FAT File System- The First File System of Windows

It's been decades since Microsoft introduced its first File system FAT with the arrival of its very first operating system DOS. Thenceforth, FAT became the primary file system in Windows 9x series i.e. in Windows 95, and 98. Besides, FAT32's enhanced features make FAT file system still popular among Windows OS since latest operating system like Windows 8, 7 still supports FAT32. In this article, I will enlighten you about FAT (File allocation table) File System basics, its versions with their features, and limitations.


Overview of FAT (File Allocation Table) File System

Microsoft released FAT File system in 1981 with the main motive of organizing the data on storage devices. FAT file system consists of File allocation table which keeps track of each and every file that resides on the volume as well as keep record of file's starting cluster. Besides, FAT table consists of pointers that points to the next cluster of a file.

FAT file system


Moreover, with the release of various Windows OS, FAT had also been upgraded to several new FAT versions having enhanced features. Apart from Windows, there are other operating systems like Linux and Unix which supports FAT File system.


Different Versions of FAT with their Features

Microsoft introduced various versions of FAT file system like FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32. The enhanced features of FAT file system can be seen in its upgraded versions, FAT16, and FAT32. Hence, the three major versions of FAT are listed below:

  • FAT12- In early days of storage media when floppy disk was popular, FAT12 appeared as a file system that was especially designed for floppy disk. Besides, FAT12 is compatible with disks up to 16MB.

  • FAT16- FAT16 file system was an improvement on FAT12. FAT16 supports drive size up to 2GB. It is compatible with MS-DOS, Windows 95, Win 98, Win NT, Win 2000, and some UNIX. However, FAT16 supports larger size of clusters, which apparently waste disk space.

  • FAT32- FAT32 file system has many enriched features compared to its precursor and FAT32 is still being widely used for formatting drives up to 2TB size. It uses smaller cluster size 4KB (for up to 8GB drive) so as to utilize disk space more efficiently. FAT32 was first introduced with Windows 95 OSR2.


Limitations of FAT File System

FAT16 file system does not provide any built-in file system security, neither does FAT32. Furthermore, users cannot even perform disk encryption in any FAT file system. One more limitation that found in FAT (File allocation table) file system is no auto-repair feature which means if data has become inconsistent then FAT cannot recover the data. All these disadvantages of FAT file system can make your files and folders corrupt, delete, missing, or inaccessible. Somehow if important data have been lost then it can be recovered using Windows Data Recovery software which supports all versions of FAT file system.