File Allocation Table

File Allocation Table
Developer Microsoft
Full Name File Allocation Table
(12‑bit version)
FAT16/FAT16B (16‑bit versions) FAT32 (32‑bit version with 28 bits used)
Introduced August 1980 (QDOS) August 1984 (DOS 3.0 with FAT16), November 1987 (Compaq DOS 3.31 with FAT16B) August 1996 (Windows 95 OSR2)
MBR Partition type 0x01 0x04, 0x06, 0x0E 0x0B, 0x0C
GPT Partition type Basic data partition
Directory contents Table
File allocation Linked list
Bad blocks Cluster tagging
Max file size[1] 4 GB minus 1 byte
Max number
of clusters
4,084 (212‑12) 65,524 (216‑12) 268,435,444 (228‑12)
Max cluster number[2] 4,085 65,525 268,435,445
Max filename size 8.3 filename, or 255 UTF-16 characters when using LFN
Max volume size 32 MB 2 GB
4 GB with 64 kB clusters
2 TB
Dates recorded Creation, modified, access (accuracy to day only)
(Creation time and access date are only available when ACCDATE support is enabled)
Date range January 1, 1980 - December 31, 2107
Date resolution 2 s
Forks Not natively
Attributes Read-only, hidden, system, volume label, subdirectory, archive, (NetWare only) executable
Permissions Global/directory/file-based only with DR-DOS and Multiuser DOS, world/group/owner file permissions only with multiuser security No
Transparent compression Per-volume, Stacker, DoubleSpace, DriveSpace No
Transparent encryption Per-volume only with DR-DOS No

File Allocation Table (FAT) is a computer file system architecture now widely used on many computer systems and most memory cards, such as those used with digital cameras. FAT file systems are commonly found on floppy disks, flash memory cards, digital cameras, and many other portable devices because of their relative simplicity. FAT was also commonly used on hard disks throughout the DOS and Windows 9x eras, but its use on hard drives has declined since the introduction of Windows XP, which primarily uses the newer NTFS.

The name originates from the usage of a table which centralizes the information about which areas belong to files, are free or possibly unusable, and where each file is stored on the disk. To limit the size of the table, disk space is allocated to files in contiguous groups of hardware sectors called clusters. As disk drives have evolved, the maximum number of clusters has dramatically increased, and so the number of bits used to identify each cluster has grown. The successive major versions of the FAT format are named after the number of table element bits: 12 (FAT12), 16 (FAT16), and 32 (FAT32). Each is still in use. The FAT standard has also been expanded in other ways while generally preserving backward compatibility with existing software.

For floppy disks, the FAT has been standardized as ECMA-107[3] and ISO/IEC 9293.[4] These standards cover FAT12 and FAT16 with only short 8.3 filename support; long filenames with FAT are partially patented.[5]

The FAT file system is technically simple and supported by virtually all existing operating systems for personal computers. This makes it a useful format for solid-state memory cards and a convenient way to share data between operating systems.



Designed and coded by Marc McDonald, Microsoft Stand-alone Disk BASIC introduced the FAT in 1977 with 8-bit table elements, produced for NCR's 8-bit 8080 file system. The FAT, born during one of a series of discussions between McDonald and Bill Gates, was later used in a stand-alone BASIC for the 8086 chip and eventually through the M-DOS operating system, became the basis for the file-handling routines in MS-DOS. In 1980, Tim Paterson extended the table elements to 12 bits in 86-DOS, which supported 8-inch floppy drives.[6][7][8]

IBM PC-DOS 1.0, released with the original IBM Personal Computer in 1981, supported single-sided 5.25-inch floppy drives, and PC-DOS 1.1 added double-sided support. Neither of these versions had a BIOS parameter block. The BPB was introduced in PC-DOS 2.0. PC-DOS 1.0 directory entries included only one date, the last modified date. PC-DOS 1.1 added the last modified time. PC-DOS 1.x file attributes included a hidden bit and system bit, with the remaining six bits undefined. PC-DOS 2.0 added read-only, volume label, subdirectory and archive attribute bits.

Both editions of ECMA 107[3] specify a Max Cluster Number MAX determined by the formula MAX=1+trunc((TS-SSA)/SC), and reserve cluster numbers MAX+1 up to 4086 (hex. FF6, FAT12) and later 65526 (hex. FFF6, FAT16) for future standardization.

Microsoft's EFI FAT32 specification[9] states that any FAT file system with less than 4085 clusters is FAT12, else any FAT file system with less than 65525 clusters is FAT16, and otherwise it is FAT32. The entries for cluster numbers 0 and 1 at the begin of the FAT contain the media descriptor and end at a byte boundary even for FAT12, e.g., hex. F9FFFF for media descriptor hex. F9. The first data cluster is 2,[2] and consequently the last cluster MAX gets number MAX+1. This results in data cluster numbers 2…4085 (hex. FF5) for FAT12, 2…65525 (hex. FFF5) for FAT16, and 2…268435445 (hex. 0FFF FFF5) for FAT32.

The only available values reserved for future standardization are therefore hex. FF6 (FAT12) and hex. FFF6 (FAT16). As noted below "less than 4085" is also used for Linux implemementations,[10] or as Microsoft's FAT specification puts it:[9]

when it says <, it does not mean <=. Note also that the numbers are correct. The first number for FAT12 is 4085; the second number for FAT16 is 65525. These numbers and the ‘<’ signs are not wrong.


The initial version of FAT designed for 16-bit microprocessors is now referred to as FAT12. Designed as a file system for floppy disks, it limited cluster addresses to 12-bit values, which not only limited the cluster count to 4084,[3][9][10] but made FAT manipulation tricky with the PC's 8-bit and 16-bit registers. (The literature also mentions a limit 4078.[11][12]) The disk's size is stored as a 16-bit count of sectors, which limited the size to 32 MB. FAT12 was used by several manufacturers with different physical formats, but a typical floppy disk at the time was 5.25-inch, single-sided, 40 tracks, with 8 sectors per track, resulting in a capacity of 160 KB for both the system areas and files. The FAT12 limitations exceeded this capacity by a factor of ten or more.

By convention, all the control structures were organized to fit inside the first track, thus avoiding head movement during read and write operations, although this varied depending on the manufacturer and physical format of the disk. At the time FAT12 was introduced, DOS did not support hierarchical directories, and the maximum number of files was typically limited to a few dozen. Hierarchical directories were introduced in MS-DOS version 2.0.[2]

A limitation which was not addressed until much later was that any bad sector in the control structures area, track 0, could prevent the disk from being usable. The DOS formatting tool rejected such disks completely. Bad sectors were allowed only in the file area, where they made the entire containing cluster unusable as well. FAT12 remains in use on all common floppy disks, including 1.44 MB disks.

Initial FAT16

In 1984, IBM released the PC AT, which featured a 20 MB hard disk. Microsoft introduced MS-DOS 3.0 in parallel. (The earlier PC XT was the first PC with a hard drive from IBM, and MS-DOS 2.0 supported that hard drive with FAT12.) Cluster addresses were increased to 16-bit, allowing for up to 65,524 clusters per volume, and consequently much greater file system sizes, at least in theory. However, the maximum possible number of sectors and the maximum (partition, rather than disk) size of 32 MB did not change. Therefore, although technically already "FAT16", this format was not what today is commonly understood as FAT16. With the initial implementation of FAT16 not actually providing for larger partition sizes than FAT12, the early benefit of FAT16 was to enable the use of smaller clusters, making disk usage more efficient, particularly for files several hundred bytes in size, which were far more common at the time. MS-DOS 2.x hard disks larger than 15 MB are incompatible with later versions of MS-DOS.[13]

A 20 MB hard disk formatted under MS-DOS 3.0 was not accessible by the older MS-DOS 2.0 because MS-DOS 2.0 did not support version 3.0's FAT-16. MS-DOS 3.0 could still access MS-DOS 2.0 style 8 kB-cluster partitions under 15 MB. MS-DOS 3.0 also introduced support for high-density 1.2 MB 5.25" diskettes, which notably had 15 sectors per track, hence more space for the FATs.

