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How to Format an SD Card to FAT

Understanding FAT and SD Cards

FAT vs. FAT32: Originally, the FAT format was limited to 2GB per partition. FAT32 changed this limitation and is what’s most commonly used for SD cards.

SD Cards under 32GB: Can be formatted with FAT or FAT32.

SD Cards 32GB or larger: They usually require FAT32 or exFAT for full capacity usage.

Format Methods

1. Windows

Use File Explorer for SD cards under 32GB:

  • Insert the SD card into your computer.
  • Open File Explorer (Windows key + E).
  • Find your SD card, right click on it and select “Format”.
  • Under “File system”, choose “FAT” or “FAT32”.
  • Click “Start” and then “OK” to confirm.

Use Disk Management for any SD card size:

  • Search for “diskmgmt.msc” and open Disk Management.
  • Find your SD card partition, right click and select “Format”.
  • Choose “FAT32” or “exFAT” as the file system depending on the card size.
  • Click “OK” and “OK” again to confirm.

2. Mac

Using Disk Utility:

  • Insert the SD card into your Mac.
  • Open Disk Utility (Applications –> Utilities).
  • Select the SD card from the left hand list.
  • Click the “Erase” tab.
  • Under “Format”, choose “MS-DOS (FAT)” for cards under 32GB or “ExFAT” for larger cards.
  • Click “Erase” and “Erase” again to confirm.

3. Linux

Command Line (most flexible):

  • Find your SD card device name. Use lsblk or df -h
  • Unmount the partition and replace /dev/sdX1 with the actual device path:
  • sudo umount /dev/sdX1
  • Format the SD card as FAT32 by adjusting the device path:
  • sudo mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/sdX1

Backup: Formatting erases all data on the SD card. Back up important files beforehand.

Device Path: Be careful to double check the correct device path before formatting, especially when using command line methods.

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