How to format an SD card to FAT32

Written by david nield Google
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How to format an SD card to FAT32
Your computer may have a card reader built in; if not, use an external device. (Image: Tolbxela; Flickr.)

FAT32 (which stands for File Allocation Table 32-bit) is one of the ways in which you can format drives with the Microsoft Windows operating system. Formatting a drive gives it the necessary structure and partitions to allow data to be written to it. File systems such as FAT32 determine how this data is written and how much data a drive can hold. SD cards can be formatted using FAT32 from within Windows using the File Explorer utility.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Insert the SD card into your computer's internal memory card slot, or into an external memory card reader attached to the computer via USB.

  2. 2

    Move the mouse cursor to the top right corner of the screen -- or swipe in from the right on a touchscreen -- and choose "Search" from the list of charms. Enter "File Explorer" as your search term and select the "File Explorer" shortcut when it appears.

  3. 3

    Select "Computer" from the navigation pane on the left. If the navigation pane isn't visible, open the "View" tab, select "Navigation pane" and tick the "Navigation pane" option.

  4. 4

    Right-click -- or tap and hold -- on the drive containing the SD card. Choose "Format" from the drop-down menu.

  5. 5

    Select "FAT32" from the list of options in the File system drop-down and set the other options accordingly. Click or tap "Start" to format the card.

Tips and warnings

  • Formatting any drive, including an SD card, removes all data. If necessary, make sure you have deleted or moved all of the files contained on the card before you format it.
  • The quick format option speeds up the formatting process by creating a new master file table (indicating the disk is blank) without actually overwriting the data on it. For the most complete and secure format, untick this option.
  • Depending on the way the Autoplay options are configured on your computer, a window may pop up when you insert the SD card -- if it does, press "Esc" or use the cross in the top-right corner to remove it.
  • The information here applies to computers running Windows 8. It may vary slightly or significantly with other Windows versions.

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