Partitioning and logical drives

Apart from improving the structure of the FAT file system itself, a parallel development allowing an increase in the maximum possible FAT size was the introduction of multiple FAT partitions on a hard disk. To allow the use of more FAT partitions in a compatible way, a new partition type was introduced (in MS-DOS 3.2, January 1986), the extended partition, which is a container for an additional partition called logical drive and optionally another extended partition containing the next logical drive, and so on. The MBR of a hard disk can either define up to four primary partitions, or an extended partition in addition to up to three primary partitions.

Final FAT16

Finally in November 1987, Compaq DOS 3.31 (an OEM version of MS-DOS 3.3 released by Compaq with their machines) introduced what today is simply known as the FAT16 format, with the expansion of the 16-bit disk sector count to 32 bits. The result was initially called the DOS 3.31 Large File System. Although the on-disk changes were minor, the entire DOS disk driver had to be converted to use 32-bit sector numbers, a task complicated by the fact that it was written in 16-bit assembly language. FAT16 partition type hex. 04 indicates less than 65536 sectors (less than 32 MB for sector size 512), type 06 indicates 65536 or more sectors, and hex. 0E indicates LBA instead of CHS addressing. Microsoft's dskprobe tool refers to type 06 as BigFAT[14], whereas some older versions of FDISK described it as BIGDOS. It is also known as FAT16B.

In 1988 this improvement became more generally available through DR DOS 3.31, MS-DOS 4.0 and OS/2 1.1. The limit on partition size was dictated by the 8-bit signed count of sectors per cluster, which had a maximum power-of-two value of 64. With the standard hard disk sector size of 512 bytes, this gives a maximum of 32 KB clusters, thereby fixing the "definitive" limit for the FAT16 partition size at 2 GB for sector size 512. On magneto-optical media, which can have 1 or 2 KB sectors instead of 0.5 KB, this size limit is proportionally larger.

Much later, Windows NT increased the maximum cluster size to 64 KB by considering the sectors-per-cluster count as unsigned. However, the resulting format was not compatible with any other FAT implementation of the time, and it generated greater internal fragmentation. Windows 98 also supported reading and writing this variant, but its disk utilities did not work with it. This contributes to a confusing compatibility situation.

The number of root directory entries available for FAT12 and FAT16 is determined when the volume is formatted, and is stored in a 16-bit field. For a given number RDE and sector size SS the number RDS of root directory sectors is RDS=ceil((RDE×32)/SS), and RDE is normally chosen to fill these sectors, i.e., RDE*32=RDS*SS. FAT12 and FAT16 media typically use 512 root directory entries on non-floppy media.[15] Some third-party tools like mkdosfs allow the user to set this parameter.[16]

Long file names

One of the user experience goals for the designers of Windows 95 was the ability to use long filenames (LFNs—up to 255 UTF-16 code points long), in addition to classic 8.3 filenames. LFNs were implemented using a workaround in the way directory entries are laid out (see below).

The version of the file system with this extension is usually known as VFAT after the Windows 95 virtual device driver, also known as "Virtual FAT" in Microsoft's documentation. The VFAT driver appeared before Windows 95, in Windows for Workgroups 3.11, but was only used for implementing 32-bit file access and did not support long file names.

In Windows NT, support for long filenames on FAT started from version 3.5. OS/2 added long filename support to FAT using extended attributes (EA) before the introduction of VFAT; thus, VFAT long filenames are invisible to OS/2, and EA long filenames are invisible to Windows.


In order to overcome the size limit of FAT16, while at the same time allowing DOS (disk operating system) real mode code to handle the format, and without reducing available conventional memory unnecessarily, Microsoft expanded the cluster size yet again, calling the new revision FAT32. Cluster values are represented by 32-bit numbers, of which 28 bits are used to hold the cluster number. The boot sector uses a 32-bit field for the sector count, limiting the FAT32 volume size to 2 TB for sector size 512; compare the size limits given below.[17][18]

FAT32 was introduced with Windows 95 OSR2, although reformatting was needed to use it, and DriveSpace 3 (the version that came with Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows 98) never supported it. Windows 98 introduced a utility to convert existing hard disks from FAT16 to FAT32 without loss of data. In the NT line, native support for FAT32 arrived in Windows 2000. A free FAT32 driver for Windows NT 4.0 was available from Winternals, a company later acquired by Microsoft. Since the acquisition the driver is no longer officially available.

The maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4 GB minus 1 byte or 4 294 967 295 (232−1) bytes. This limit is a consequence of the file length entry in the directory table and would also affect huge FAT16 partitions with a sufficient sector size.[1] Video applications, large databases, and some other software easily exceed this limit. Larger files require another filesystem.


The FAT file system does not contain mechanisms which prevent newly written files from becoming scattered across the partition.[19] Other file systems, e.g., HPFS, use free space bitmaps that indicate used and available clusters, which could then be quickly looked up in order to find free contiguous areas. Another solution is the linkage of all free clusters into one or more lists (as is done in Unix file systems). Instead, the FAT has to be scanned as an array to find free clusters, which can lead to performance penalties with large disks.

In fact, computing free disk space on FAT is one of the most resource intensive operations, as it requires reading the entire FAT linearly. A possible justification suggested by Microsoft's Raymond Chen for limiting the maximum size of FAT32 partitions created on Windows was the time required to perform a "DIR" operation, which always displays the free disk space as the last line.[20] Displaying this line took longer and longer as the number of clusters increased.

Some of the perceived problems with fragmentation of FAT file systems result from limitations of the device drivers.

The single-tasking DOS and the traditionally single-tasking PC hard disk architecture (only 1 outstanding input/output request at a time, no DMA transfers) did not contain mechanisms which could alleviate fragmentation by asynchronously prefetching next data while the application was processing the previous chunks.

Similarly, write-behind caching was often not enabled by default with Microsoft software (if present) given the problem of data loss in case of a crash, made easier by the lack of hardware protection between applications and the system.

Modern operating systems have introduced these optimizations to FAT partitions, but optimizations can still produce unwanted artifacts in case of a system crash. A Windows NT system will allocate space to files on FAT in advance, selecting large contiguous areas, but in case of a crash, files which were being appended will appear larger than they were ever written into, with dozens of random kilobytes at the end.

With the large cluster sizes, 4 or 8K, forced by larger FAT32 partitions, the external fragmentation becomes somewhat less significant, and internal fragmentation, i.e. disk space waste (since files are rarely exact multiples of cluster size), starts to be a problem as well, especially when there are a great many small files.

Third-party support

Due to the widespread use of FAT formatted media since its introduction many operating systems have provided support for FAT and subsequently VFAT and FAT32 through official or third-party file system handlers. For example, Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS and JNode provide inbuilt support for FAT. Early Linux distributions also supported a format known as UMSDOS, a FAT variant with Unix file attributes (such as long file name and access permissions) stored in a separate file called “--linux-.---”. UMSDOS fell into disuse after VFAT was released and it is not enabled by default in Linux kernels from version 2.5.7 onwards.[21] Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X also support FAT file systems on volumes other than the boot disk. AmigaOS supports FAT through the CrossDOS file system.

