How to Format a USB Flash Drive to FAT16 (Not FAT32 )

Here is the step-by-step instruction to using Command Prompt or Disk Management to format your USB drive to FAT16.

When a device (such as a DVD player or digital decoder, etc.) only supports FAT file systems, users may need to format USB to FAT16. You can format USB drive to FAT16 on Windows in one of two methods for both novice and experienced users. Using Disk Management is feasible for USB flash sticks with small storage capacities between 1GB and 4GB, while using Windows Command Prompt can format a USB larger than 4GB to FAT16.

Why There Is No FAT16 Option on Format Window

Sometimes, when you try to format your USB drive to FAT file system with Disk Management or Windows File Explorer, you may find only FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS are available on the Format window.

cannot format usb to fat16

This is because the capacity of your USB flash drive is more than the max. volume size of FAT/FAT16. Below is a comparison of the different Windows file system on maximal volume and file size.

File System
Max. Volume Size
Max File Size
exFAT 128PB 128 PB (theoretical 16 EB – 1 byte)

If your USB flash drive is 8GB or more, you will need to resize it to 4GB using CMD before formatting it to FAT16 file system.

Related tips:

How to format USB to FAT32

How to format USB to NTFS

How to format USB to exFAT

Note: Formatting a USB will erase all data in it. So, back up your essential data before formatting. However, if you find that you accidentally deleted or lost important files on the USB drive, no panic; Wondershare Recoverit can help you recover them in only three steps.

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Method 1: Format USB Flash Drive to FAT16 Using Disk Management

Applicable: USB drive size < 4GB

Here we assume the USB is FAT32, and we want to convert it to FAT16. This FAT16 format tool is straightforward to use.

Step 1. Connect the USB to the computer.

Step 2. Activate "Computer Management" by selecting "Start > Run," entering "msc" into the dialog box, and then selecting "OK."

open windows disk management

Step 3. Choose "Disk Management" (point A) in Computer Management, then look for your USB. The current format should be FAT32 (point B).

select the usb in computer management

Step 4. Right-click on the USB and click "Format.."

right click on usb drive and choose format

Step 5. Under "File system" in the Format dialog, select "FAT" (FAT in this case means FAT16). The "Perform a quick format" checkbox is another option. It is not covered here how a rapid format differs from a normal format, but rapid formats take a few seconds, whereas a normal format procedure can take longer.

choose fat under file system in usb drive format dialog

Step 6. Click OK. There are other warning dialogs that pop up, and one of them lets you know that formatting a drive would delete all of the data on it. If you are confident that you have chosen the correct disk containing no critical information, then go ahead and format the disk.

Step 7. Your USB should have been formatted after a short time, and Computer Management should list it as "FAT" under the file system (point C).

format usb to fat16 successfully

There you go! Now it is formatted as FAT16. Repeat the process, this time choosing "FAT32" at step 5 if you want to format it as FAT32 once again.

Method 2: Format USB Flash Drive to FAT16 Using CMD

Applicable: USB drive size > 4GB

Fortunately, Diskpart has been accessible on Windows since Windows NT and is still an actively supported component, so we can use it as a FAT16 formatter. But, we must resize the USB drive for it to be formatted using the FAT16 file system since the current flash drive far surpasses its file system limitations.

Step 1. Enter the "Diskpart" at the command prompt, which is in the folder x:\Windows\System32.

Step 2. To find the USB flash drive, type "list disk." For example, it is disk 6 in this instance.

Step 3. Simply type "select disk 6" to choose the USB drive. (Where the number found in step 2 is 6) list-disk

select the usb you want to format to fat16

Step 4. Delete all partitions if the USB drive has already been formatted with a contemporary file system by entering "list part." Type "select part 1" since this disk has only one partition. Then, enter "delete part."

delete the usb drive partition

Step 5. Type "create part primary size=4000" to create a partition with a size of 4 GB.

create a 4gb size partition

Step 6. Enter exit.

Step 7. By entering "format X: /FS:FAT/Q" at your command prompt, where X: is the drive letter of your USB flash drive, you may format the disk to FAT16.

format your usb flash drive to fat1

Video Tutorial - How to Format a USB Drive to FAT 16 or FAT 12


A large number of old devices do not support FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS. They can only understand the FAT16 file format. Therefore, you must first format the USB flash drive into a suitable system. Here, we learned how to format a USB Flash Drive to FAT16 based on its size. You can use our step-by-step guide whether your USB Flash Drive is smaller or bigger than 4GB. Don't forget to back up your data before formatting.

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