Integrated Failsafes
  • Exceptionally Fast
  • Large Drive Support

Cons

  • No SSD Support

FAT32 Format is a piece of formatting software that was built to work with disc drives exceeding 32GB, and it formats those drives so they are compatible with the common FAT32 directory system.

In some cases, experimental software, completed software, and full operating systems will only support the FAT32 filing system, and many of those examples actually require this formatting system in order to properly function.

FAT32 Format is written as fat32format on the command line when you want to call the function, so it's easy to remember. This version of the software was built to work with Windows XP natively since that version of Windows has the most trouble in the Windows family with the limitations of FAT32, but other versions of Windows will run the software efficiently as well.

The reason why FAT32 Format stands out so much is that any alternative software to this tool is grossly underpowered and limited in terms of options. For instance, Windows 98 comes with a native formatting utility, but that tool doesn't have the ability to format drives if they are larger than 137GB. This is partially because that tool isn't designed specifically for the OS. When that tool creates a formatted partition, it is possible that other operating systems in the 16-bit configuration could corrupt that drive.

Fortunately, FAT32 Format doesn't have any of the common problems found in tools like Windows 98 Disk Utility. It can easily function with standard hard disk drives 250GB or larger, and it runs surprisingly fast even on larger drives. The software also works to format those larger drives in the most efficient manner possible by avoiding checks on bad sectors.

Another fascinating feature of the software is that it includes a number of failsafes to protect drive content before formatting begins. These failsafes scan the drive to be formatted, and if the software finds any intact files, it will ask you if you want to abort the formatting process to recover those files. This will prevent you from accidentally formatting over any forgotten data locked away in obscure files.

There are a few downsides to this disk utility, as there are with most pieces of free software. Since the software was created so long ago, it doesn't offer support for CD drives, DVD drives, or solid state drives. SSDs are slowly becoming more commonplace since they provide improved stability and efficiency, but HDDs that will work with this software are still the industry standard.

In short, this software is really only useful for drives broken into sectors of 512 bytes. If that little piece of information means nothing to you, this tool most likely wouldn't be very useful. There are certainly alternatives out there that perform the same function with less clinical dryness. However, the warning notifications, quick operation, and various settings help FAT32 Format perform its intended function well.

Pros

  • Integrated Failsafes
  • Exceptionally Fast
  • Large Drive Support

Cons

  • No SSD Support