A free Windows-based FAT32 formatter is available that overcomes many of the arbitrary limitations imposed by Microsoft.[22]

FAT and Alternate Data Streams

The FAT file system itself is not designed for supporting Alternate Data Streams (ADS), but some operating systems that heavily depend on them have devised various methods for handling them in FAT drives. Such methods either store the additional information in extra files and directories (Mac OS), or give new semantics to previously unused fields of the FAT on-disk data structures (OS/2 and Windows NT).

Mac OS using PC Exchange stores its various dates, file attributes and long filenames in a hidden file called FINDER.DAT, and resource forks (a common Mac OS ADS) in a subdirectory called RESOURCE.FRK, in every directory where they are used. From PC Exchange 2.1 onwards, they store the Mac OS long filenames as standard FAT long filenames and convert FAT filenames longer than 31 characters to unique 31-character filenames, which can then be made visible to Macintosh applications.

Mac OS X stores resource forks and metadata (file attributes, other ADS) in a hidden file with a name constructed from the owner filename prefixed with "._", and Finder stores some folder and file metadata in a hidden file called ".DS Store".

OS/2 heavily depends on extended attributes (EAs) and stores them in a hidden file called "EA DATA. SF" in the root directory of the FAT12 or FAT16 volume. This file is indexed by 2 previously reserved bytes in the file's (or directory's) directory entry. In the FAT32 format, these bytes hold the upper 16 bits of the starting cluster number of the file or directory, hence making it difficult to store EAs on FAT32. Extended attributes are accessible via the Workplace Shell desktop, through REXX scripts, and many system GUI and command-line utilities (such as 4OS2).[23]

To accommodate its OS/2 subsystem, Windows NT supports the handling of extended attributes in HPFS, NTFS, and FAT. It stores EAs on FAT and HPFS using exactly the same scheme as OS/2, but does not support any other kind of ADS as held on NTFS volumes. Trying to copy a file with any ADS other than EAs from an NTFS volume to a FAT or HPFS volume gives a warning message with the names of the ADSs that will be lost.

Windows 2000 onward acts exactly as Windows NT, except that it ignores EAs when copying to FAT32 without any warning (but shows the warning for other ADSs, like "Macintosh Finder Info" and "Macintosh Resource Fork").


For most purposes, the NTFS file system is superior to FAT in terms of features and reliability; its main drawbacks are the size overhead for small volumes and the very limited support by anything other than the NT-based versions of Windows, since the exact specification is a trade secret of Microsoft. The availability of NTFS-3G since mid 2006 has led to much improved NTFS support in Unix-like operating systems, considerably alleviating this concern. It is still not possible to use NTFS in DOS-like operating systems without third-party drivers, which in turn makes it difficult to use a DOS floppy for recovery purposes. Microsoft provided a recovery console to work around this issue, but for security reasons it severely limited what could be done through the Recovery Console by default. The movement of recovery utilities to boot CDs based on BartPE or Linux (with NTFS-3G) is finally eroding this drawback.

FAT is still the normal file system for removable media (with the exception of CDs and DVDs), with FAT12 used on floppies, and FAT16 or FAT32 on most other removable media (such as flash memory cards for digital cameras and USB flash drives).


FATX is a slightly modified version of the FAT filesystem, and is designed for Microsoft's Xbox video game console hard disk drive and memory cards.[24][25] On‑disk datestamps differ slightly between FAT and FATX: in FAT, the epoch is 1980; in FATX, the epoch is 2000. On the Xbox 360, the epoch is 1980.[26]


exFAT (also sometimes incorrectly and inappropriately known as FAT64) is an incompatible replacement for FAT file systems that was introduced with Windows Embedded CE 6.0. MBR partition type is 0x7 (the same as NTFS). exFAT is intended to be used on SDXC and flash drives, where FAT is used today.


The following is an overview of the order of structures in a FAT partition or disk:

Contents Boot
FS Information
(FAT32 only)
More reserved
Table #1
Table #2
(FAT12/16 only)
Data Region (for files and directories) ...
(To end of partition or disk)
Size in sectors (number of reserved sectors) (number of FATs)*(sectors per FAT) (number of root entries*32)/Bytes per sector NumberOfClusters*SectorsPerCluster

A FAT file system is composed of four different sections.

  1. The Reserved sectors, located at the very beginning. The first reserved sector (sector 0) is the Boot Sector (aka Partition Boot Record). It includes an area called the BIOS Parameter Block (with some basic file system information, in particular its type, and pointers to the location of the other sections) and usually contains the operating system's boot loader code. The total count of reserved sectors is indicated by a field inside the Boot Sector. Important information from the Boot Sector is accessible through an operating system structure called the Drive Parameter Block in DOS and OS/2. For FAT32 file systems, the reserved sectors include a File System Information Sector at sector 1 and a Backup Boot Sector at Sector 6.
  2. The FAT Region. This typically contains two copies (may vary) of the File Allocation Table for the sake of redundancy checking, although the extra copy is rarely used, even by disk repair utilities. These are maps of the Data Region, indicating which clusters are used by files and directories. In FAT16 and FAT12 they immediately follow the reserved sectors.
  3. The Root Directory Region. This is a Directory Table that stores information about the files and directories located in the root directory. It is only used with FAT12 and FAT16, and imposes on the root directory a fixed maximum size which is pre-allocated at creation of this volume. FAT32 stores the root directory in the Data Region, along with files and other directories, allowing it to grow without such a constraint. Thus, for FAT32, the Data Region starts here.
  4. The Data Region. This is where the actual file and directory data is stored and takes up most of the partition. The size of files and subdirectories can be increased arbitrarily (as long as there are free clusters) by simply adding more links to the file's chain in the FAT. Note however, that files are allocated in units of clusters, so if a 1 kB file resides in a 32 kB cluster, 31 kB are wasted. FAT32 typically commences the Root Directory Table in cluster number 2: the first cluster of the Data Region.

FAT uses little endian format for entries in the header and the FAT(s). It is possible to allocate more FAT sectors than necessary for the number of clusters. The end of the last FAT sector can be unused if there are no corresponding clusters. The total number of sectors (as noted in the boot record) can be larger than the number of sectors used by data (clusters × sectors per cluster), FATs (number of FATs × sectors per FAT), and hidden sectors including the boot sector — this would result in unused sectors at the end of the volume. If a partition contains more sectors than the total number of sectors occupied by the file system it would also result in unused sectors at the end of the volume.

Boot Sector

On non-partitioned devices, e.g., floppy disks, the boot sector is the first sector. For partitioned devices such as hard drives, the first sector is the Master Boot Record defining partitions, while the first sector of partitions formatted with a FAT file system is again the FAT boot sector.

