How to format 512gb SD card to FAT32 reddit?

Formatting a 512GB SD card to FAT32 can be tricky, since most operating systems have a 32GB limit for formatting SD cards to FAT32. However, there are some workarounds that allow you to format larger SD cards to FAT32 on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we’ll walk through all the steps and options for formatting a 512GB SD card to FAT32 file system.

Why Format 512GB SD Card to FAT32?

There are a few key reasons you may want to format your high capacity SD card to FAT32 rather than the default exFAT format:

  • Compatibility with older devices – Many older cameras, video game consoles and other gadgets do not support exFAT and can only read FAT32 formatted SD cards.
  • Faster processing – FAT32 has less overhead than exFAT, so reading and writing to the SD card may be a bit faster.
  • Avoid 4GB file size limit – exFAT SD cards have a maximum file size limit of 4GB. FAT32 does not have this limit, allowing you to store larger files.
  • Prevent corruption – Some devices are more prone to exFAT corruption and may have better stability with FAT32.

The main drawback of FAT32 is that you can only store files up to 4GB in size. But for most uses, especially with smaller files like photos from a camera, this limit won’t be an issue.

Default OS Limits for FAT32 Formatting

Most operating systems have a built-in limit on how large an SD card they can format to FAT32. This is because the original FAT32 specification only supported cards up to 32GB. Here are the default FAT32 format limits for common OSes:

  • Windows – 32GB limit by default in File Explorer.
  • Mac – No built-in tool, have to use third-party software.
  • Linux – 128GB limit when using mkfs.vfat terminal command.

To format SD cards larger than these limits on each OS, you’ll need to use the workaround methods outlined below.

How to Format 512GB SD Card to FAT32 on Windows

On Windows machines, there are a couple different options for formatting high capacity SD cards above 32GB as FAT32.

Using Third-Party Software

Several free third-party utilities are available to remove Windows’ 32GB FAT32 limit. Here are some top options:

  • guiformat – Simple graphical utility from ridgecrop that works on any size drive.
  • FAT32 Format – Basic command line tool from Tokyo University.
  • EaseUS Partition Master – More advanced partitioning software that can format large volumes.

To use one of these tools to format your 512GB SD card on Windows:

  1. Download and install the FAT32 formatting software.
  2. Insert your SD card into your computer’s card reader.
  3. Run the formatting tool, selecting your SD card and FAT32 as the file system.
  4. Click format to overwrite the existing partitions and format as FAT32.

The process takes a bit longer than regular quick formats, but will format your over 32GB SD card to FAT32 despite Windows’ normal restriction.

Using Windows Command Prompt

You can also format to FAT32 via the Windows command prompt. This uses the native ‘format’ command but with extra switches to remove the size limit. Here are the steps:

  1. Insert your SD card into your computer.
  2. Open the Command Prompt as administrator.
  3. Type diskpart and press Enter.
  4. Type list disk and note the disk number of your SD card.
  5. Type select disk x (replace x with your disk number) and press Enter
  6. Type clean and press Enter to erase all existing partitions.
  7. Type create partition primary to create a new primary partition.
  8. Type format quick fs=fat32 override (to override the size limit) and press Enter.
  9. Type exit twice to close DiskPart and command prompt.

This will format your 512GB or larger SD card to FAT32 format on Windows manually via the command line.

How to Format FAT32 on Mac

MacOS does not have a built-in option to format SD cards larger than 32GB to FAT32. To get around this, you need to use a third-party app. Here are some good FAT32 formatters for Mac:

  • FAT32 Format – Open source command line utility adapted from Windows version.
  • Tuxera FAT32 Formatter – Simple graphical app from a reputable developer.
  • Paragon FAT32 Formatter – Advanced formatter & partition manager for Mac.

To use one of these tools to format your 512GB SD card on Mac:

  1. Download and install the FAT32 formatting software.
  2. Insert your SD card into your Mac’s card reader.
  3. Open the FAT32 formatter and select your SD card.
  4. Choose FAT32 as the file system.
  5. Click format to overwrite existing data and partitions.

The SD card will now be formatted with FAT32, even though this is not possible directly through MacOS. The app installers will walk you through the exact steps for whichever tool you select.

How to Format FAT32 on Linux

On Linux, you can format large SD cards to FAT32 from the terminal. But the default ‘mkfs.vfat’ command has a 128GB size limit. To work around this, you need to use some extra parameters. Here is the Linux command to format a 512GB SD card to FAT32:

sudo mkfs.vfat -F 32 -s 64 -S 512 /dev/sdX1

Breaking this down:

  • -F 32 = FAT32 file system
  • -s 64 = 64KB clusters to support large capacity
  • -S 512 = 512GB card size override
  • /dev/sdX1 = SD card device path

So this will force mkfs.vfat to create a FAT32 file system on the 512GB SD card, rather than rejecting it for being over the normal limit.

