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Identifying the filesystem format of a USB drive

Many guides for creating a bootable USB, such as those used to run PC recovery software or to update the system BIOS or install Windows require that the USB stick to be used is first formatted as FAT32. This guide will show you how to identify the current filesystem used by your device.

What is a filesystem?

While when you browse the contents of a disk, CD, or USB, you see files and folders, that information must be encoded into a sequence of zeros and ones in order to be stored on a physical disk. There are a number of different formats that can be used, depending on the purpose and platform – for example, Windows PCs use one format while Macs and iPhones use another.

The two primary filesystems in use in the Windows world are FAT32 and NTFS. While NTFS is almost always the filesystem uses for local drives (notably the main C:\ drive for the Windows installation), USB disks and external hard drives can be formatted in FAT32NTFS, or even exFat.

Identifying the filesystem in use

To identify the filesystem used by a drive is fairly straightforward:

  1. Make sure the drive is connected to your PC and shows up under My Computer or This PC:
  2. Right-click on the drive in question, and choose Properties from the resulting menu:
  3. The filesystem is displayed in the dialog that pops up:

Changing to a different filesystem

If you need to switch your drive to a different filesystem, follow the instructions on our guide Changing the USB Filesystem.

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