Common structure of the first 36 bytes used by all FAT versions are:

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x00 3 Jump instruction. This instruction will be executed and will skip past the rest of the (non-executable) header if the partition is booted from. See Volume Boot Record. If the jump is two-byte near jmp it is followed by a NOP instruction (hex. EB??90)
0x03 8 OEM Name (padded with spaces 0x20). This value determines in which system disk was formatted. MS-DOS checks this field to determine which other parts of the boot record can be relied on.[27][28] Common examples are IBM␠␠3.3, MSDOS5.0, MSWIN4.1, mkdosfs␠, and FreeDOS␠.
0x0B 2 Bytes per sector; the most common value is 512. The BIOS Parameter Block starts here.
0x0D 1 Sectors per cluster. Allowed values are powers of two from 1 to 128.[29]
0x0E 2 Reserved sector count. The number of sectors before the first FAT in the file system image. At least 1 for this sector, usually 32 for FAT32.
0x10 1 Number of file allocation tables. Almost always 2; RAM disks might use 1.
0x11 2 Maximum number of FAT12 or FAT16 root directory entries. 0 for FAT32, where the root directory is stored in ordinary data clusters.
0x13 2 Total sectors (if zero, use 4 byte value at offset 0x20)
0x15 1 Media descriptor[30]
0xF0 3.5" Double Sided, 80 tracks per side, 18 or 36 sectors per track (1.44MB or 2.88MB)
Used also for other media types such as tapes.[31]
0xF8 Fixed disk (i.e., typically a partition on a Hard disk).[32]
0xF9 3.5" Double sided, 80 tracks per side, 9 sectors per track (720K)
5.25" Double sided, 80 tracks per side, 15 sectors per track (1.2MB)
0xFA 5.25" Single sided, 80 tracks per side, 8 sectors per track (320K)
0xFB 3.5" Double sided, 80 tracks per side, 8 sectors per track (640K)
0xFC 5.25" Single sided, 40 tracks per side, 9 sectors per track (180K)
0xFD 5.25" Double sided, 40 tracks per side, 9 sectors per track (360K)
8" Double sided, 77 tracks per side, 26 sectors per track, 128 bytes per sector (500.5K)
0xFE 5.25" Single sided, 40 tracks per side, 8 sectors per track (160K)
8" Single sided, 77 tracks per side, 26 sectors per track, 128 bytes per sector (250.25K)
8" Double sided, 77 tracks per side, 8 sectors per track, 1024 bytes per sector (1232K)
0xFF 5.25" Double sided, 40 tracks per side, 8 sectors per track (320K)

Same value of media descriptor should be repeated as first byte of each copy of FAT. Certain operating systems (MSX-DOS version 1.0) ignore boot sector parameters altogether and use media descriptor value from the first byte of FAT to determine file system parameters.

0x16 2 Sectors per File Allocation Table for FAT12/FAT16, 0 for FAT32 (cf. offset 0x24 below)
0x18 2 Sectors per track for disks with geometry,[9] e.g., 18 for a 1.44MB floppy
0x1A 2 Number of heads for disks with geometry,[9] e.g., 2 for a double sided floppy
0x1C 4 Count of hidden sectors preceding the partition that contains this FAT volume. This field should always be zero on media that are not partitioned.
0x20 4 Total sectors (if greater than 65535; otherwise, see offset 0x13)

A simple formula translates a given cluster number CN to a logical sector number LSN:[3]

  1. Determine (once) SSA=RSC+FN×SF+ceil((32×RDE)/SS), where the reserved sector count RSC is stored at offset 0x0E, the FAT number FN at offset 0x10, the sectors per FAT SF at offset 0x16 (FAT12/16) or 0x24 (FAT32), the root directory entries RDE at offset 0x11, the sector size SS at offset 0x0B, and ceil(x) rounds up to a whole number.
  2. Determine LSN=SSA+(CN-2)×SC, where the sectors per cluster SC are stored at offset 0x0D.

A translation of CHS to LSN is also simple: LSN=SPT×(HN+(NOS×TN))+SN-1, where the sectors per track SPT are stored at offset 0x18, and the number of sides NOS at offset 0x1A. Track number TN, head number HN, and sector number SN correspond to Cylinder-head-sector — the formula gives the known CHS to LBA translation.

Extended BIOS Parameter Block

Further structure used by FAT12 and FAT16, also known as Extended BIOS Parameter Block:

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x24 1 Physical drive number (0x00 for removable media, 0x80 for hard disks)
0x25 1 Reserved; in boot code used as INT 13h head high byte for the 16-bits word at 0x24, in Windows NT used as CHKDSK flags (1: dirty, 2 bad sectors).[32]
0x26 1 Extended boot signature. (Should be 0x29[30] to indicate that an EBPB with the following 3 entries exists. Can be 0x28 on some OS/2 1.x and DOS disks indicating an earlier form of the EBPB format with only the serial number following.)
0x27 4 Volume ID (serial number)
0x2B 11 Volume Label, padded with blanks (0x20), e.g., "NO␠NAME␠␠␠␠"
0x36 8 File system type, padded with blanks (0x20), e.g., "FAT12␠␠␠"
0x3E 448 Operating system boot code; does not belong to the Extended BIOS Parameter Block
0x1FE 2 Boot sector signature 0x55 0xAA[9]

The boot sector is portrayed here as found on e.g. an OS/2 1.3 boot diskette. Earlier versions used a shorter BIOS Parameter Block and their boot code would start earlier (for example at offset 0x2b in OS/2 1.1).

In essence FAT32 inserts 28 bytes, followed by the remaining 26 EBPB bytes as shown above for FAT12 and FAT16:

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x24 4 Sectors per file allocation table
0x28 2 Mirroring flags (4 low bits = active FAT number minus 1, if high bit set)
0x2A 2 Version (defined as 0)
0x2C 4 Cluster number of root directory start, typically 2 (first cluster[2]) if it contains no bad sector.
0x30 2 Sector number of FS Information Sector, typically 1, i.e., the second of the three FAT32 boot sectors.
0x32 2 First sector number of a copy of the three FAT32 boot sectors, typically 6.[9]
0x34 12 Reserved (must be 0)
0x40 1 Cf. 0x24 for FAT12/16 (Physical Drive Number)
0x41 1 Cf. 0x25 for FAT12/16
0x42 1 Cf. 0x26 for FAT12/16 (Extended boot signature)
0x43 4 Cf. 0x27 for FAT12/16 (Volume ID)
0x47 11 Cf. 0x2B for FAT12/16 (Volume Label)
0x52 8 Cf. 0x36 for FAT12/16 (File system type)
0x5A 420 Operating system boot code; does not belong to the Extended BIOS Parameter Block
0x1FE 2 Boot sector signature 0x55 0xAA


The implementation of FAT used in MS-DOS for the Apricot PC had a different boot sector layout, to accommodate that computer's non-IBM compatible BIOS. The jump instruction and OEM name were omitted, and the MS-DOS file system parameters (offsets 0x0B - 0x17 in the standard sector) were located at offset 0x50. Later versions of Apricot MS-DOS gained the ability to read and write disks with the standard boot sector in addition to those with the Apricot one.

DOS Plus on the BBC Master 512 did not use conventional boot sectors at all. Data disks omitted the boot sector and began with a single copy of the FAT (the first byte of the FAT was used to determine disk capacity) while boot disks began with a miniature ADFS file system containing the boot loader, followed by a single FAT. It could also access standard PC disks formatted to 180 kB or 360 kB, again using the first byte of the FAT to determine the capacity.

FS Information Sector

The "FS Information Sector" was introduced in FAT32[33] for speeding up access times of certain operations (in particular, getting the amount of free space). It is located at a sector number specified in the boot record at position 0x30 (usually sector 1, immediately after the boot record).

