How to Format SD Card to FAT32 on Windows

You can easily format an SD card to FAT32 on Windows by finding it in the file explorer, right-clicking and selecting the “Format” option, and selecting FAT32 from the list of file system options.

My name is Caleb, and I’ve done plenty of work hands-on with SD cards as a photographer. Using SD cards with multiple devices, I’m aware of how useful a versatile file system like FAT32 can be.

In this article, I’ll explain how to format your SD card to FAT32. I’ll also take a look at why the file system is useful in the first place, and why some of your favorite devices might require the FAT32 format when using SD cards.

If you’ve just read a guide that tells you to format an SD card to FAT32, and you aren’t sure where to start, keep reading to see the process broken down into simple steps.

Formatting SD Card to FAT32 on Windows: Quick Guide

Before you can format your SD card or MicroSD card, you have to make sure it’s compatible. Normally, the FAT32 file system only works with SD cards that are, as the name suggests, 32GB or smaller.

While there are ways around this, these are outside the needs of most users and fall outside the scope of a basic tutorial. Also, the method here is the same whether you’re using a regular, full-sized SD card, or a smaller MicroSD card.

Step 1: Find the SD Card in The File Explorer

The most straightforward way to format an SD card on Windows is to do it through the file explorer. Open your Explorer, and head to the This PC section, where you’ll find the list of devices connected to your system.

The exact name of your SD card will show up depending on the manufacturer and model. It shouldn’t be hard to pick out from the other devices, however. If you’re using an SD card reader because your computer lacks a dedicated slot, it may show up as a USB drive.

Step 2: Select the Format Option

When you’ve found the SD card in the file explorer, you can right-click on the icon and choose Format from the list of options. 

Step 3: Select the FAT32 Format

The Format option will bring up a menu, giving you the different options for formatting your SD card. If the SD card is under 32GB in capacity, you should have the option to select FAT32 as your choice in the File system section.

After selecting FAT32, you can go ahead and press the start button. You may get a warning that formatting will erase all data on the SD card. This is true, so make sure you’ve already backed up anything you want to keep around, before doing this.

From there, you just have to wait for the formatting to complete. The amount of time this takes, of course, is impacted by things like the capacity of your SD card, and its write speed.

Why Do I Need to Use the FAT32 Format?

You may be wondering why it’s recommended to format some devices, like certain kinds of SD cards, in FAT32.

Largely, the answer has to do with compatibility. Storage devices like SD cards all have a file system, but not every file system plays well with every device. 

For example, the NTFS file system is firmly rooted in the Windows ecosystem, and storage devices with this one installed won’t work properly on Mac computers. On the other hand, FAT32 is a generic type of file system that isn’t tied to one manufacturer.

So, if you format an SD card in the FAT32 file system, you’ll be able to use it across Windows and Mac systems, while also sharing compatibility with many other devices.


Here are some common questions that come up around this topic.

What Do I Do If Windows Can’t Format My SD Card?

If you’re having trouble formatting your SD card, you may want to check to see if the write-protection switch is enabled. When this switch on the side of the SD card is in the “on” position, you won’t be able to add, remove, or change any data on the device.

How Can I Format a 128GB SD Card in FAT32?

To format an SD card that large in FAT32, you’ll need the help of third-party software. Using the standard tools, Windows computers aren’t set up to format SD cards larger than 32GB in this format.

How Do I Format My SD Card to FAT32 Instead of ExFAT?

If you don’t see the option to format to FAT32, it’s probably because the SD card is larger than 32GB in capacity.


While formatting an SD card might seem intimidating if you do not know, it’s ultimately very easy. Just select the Format option from the file explorer, choose the FAT32 format, and wait.

Do you have a preferred file system for your SD cards? Let us know in the comments!

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