On some distros, you may need to install dosfstools first to get the mkfs.vfat command:

sudo apt install dosfstools

Then find your SD card path with sudo fdisk -l and use the mkfs.vfat command above to format it to FAT32.

Formatting vs File System Converters

When reformatting your SD card to FAT32, you have two main options:

  1. Full format – Completely overwrite existing partitions & data to create fresh FAT32 filesystem.
  2. Partition converter – Convert partitions on SD card in-place to FAT32 without losing data.

A full format erases everything and creates new blank FAT32 partitions on your card. This ensures maximum compatibility and is required if you ever need to resize partitions.

A partition converter tool like EaseUS keeps your data intact but converts the filesystem type to FAT32. This avoids needing to backup and retransfer gigabytes of data. But there is a small risk of corruption.

For most cases, a full FAT32 format is recommended to give you a clean slate. But converter tools can be handy if you have lots of data on a large card that would be difficult to back up.

Performance Comparison of exFAT vs. FAT32

When formatting high capacity SD cards, you’ll typically be choosing between exFAT or FAT32 as the filesystem. Here’s an overview of the performance differences between these two options:

Feature exFAT FAT32
Maximum file size 128 PB 4 GB
Maximum partition size 128 PB 2 TB
Max files per directory Unlimited 65,534
Max clusters per file Unlimited 65,543
Read/write speed Faster Slightly slower
Compatibility Newer devices Most devices

As you can see, FAT32 has some limitations on individual file sizes and partitions. But it’s slightly faster for smaller files and has nearly universal device compatibility.

exFAT eliminates most FAT32 limits, but may be less stable and compatible, especially with older devices. But it’s ideal for very large SD cards above 128GB.

So weigh your specific needs – if you have older devices or want maximum speed, FAT32 is often the best fit. But for cards above 256GB and 4GB+ files, exFAT is likely preferable.

Troubleshooting FAT32 Formatting Issues

In some cases, you may run into issues trying to get your 512GB or larger SD card formatted properly to FAT32. Here are some common problems and fixes:

Speed Performance is Slow

If your SD card seems very slow and sluggish after formatting to FAT32, try reformatting with a larger allocation unit size. The default is 4KB, instead try 16KB or 32KB for faster read/write times.

Card is Not Recognized by Devices

If some devices no longer detect your card after formatting to FAT32, the partitions may have been created incorrectly. Use a full format option to completely overwrite and recreate the partitions.

Card Errors or Corrupted Files

FAT32 is more prone to corruption compared to exFAT if not ejected properly. Use the Safely Remove Hardware option on Windows before removing cards, and avoid interrupting reads/writes.

Can’t Format Due to Size Limit

If you get format errors due to exceeding 32GB or 128GB FAT32 limits, make sure to use the override options covered earlier for your OS to force larger formatting.

Conversion Tools Do Not Work

Some filesystem conversion tools may fail to properly convert exFAT partitions to FAT32 on very large 512GB+ cards. Do a full format instead of trying to convert existing partitions.

If issues persist, it may be a problem with the SD card itself. Test with other known good high capacity cards to see if the issue is hardware related.

Checking FAT32 Format Success

To confirm that your 512GB SD card was properly formatted to FAT32, here are a few ways to check on Windows, Mac, and Linux:

  • Windows – Insert card, right click and select “Properties”. File system should show FAT32.
  • Mac – Open Disk Utility, select card, and check that Scheme shows Master Boot Record and Format shows MS-DOS (FAT32).
  • Linux – Run sudo blkid and verify that TYPE for your sdX device shows “vfat” (FAT32).

Additionally, you can check that files larger than 4GB cannot be copied to the card, verifying that the FAT32 file size limit is in effect.


While most operating systems restrict FAT32 formatting to smaller SD cards, the techniques above show you how to bypass these limits and successfully format even 512GB cards to FAT32. This allows you to benefit from the widespread compatibility, performance, and lack of file size limits that FAT32 offers.

Whether you are formatting on Windows, Mac, or Linux, the process involves using either third-party tools or the command line with size override options. Just be mindful of the remaining FAT32 drawbacks like the 2TB partition limit.

With a properly formatted FAT32 SD card, you can now use your high capacity storage with all your devices, both old and new! Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips or tricks for formatting massive cards to FAT32.