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x00 4 FS information sector signature (0x52 0x52 0x61 0x41 = "RRaA")
0x04 480 Reserved (byte values are 0x00)
0x1E4 4 FS information sector signature (0x72 0x72 0x41 0x61 = "rrAa")
0x1E8 4 Number of free clusters on the drive, or -1 if unknown
0x1EC 4 Number of the most recently allocated cluster
0x1F0 12 Reserved (byte values are 0x00)
0x1FC 4 FS information sector signature (0x00 0x00 0x55 0xAA)[9]

File Allocation Table

A partition is divided up into identically sized clusters, small blocks of contiguous space. Cluster sizes vary depending on the type of FAT file system being used and the size of the partition, typically cluster sizes lie somewhere between 2 kB and 32 kB. Each file may occupy one or more of these clusters depending on its size; thus, a file is represented by a chain of these clusters (referred to as a singly linked list). However these clusters are not necessarily stored adjacent to one another on the disk's surface but are often instead fragmented throughout the Data Region.

The File Allocation Table (FAT) is a list of entries that map to each cluster on the partition. Each entry records one of five things:

  • the cluster number of the next cluster in a chain
  • a special end of clusterchain (EOC) entry that indicates the end of a chain
  • a special entry to mark a bad cluster
  • a zero to note that the cluster is unused

The first two entries in a FAT store special values: The first entry contains a copy of the media descriptor (from boot sector, offset 0x15). The remaining 4 bits (if FAT12), 8 bits (if FAT16) or 20 bits (if FAT32) of this entry are 1.

The second entry stores the end-of-cluster-chain marker. The high order two bits of this entry are sometimes, in the case of FAT16 and FAT32, used for dirty volume management: high order bit 1: last shutdown was clean; next highest bit 1: during the previous mount no disk I/O errors were detected.[31]

Because the first two FAT entries store special values, there is no cluster 0 or 1. The first cluster (after the root directory if FAT 12/16) is cluster 2.[2]

FAT entry values:

FAT12 FAT16 FAT32 Description
0x000 0x0000 0x00000000 Free Cluster — also used as parent directory starting cluster in ".." entries for subdirectories of the root directory (FAT12/16)
0x001 0x0001 0x00000001 Reserved, do not use
0x002‑0xFEF 0x0002‑0xFFEF 0x00000002‑0x0FFFFFEF Used cluster; value points to next cluster
0xFF0‑0xFF5 0xFFF0‑0xFFF5 0x0FFFFFF0‑0x0FFFFFF5 Reserved in some contexts[11] or also used[3][9][10]
0xFF6 0xFFF6 0x0FFFFFF6 Reserved; do not use[3][9][10][30]
0xFF7 0xFFF7 0x0FFFFFF7 Bad sector in cluster or reserved cluster
0xFF8‑0xFFF 0xFFF8‑0xFFFF 0x0FFFFFF8‑0x0FFFFFFF Last cluster in file (EOC)

Note that FAT32 uses only 28 bits of the 32 possible bits. The upper 4 bits are usually zero (as indicated in the table above) but are reserved and should be left untouched.

Each version of the FAT file system uses a different size for FAT entries. Smaller numbers result in a smaller FAT, but waste space in large partitions by needing to allocate in large clusters. The FAT12 file system uses 12 bits per FAT entry, thus two entries span 3 bytes. It is consistently little-endian: if you consider the 3 bytes as one little-endian 24-bit number, the 12 least significant bits are the first entry and the 12 most significant bits are the second.

Directory table

A directory table is a special type of file that represents a directory (also known as a folder). Each file or directory stored within it is represented by a 32-byte entry in the table. Each entry records the name, extension, attributes (archive, directory, hidden, read-only, system and volume), the date and time of creation, the address of the first cluster of the file/directory's data and finally the size of the file/directory. Aside from the Root Directory Table in FAT12 and FAT16 file systems, which occupies the special Root Directory Region location, all Directory Tables are stored in the Data Region. The actual number of entries in a directory stored in the Data Region can grow by adding another cluster to the chain in the FAT.

Note that before each entry there can be "fake entries" to support the Long File Name. (See further down the article).

Legal characters for DOS file names include the following:

  • Upper case letters AZ
  • Numbers 09
  • Space (though trailing spaces in either the base name or the extension are considered to be padding and not a part of the file name, also filenames with space in them could not be used on the DOS command line prior to Windows 95 because of the lack of a suitable escaping system)
  • ! # $ % & ' ( ) - @ ^ _ ` { } ~
  • Values 128–255

This excludes the following ASCII characters:

  • " * / : < > ? \ |
    Windows/MSDOS has no shell escape character
  • + , . ; = [ ]
    They are allowed in long file names only.
  • Lower case letters az
    Stored as AZ. Allowed in long file names.
  • Control characters 0–31
  • Value 127 (DEL)

The DOS file names are in the current OEM character set — this can have surprising effects if characters handled in one way for a given code page are interpreted differently for another code page (DOS command CHCP) with respect to lower and upper case, sorting, or validity as file name character.

Directory entries, both in the Root Directory Region and in subdirectories, are of the following format (see also 8.3 filename):

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x00 8 DOS file name (padded with spaces)

The first byte can have the following special values:

0x00 Entry is available and no subsequent entry is in use
0x05 Initial character is actually 0xE5.
0x2E 'Dot' entry; either '.' or '..'
0xE5 Entry has been previously erased and is available. File undelete utilities must replace this character with a regular character as part of the undeletion process.
0x08 3 DOS file extension (padded with spaces)
0x0B 1 File Attributes
Bit Mask Description
0 0x01 Read Only
1 0x02 Hidden
2 0x04 System
3 0x08 Volume Label
4 0x10 Subdirectory
5 0x20 Archive
6 0x40 Device (internal use only, never found on disk)
7 0x80 Unused

An attribute value of 0x0F is used to designate a long file name entry.

0x0C 1 Reserved; two bits are used by NT and later versions to encode case information (see below); otherwise 0[34]
0x0D 1 Create time, fine resolution: 10ms units, values from 0 to 199.
0x0E 2 Create time. The hour, minute and second are encoded according to the following bitmap:
Bits Description
15‑11 Hours (0-23)
10‑5 Minutes (0-59)
4‑0 Seconds/2 (0-29)

Note that the seconds is recorded only to a 2 second resolution. Finer resolution for file creation is found at offset 0x0d.

0x10 2 Create date. The year, month and day are encoded according to the following bitmap:
Bits Description
15‑9 Year (0 = 1980, 127 = 2107)
8‑5 Month (1 - 12)
4‑0 Day (1 - 31)
0x12 2 Last access date; see offset 0x10 for description.
0x14 2 EA-Index (used by OS/2 and NT) in FAT12 and FAT16, high 2 bytes of first cluster number in FAT32
0x16 2 Last modified time; see offset 0x0e for description.
0x18 2 Last modified date; see offset 0x10 for description.
0x1A 2 Start of file in clusters in FAT12 and FAT16. Low 2 bytes of first cluster in FAT32. Entries with the Volume Label flag, subdirectory ".." pointing to FAT12/16 root, and empty files with size 0 should have first cluster 0.
0x1C 4 File size in bytes. Entries with the Volume Label or Subdirectory flag set should have a size of 0.

Long file names

Long File Names (LFN) are stored on a FAT file system using a trick—adding (possibly multiple) additional entries into the directory before the normal file entry. The additional entries are marked with the Volume Label, System, Hidden, and Read Only attributes (yielding 0x0F), which is a combination that is not expected in the MS-DOS environment, and therefore ignored by MS-DOS programs and third-party utilities. Notably, a directory containing only volume labels is considered as empty and is allowed to be deleted; such a situation appears if files created with long names are deleted from plain DOS.

