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FAT Sizes: FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32
Throughout my discussion of file systems, I have referred to the FAT family of file systems. This includes several different FAT-related file systems, as described here. The file allocation table or FAT stores information about the clusters on the disk in a table. There are three different varieties of this file allocation table, which vary based on the maximize size of the table. The system utility that you use to partition the disk will normally choose the correct type of FAT for the volume you are using, but sometimes you will be given a choice of which you want to use.
Since each cluster has one entry in the FAT, and these entries are used to hold the cluster number of the next cluster used by the file, the size of the FAT is the limiting factor on how many clusters any disk volume can contain. The following are the three different FAT versions now in use:
Here's a summary table showing how the three types of FAT compare:
Tip: If you are not sure of
whether a given disk volume on your PC is formatted using FAT16 or FAT32, you can use this procedure to find out.