What are the differences between FAT16, FAT32 and exFAT file systems?

The default formatting for cards up to 2GB is FAT16.

In recent years, memory cards have gained more storage capacity; 4GB and above. The file format FAT32 is now commonly used in memory cards between 4GB and 32GB.

If a digital device supports only the FAT16 file system you cannot use a memory card bigger than 2GB (i.e. SDHC/microSDHC or SDXC/microSDXC memory cards).

Integral memory cards of 4GB or more such as those in the CompactFlash i-Pro, UltimaPro and SDHC ranges are only supported by FAT32 devices and must be formatted to FAT32.

It is best practice to format the card in your device before use, CAUTION formatting a card will delete all data, please see your device manual.



FAT 16 (FAT) FAT 32 exFAT (FAT 64)
Maximum file size 2GB* 4GB 2TB (limited by card)
SD Card type SD SDHC, microSDHC SDXC, microSDXC
PC Compatible OS Windows ME/2000/XP/7/8.1 Windows ME/2000/XP/7/8.1 Windows XP/Vista/7/8.1
Notes Windows OS may require updates, please see Table 2 below
Mac Compatible OS Mac OS 8/9/X Mac OS 8/9/X Mac OS X 10.6.5 and above


*Recommended limit by Microsoft for compatibility but can be up to 4GB

Table 2


Windows XP Windows Vista Windows 7 and Windows 8.1
Update to SP2 or later, then apply Microsoft update (KB955704). Use with SDXC/microSDXC compatible card reader. Update to SP1 or later. Use with SDXC/microSDXC compatible card reader. Supported – no update required, use with SDXC/microSDXC compatible card reader.