Older versions of PC-DOS mistake LFN names in the root directory for the volume label, and are likely to display an incorrect label.

Each phony entry can contain up to 13 UTF-16 characters (26 bytes) by using fields in the record which contain file size or time stamps (but not the starting cluster field, for compatibility with disk utilities, the starting cluster field is set to a value of 0. See 8.3 filename for additional explanations). Up to 20 of these 13-character entries may be chained, supporting a maximum length of 255 UTF-16 characters.[34]

After the last UTF-16 character, a 0x00 0x00 is added. The remaining unused characters are filled with 0xFF 0xFF.

LFN entries use the following format:

Byte Offset Length (bytes) Description
0x00 1 Sequence Number
0x01 10 Name characters (five UTF-16 characters)
0x0B 1 Attributes (always 0x0F)
0x0C 1 Reserved (always 0x00)
0x0D 1 Checksum of DOS file name
0x0E 12 Name characters (six UTF-16 characters)
0x1A 2 First cluster (always 0x0000)
0x1C 4 Name characters (two UTF-16 characters)

If there are multiple LFN entries, required to represent a file name, firstly comes the last LFN entry (the last part of the filename). The sequence number also has bit 6 (0x40) set (this means the last LFN entry, however it's the first entry seen when reading the directory file). The last LFN entry has the largest sequence number which decreases in following entries. The first LFN entry has sequence number 1. Bit 7 (0x80) of the sequence number is used to indicate that the entry is deleted.

For example if we have filename "File with very long filename.ext" it would be formatted like this:

Sequence number Entry data
0x43 "me.ext"
0x02 "y long filena"
0x01 "File with ver"
??? Normal 8.3 entry

A checksum also allows verification of whether a long file name matches the 8.3 name; such a mismatch could occur if a file was deleted and re-created using DOS in the same directory position. The checksum is calculated using the algorithm below. (Note that pFcbName is a pointer to the name as it appears in a regular directory entry, i.e. the first eight characters are the filename, and the last three are the extension. The dot is implicit. Any unused space in the filename is padded with space characters (ASCII 0x20). For example, "Readme.txt" would be "README␠␠TXT".)

unsigned char lfn_checksum(const unsigned char *pFcbName)
        int i;
        unsigned char sum=0;
        for (i=11; i; i--)
                sum = ((sum & 1) << 7) + (sum >> 1) + *pFcbName++;
        return sum;

If a filename contains only lowercase letters, or is a combination of a lowercase basename with an uppercase extension, or vice-versa; and has no special characters, and fits within the 8.3 limits, a VFAT entry is not created on Windows NT and later versions of Windows such as XP. Instead, two bits in byte 0x0c of the directory entry are used to indicate that the filename should be considered as entirely or partially lowercase. Specifically, bit 4 means lowercase extension and bit 3 lowercase basename, which allows for combinations such as "example.TXT" or "HELLO.txt" but not "Mixed.txt". Few other operating systems support it. This creates a backwards-compatibility problem with older Windows versions (95, 98, ME) that see all-uppercase filenames if this extension has been used, and therefore can change the name of a file when it is transported between OSes, such as on a USB flash drive. Current 2.6.x versions of Linux will recognize this extension when reading (source: kernel 2.6.18 /fs/fat/dir.c and fs/vfat/namei.c); the mount option shortname determines whether this feature is used when writing.[35]

Third-party extensions

Before Microsoft added support for long filenames and creation/access time stamps, bytes 0x0C–0x15 of the directory entry were used by alternative operating systems to store additional metadata. These included:

Byte Offset Length (bytes) System Description
0x0C 2 RISC OS File type, 0x000 - 0xFFF
0x0C 4 Petrov DOSFS File load address
0x10 4 Petrov DOSFS File execution address
0x0C 1 DOS Plus User-defined file attributes F1-F4
Bit Mask Description
7 0x80 F1
6 0x40 F2
5 0x20 F3
4 0x10 F4
0x0C 1 MSX‑DOS 2 For a deleted file, the original first character of the filename.
0x0D 1 DR-DOS For a deleted file, the original first character of the filename.
0x0E 2 DR-DOS and FlexOS Encrypted file password
0x0E 2 ANDOS File address in the memory
0x10 4 DR‑DOS 7 For a deleted file, its original file time and date; deleted files have their normal time and date fields set to the time of deletion
0x12 2 DR‑DOS 6 and FlexOS File owner ID
0x14 2 DR-DOS and FlexOS File permissions bitmap (execute permissions are only used by FlexOS):
Bit Mask Description
0 0x0001 Owner delete requires password
1 0x0002 Owner execute requires password
2 0x0004 Owner write requires password
3 0x0008 Owner read requires password
4 0x0010 Group delete requires password
5 0x0020 Group execute requires password
6 0x0040 Group write requires password
7 0x0080 Group read requires password
8 0x0100 World delete requires password
9 0x0200 World execute requires password
10 0x0400 World write requires password
11 0x0800 World read requires password

Size limits

The FAT12, FAT16 (incl. BigFAT), and FAT32 variants of the FAT file systems have clear limits based on the number of clusters and the number of sectors per cluster (1, 2, 4, ..., 128). For the typical value of 512 bytes per sector:

 FAT12     1 ..      4084 clusters:   1 ..      12 FAT sectors
 FAT16  4085 ..     65524 clusters:  16 ..     256 FAT sectors
 FAT32 65525 .. 268435444 clusters: 512 .. 2097152 FAT sectors
 FAT12 min.:    1 *         1                  512 (  0.5 KB) 
 FAT16 min.:    1 *      4085            2,091,520 ( 2043 KB) 
 FAT32 min.:    1 *     65525           33,548,800 (32763 KB) 
 FAT12 max.:   64 *      4084          133,824,512 (~ 127 MB) 
[FAT12 max.:  128 *      4084          267,694,024 (~ 255 MB)]
 FAT16 max.:   64 *     65524        2,147,090,432 (~2047 MB) 
[FAT16 max.:  128 *     65524        4,294,180,864 (~4095 MB)]
 FAT32 max.:    8 * 268435444    1,099,511,578,624 (~1024 GB) 
 FAT32 max.:   16 * 268173557    2,196,877,778,944 (~2046 GB) 
[FAT32 max.:   32 * 134152181    2,197,949,333,504 (~2047 GB)]
[FAT32 max.:   64 *  67092469    2,198,486,024,192 (~2047 GB)]
[FAT32 max.:  128 *  33550325    2,198,754,099,200 (~2047 GB)]

Legend: 268435444+3 is hex. 0FFF FFF7, because FAT32 version 0 uses only 28 bits in the 32bit cluster numbers, cluster numbers hex. 0FFF FFF7 up to 0FFF FFFF flag bad clusters or the end of a file, cluster number 0 flags a free cluster, and cluster number 1 is not used.[2] Likewise 65524+3 is hex. FFF7 for FAT16, and 4084+3 is hex. FF7 for FAT12. The number of sectors per cluster is a power of 2 fitting in a single byte, the smallest value is 1 (hex. 01), the biggest value is 128 (hex. 80). Lines in square brackets indicate the unusual cluster size 128, and for FAT32 the bigger than necessary cluster sizes 32 or 64.[17]

Because each FAT32 entry occupies 32bits (4 bytes) the maximal number of clusters (268435444) requires 2097152 FAT sectors for a sector size of 512 bytes. 2097152 is hex. 200000, and storing this value needs more than two bytes. Therefore FAT32 introduced a new 32bit value in the FAT32 boot sector immediately following the 32bit value for the total number of sectors introduced in the "BigFAT" variant of FAT16.

