Why use FAT32?

Q I have a Pentium 200 with an 800MB hard drive which is running out of space. Can I use FAT32 on Windows 95? I have been advised against it. Why would that be? And if I can do it safely, how would I install it?

- Alan Devery

A Firstly, there are several versions of Windows 95 and not all of them support FAT32. To check which version of Windows 95 you have, go to the Start menu and choose Settings-Control Panel. Double-click the System icon. On the General tab you will see Microsoft Windows 95 4.00.950 for the first release. If you have the first release and have added Service Pack 1, you will read Microsoft Windows 95 4.00.950A. In 1996 Microsoft released a version called Windows 95 OEM Release 2, which is abbreviated to OSR2 and was only available for installation on new computers. For this version the message will read: Microsoft Windows 95 4.00.950B. If you see Microsoft Windows 95 4.00.950C then you have OEM Release 2.5 (OSR2.5).

Only OSR2 or later supports FAT32. A number of people who have a legal copy of the first release of Windows 95 have obtained a copy of OSR2 and installed it on their computers. The problem with this is, apart from it being illegal, that OSR2 was not designed as an upgrade, so you really need to wipe the hard drive and install from scratch. You can, however, upgrade to Windows 98 which supports FAT32.

If you have OSR2 or 98 you can use FAT32. The main reason for the creation of FAT32 is that the old FAT16 does not support hard drives larger than 2GB. In addition, FAT16 stores files in a very wasteful fashion on hard drives that are larger than 500MB. The problem relates to the size of clusters - units of storage on your hard disk. To support larger drives, rather than increasing the number of clusters, Microsoft increased the size of each cluster. For an 800MB hard drive you have to have a minimum cluster size of 16KB. A file that contains 17KB of information has to use two clusters and takes up 32KB of space on the drive. If you have lots of small files this can be very wasteful. However, many files are large enough that the resulting space wastage is not that great.

Converting to FAT32 will save some space, most likely between 50MB and 100MB, depending on the size of your files. This may be enough if you need more space for data files, but probably not if you want to install additional software packages.

There are two disadvantages to converting to FAT32. A minor one is that FAT32 is not compatible with other operating systems. This is only a problem is you want to dual-boot your computer with, say, DOS or Windows NT.

The other problem is that the conversion to FAT32 involves wiping your hard drive and restoring data from backups. A more attractive alternative is to use a utility that can convert you hard drive without loss of data, such as PartitionMagic from PowerQuest (http://www.powerquest.com) or Quarterdeck's Partition-It (http://www.quarterdeck.com).

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Roy Chambers

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?