Before we proceed and talk about creating and converting, a few things need to be mentioned:
The only operating systems that support FAT 32 are Windows 2000, Windows 98 and Windows 95 b. To see what version of Windows you have, go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System, and look at the System description. If it does not say Windows 98 or Windows 95 4.00.950B or 950C, then do not use any of the procedures listed below. You will lose all information on a FAT 16 hard drive when trying to convert it to FAT 32 in an operating system that does not support it.
If you have a dual-boot system, e.g. Windows 98 with NT 4, Linux, etc., the other operating system will not be able to read any information of a drive that uses FAT 32 because NT 4, or UNIX do not understand FAT 32.
If you use a compression utility to get more space out of your drive, do not use FAT 32.
If you ever need to go back to FAT 16, e.g. you decided to make a dual boot, or install NT 4 on the drive instead, you cannot do this with Windows. Once FAT 32, always FAT 32. The only way to convert back to FAT 16 is with a third-party utility called Partition Magic from Power Quest.
If you decide to convert an existing drive to FAT 32, don’t do it unless you have all the information from the drive backed up. Changing the FAT is a major operation and if something goes haywire, the table of contents for your drive can get destroyed.
If you decide to convert an existing drive to FAT 32, it is a good idea to run Scandisk and Defrag first to make sure the drive is healthy.
Creating a FAT 32 drive
If you have a new or blank hard drive with nothing on it, then it is very easy to create a FAT 32 drive. First, you need a boot disk that was created with either Windows 95B or higher, or with Windows 98. To learn how to create a boot disk with CD-ROM support, click here.
Boot with the floppy. At the A:\ prompt, type FDisk. You will be asked whether you want to enable large disk support. Answer Yes to enable FAT 32. Now use the FDisk menu to create your partitions as desired, reboot and format the drive(s) as normal. Then install the operating system. To confirm that the drive is indeed FAT 32, in Windows, open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive, select Properties and look at the File System line. If it reads FAT, it means the drive uses FAT 16. If it reads FAT 32, it uses FAT 32.
Converting a FAT 16 drive to FAT 32
After reading about all these great advantages of FAT 32, you probably are eager to check whether you are already using FAT 32 and it not, how to convert. First, check to make sure that you have the right version of Windows. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System, and look at the System description. If it does not say Windows 2000, Windows 98 or Windows 95 4.00.950B or 950C, then do not think about converting because your Windows version is too old. But if you have the right version of Windows, check if you already have FAT 32. Open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive, select Properties and look at the File System line. If it reads FAT, it means the drive uses FAT 16. If it reads FAT 32, it uses FAT 32 and there is no need to convert.
If you use Windows 95 B
To convert a drive under Windows 95 B, you need a utility that does the job for you since Windows 95 B does not come with a conversion utility. This is a tiny little program that was made by Microsoft but never publicly advertised.
Download the Windows 95 B FAT 32 conversion utility here
Converting the drive is pretty easy. Just boot to DOS by rebooting, then pushing the F8 function key when you see the words Starting Windows 95. Select Command Prompt Only from the menu. Once at the DOS prompt, run the cvt.exe program. It looks a lot like the DOS version of Scandisk. Once it’s done, just reboot. To confirm that the drive is indeed FAT 32, in Windows, open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive, select Properties and look at the File System line. It should read FAT 32.
If you use Windows 98
Windows 98 comes with a built-in FAT 32 drive converter. You should find it under Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools. If it’s not there, then you can install it by going to Start/Settings/Control Panel/Add Remove Programs/Windows Setup, highlight System Tools and push Details, check the box for Drive Converter FAT 32, insert your Windows 98 CD-ROM and click OK to install it.
Now you go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools and start the Drive Converter. It is a convenient wizard that will walk you through the process.
If you have multiple 2 GB partitions and convert them all to FAT 32, they will still be separate partitions, even though FAT 32 supports bigger partition sizes. The straight-forward way to make it one big FAT 32 drive would be to back up all your data, use FDisk to repartition it using FAT 32, format the drive, then reinstall Windows, your programs, and restore your backed up data. This is quite a project, but it gives you a chance to clean house which you should do every once in a while anyway.
If you don’t want to go through that trouble, you need to get a third-party utility such as Partition Magic from Power Quest. After installing it, you need to resize the partition you want to eliminate down to where it’s just big enough to hold the data already on it. Then add that new free drive space to the partition you want to keep. Now copy the data from the partition to be eliminated to the partition to be kept. Delete the empty partition and add the free drive space to the partition to be kept. You need to repeat this procedure for all partitions you wish to eliminate.