The boot record extensions introduced with DOS 4.0 start with a magic 40 (hex. 28) or 41 (hex. 29). Typically FAT drivers look only at the number of clusters to distinguish FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32 — the human readable strings identifying the FAT variant in the boot record are ignored, because they exist only for media formatted with DOS 4.0 or later.

Determining the number of directory entries per cluster is straight forward, each entry occupies 32 bytes, this results in 16 entries per sector for a sector size of 512 bytes. The DOS 5 rd command removes the initial "." (this directory) and ".." (parent directory) entries in subdirectories directly, therefore sector size 32 on a RAM disk is possible for FAT12, but requires 2 or more sectors per cluster. A FAT12 boot sector without the DOS 4 extensions needs 29 bytes before the first unnecessary "BigFAT" 32bit number of hidden sectors, this leaves three bytes for the (on a RAM disk unused) boot code and the magic hex. 55AA at the end of all boot sectors. On Windows NT the smallest supported sector size is 128.

On Windows NT operating systems the format command options /A:128K and /A:256K correspond to the maximal cluster size hex. 80 (128) with a sector size 1024 and 2048, respectively. For the common sector size 512 /A:64K yields 128 sectors per cluster.

FAT licensing

Microsoft applied for, and was granted, a series of patents for key parts of the FAT file system in the mid-1990s. Being almost universally compatible and well-understood, FAT is frequently chosen as an interchange format for flash media used in digital cameras and PDAs.

On December 3, 2003 Microsoft announced[36] it would be offering licenses for use of its FAT specification and "associated intellectual property", at the cost of a US$0.25 royalty per unit sold, with a $250,000 maximum royalty per license agreement.[37]

To this end, Microsoft cited four patents on the FAT file system as the basis of its intellectual property claims. All four pertain to long-filename extensions to FAT first seen in Windows 95:

  • U.S. Patent 5,745,902 - Method and system for accessing a file using file names having different file name formats. Filed July 6, 1992. This covered a means of generating and associating a short, 8.3 filename with long one (for example, "Microsoft.txt" with "MICROS~1.TXT") and a means of enumerating conflicting short filenames (for example, "MICROS~2.TXT" and "MICROS~3.TXT"). It is unclear whether this patent would cover an implementation of FAT without explicit long filename capabilities. Hard links in Unix file systems do not appear to be prior art: deleting a FAT file via its long name will also remove its short name. Renaming a file to a "short" name also updates the long file name for coherency; similarly, renaming a file to a "long" name will allocate a new "short" name. In NTFS, hard links and dual names are separate concepts and each hard link has two names. Finally, at the API level, both names are always provided together when a directory lookup is requested from the system; they do not appear as two separate files and do not have to be "matched" to determine unique files.
  • U.S. Patent 5,579,517 - Common name space for long and short filenames. Filed for on 1995-04-24. This covers the method of chaining together multiple consecutive 8.3 named directory entries to hold long filenames, with some of the entries specially marked to prevent their confusing older, long filename-unaware FAT implementations.
  • U.S. Patent 5,758,352 - Common name space for long and short filenames. Filed on 1996-09-05. This is very similar to 5,579,517.
    • The Public Patent Foundation successfully challenged this patent (USPTO); The USPTO rejected this patent on 2005-10-05, on the grounds that "the six assignees names were incorrect".[40][41] This decision was also later overturned by the Patent Office on 2006-01-10.
  • U.S. Patent 6,286,013 - Method and system for providing a common name space for long and short file names in an operating system. Filed on 1997-01-28. This makes claims on the methods used when Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me expose long filenames to their MS-DOS compatibility layer. It does not appear to affect any non-Microsoft FAT implementations.

Many technical commentators[who?] have concluded that these patents only cover FAT implementations that include support for long filenames, and that removable solid-state media and consumer devices only using short names would be unaffected.

Additionally, in the EFI FAT32 specification[9] Microsoft specifically grants a number of rights, which many readers have interpreted as permitting operating system vendors to implement FAT.

Microsoft is not the only company to have applied for patents for parts of the FAT file system. Other patents affecting FAT include:

  • U.S. Patent 5,367,671 - System for accessing extended object attribute (EA) data through file name or EA handle linkages in path tables. Filed on 1990-09-25 by Barry A. Feigenbaum and Felix Miro of IBM, this makes claims on the methods used by OS/2, Windows NT, and Linux for storing extended attribute data in the "EA DATA. SF" file.


As there was widespread call for these patents to be re-examined, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) submitted evidence to the US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) disputing the validity of these patents, including prior art references from Xerox and IBM. The USPTO acknowledged that the evidence raised "substantial new question[s] of patentability," and opened an investigation into the validity of Microsoft's FAT patents.[42]

On 2004-09-30 the USPTO rejected all claims of U.S. Patent 5,579,517, based primarily on evidence provided by PUBPAT. Dan Ravicher, the foundation's executive director, said, "The Patent Office has simply confirmed what we already knew for some time now, Microsoft's FAT patent is bogus."

According to the PUBPAT press release, "Microsoft still has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection. Typically, third-party requests for re-examination, like the one filed by PUBPAT, are successful in having the subject patent either narrowed or completely revoked roughly 70% of the time."

On 2005-10-05 the Patent Office announced that, following the re-examination process, it had again rejected all claims of patent 5,579,517, and it additionally found U.S. Patent 5,758,352 invalid on the grounds that the patent had incorrect assignees.

Finally, on 2006-01-10 the Patent Office ruled that features of Microsoft's implementation of the FAT system were "novel and non-obvious", reversing both earlier non-final decisions.[43]

Patent infringement lawsuits

In February 2009, Microsoft filed a patent infringement lawsuit against TomTom alleging that the device maker's products infringe on patents related to FAT32 filesystem. As some TomTom products are based on Linux, this marked the first time that Microsoft tried to enforce its patents against the Linux platform.[44] The lawsuit was settled out of court the following month with an agreement that Microsoft be given access to four of TomTom's patents, that TomTom will drop support for the FAT32 filesystem from its products, and that in return Microsoft not seek legal action against TomTom for the five year duration of the settlement agreement.[45]

In October 2010, Microsoft filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola alleging several patents (including two of the FAT32 filesystem patents) were not licensed for use in the Android operating system.[46] They also submitted a complaint to the ITC.[47]


