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USB Flash Drives

Why are they formatted in FAT 16?

USB flash drives and USB Jump Drives when you buy one is normally pre formatted as FAT 16.  Sometimes even in FAT 32 on some brands. You might ask yourself why they format them in FAT 16 and not in FAT 32 or NTFS.  Good question and let me tell you, I also thought about it my self.  So I research it and ran a few tests to figure it out.



Here is what it all boils down to:

  • FAT 16 formatting is faster at write/read files than FAT 32 or NTFS.
  • There will be less read/writes when formatted in FAT 16 and the largest number of read/writes is with NTFS formatting.
  • The chances of losing any data is less likely with FAT 16 or FAT 32 when unplugging the drive, without using the "Safe Removal" option in the system tray.
  • NTFS formatting does a caching action and if you unplug the drive before the cache is completed/ will have data loss.
  • NTFS is slower when writing a large number of small files to the flash drive.
  • Only format the flash drive to NTFS if you plan to write and read files that are 4gb or bigger in size.  You will see some increase in speed dealing with larger files.


So what it boils down to is you are best to leave it formatted as FAT 16 or format it to FAT 32 if you like too.  Always use the Safe Removal method (see screen image below) that is located in your system tray.  This will help to ensure that your chances of losing any data when unplugging the drive is nearer to zero.


USB Flash Drive Safe Removal


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