Developers of open source software have designed methods intended to circumvent Microsoft's patents.[48]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "File Systems". Microsoft TechNet. 2001. Retrieved 2011-07-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tim Paterson (1983). "An Inside Look at MS-DOS". Byte. Retrieved 2011-07-18. "The numbering starts with 2; the first two numbers, 0 and 1, are reserved." 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Volume and File Structure of Disk Cartridges for Information Interchange". Standard ECMA-107 (2nd ed.). ECMA. 1995. Retrieved 2011-07-30. 
  4. ^ "Volume and file structure of disk cartridges for information interchange". ISO/IEC 9293:1994. ISO catalogue. 1994. Retrieved 2011-07-30. 
  5. ^ Reynolds, et al. (1998-05-26). "Common name space for long and short filenames". US Patent 5758352. Retrieved 2011-07-30. 
  6. ^ Duncan, Ray, 1988. The MS-DOS Encyclopedia, Microsoft Press. ISBN 1-55615-049-0.
  7. ^ Wallace & Erickson, 1992. Hard Drive, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-56886-4.
  8. ^ Tim Paterson (2007-09-30). "Design of DOS". DosMan Drivel (blog). Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Microsoft Extensible Firmware Initiative FAT 32 File System Specification, FAT: General Overview of On-Disk Format". Microsoft. 2000-12-06. Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  10. ^ a b c d Andries Brouwer. "FAT Under Linux".  Linux source code related to DOS often contains: #define MSDOS_FAT12 4084 (see line 76 of "KernelAPI: msdos_fs.h". )
  11. ^ a b Norton, Peter (1986). Inside the IBM PC, Revised and Enlarged, Brady. ISBN 0-89303-583-1, p. 157.
  12. ^ Brian Jenkinson, Sammes, A. J. (2000). Forensic Computing: A Practitioner's Guide (Practitioner Series). Berlin: Springer. pp. 157. ISBN 1-85233-299-9. "...only 2^12 (that is, 4096) allocation units or clusters can be addressed. In fact, the number is less than this, since 000h and 001h are not used and FF0h to FFFh are reserved or used for other purposes, leaving 002h to FEFh (2 to 4079) as the range of possible clusters." 
  13. ^ Microsoft Knowledge Base article: "MS-DOS Partitioning Summary"
  14. ^ "Dskprobe Overview: Data Recovery". Microsoft TechNet. 2003-03-28. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  15. ^ "Errors Creating Files or Folders in the Root Directory". Microsoft Help and Support. December 16, 2004. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  16. ^ "mkdosfs man page". 
  17. ^ a b "Limitations of FAT32 File System". Microsoft Knowledge Base. 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2011-08-21. "Clusters cannot be 64 kilobytes (KB) or larger" 
  18. ^ "Limitations of the FAT32 File System in Windows XP". Microsoft Knowledge Base. 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  19. ^ Duncan, Ray (1989). "Design goals and implementation of the new High Performance File System". Microsoft Systems Journal.  [Note: This particular text file has a number of 'scan' errors; e.g., "Ray" is the author's correct name; not 'Roy' as text shows.]
  20. ^ Chen, Raymond (2006). Microsoft TechNet: A Brief and Incomplete History of FAT32. TechNet Magazine July 2006.
  21. ^ "Release notes for v2.5.7". The Linux Kernel archives. 2002-03-12. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  22. ^ "fat32format". Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  23. ^ Bob Eager (2000-10-28). "Implementation of extended attributes on the FAT file system". Tavi OS/2 pages. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  24. ^ "FATX Specification". free60 wiki. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  25. ^ "Xbox Partitioning and Filesystem Details". Xbox-Linux project. 
  26. ^ "Differences between Xbox FATX and MS-DOS FAT". Xbox-Linux project. 
  27. ^ Matthias Paul (2002-02-20). "Need DOS 6.22 (Not OEM)". alt.msdos.programmer. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  28. ^ Wally Bass (1994-02-14). "Cluster Size". comp.os.msdos.programmer. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  29. ^ Up to 64 for Windows 95 OSR2+, 98, and ME only.
  30. ^ a b c Microsoft MS-DOS Programmer's Reference : version 5.0. Microsoft press. 1991. ISBN 1-55615-329-5. 
  31. ^ a b Andries Brouwer (2002-09-20). "The FAT filesystem". Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  32. ^ a b "Detailed Explanation of FAT Boot Sector". Microsoft Knowledge Base. 2003-12-06. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  33. ^ "Detailed Explanation of FAT Boot Sector". DEW Associates Corporation. 2002. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  34. ^ a b vinDaci (1998-01-06). "Long Filename Specification". Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  35. ^ "mount(8): mount file system – Linux man page". 
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Intellectual Property Licensing – FAT File System". Microsoft. 
  38. ^ "At PUBPAT's request, patent office rejects Microsoft's FAT patent: Government Relies Heavily on Evidence Submitted by PUBPAT". Public Patent Foundation. 2004-09-30. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  39. ^ Ina Fried (2004-09-30). "Microsoft FAT patent falls flat". CNET News. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  40. ^ Andrew Orlowski (2005-10-05). "Microsoft FAT patent rejected - again". The Register. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  41. ^ "Patent Office rejects two Microsoft FAT patents". 2005-06-10. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  42. ^ Andrew Orlowski (2004-06-14). "Microsoft's war on GPL dealt patent setback". The Register. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  43. ^ Anne Broache (2006-01-10). "Microsoft's file system patent upheld". CNET News. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  44. ^ Paul, Ryan (2009-02-25). "Microsoft suit over FAT patents could open OSS Pandora's Box". Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  45. ^ Fried, Ina (2009-03-30). "Microsoft, TomTom settle patent dispute". Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  46. ^ "Micrsoft Motorola Patent Suit". 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  47. ^ Protalinski, Emil (2010-10-01). "Microsoft sues Motorola, citing Android patent infringement". Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  48. ^ Brown, Eric (2009-07-02). "Can FAT patch avoid Microsoft lawsuits?". DesktopLinux.Com. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • File allocation table — Pour les articles homonymes, voir FAT. FAT, acronyme anglais de file allocation table (table d allocation de fichiers), est un système de fichiers conçu par Bill Gates et Marc McDonald pour le Microsoft Disk BASIC, puis réutilisé dans QDOS dont c …   Wikipédia en Français

  • File Allocation Table — FAT (от англ. File Allocation Table «таблица размещения файлов») архитектура файловой системы, сейчас широко используемая в картах памяти фотоаппаратов и других устройств. Разработана Биллом Гейтсом и Марком МакДональдом в 1977 году[1].… …   Википедия

  • file allocation table — (FAT) area of a disk on which the location of each file is recorded …   English contemporary dictionary

  • File Allocation Table —   [Abk. FAT], Dateizuordnungstabelle …   Universal-Lexikon

  • File Allocation Table — Das File Allocation Table (vom Englischen etwa für „Dateizuordnungstabelle“; Abkürzung FAT, englische Aussprache [fæt]) ist ein von Microsoft entwickeltes Dateisystem. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Hintergrund 2 Aufbau 2.1 Bootsektor …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • File Allocation Table — Pour les articles homonymes, voir FAT. FAT, acronyme anglais de file allocation table (table d allocation de fichiers), est un système de fichiers conçu par Bill Gates et Marc McDonald pour le Microsoft Disk BASIC, puis réutilisé dans QDOS dont c …   Wikipédia en Français

  • file allocation table — noun the part of a floppy disk or hard disk where information is stored about the location of each piece of information on the disk (and about the location of unusable areas of the disk) • Hypernyms: ↑table, ↑tabular array * * * file allocation… …   Useful english dictionary

  • file allocation table — FAT failų išdėstymo sistema statusas T sritis informatika apibrėžtis ↑Failų išdėstymo sistema, visą informaciją apie diske esančius failus laikanti fiksuoto dydžio lentelėje. Yra trys sistemos variantai: FAT12, FAT16, FAT32. Skaičius rodo, kiek… …   Enciklopedinis kompiuterijos žodynas

  • file allocation table —    Abbreviated FAT, pronounced [fat]. A table, maintained by the operating systems, that lists all the blocks of disk space available on a disk.    The FAT includes the location of each block, as well as whether it is in use, available for use,… …   Dictionary of networking

  • file allocation table — noun A table used internally by the operating system to keep track of the structure of a disk and where files are stored on it. Syn: FAT …   Wiktionary

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