FAT was the primary file system used in all of Microsoft's consumer operating systems from MS-DOS through Windows ME. The New Technology File System (NTFS) is the primary file system on Microsoft's newer operating systems but FAT is still a supported option.
The File Allocation Table file system has seen advancements over time primarily due to the need to support larger hard disk drives and larger file sizes.
Below is more information on the versions of the FAT file system:
- FAT12 - The initial version of the FAT file system, FAT12 was introduced in 1977, even before MS-DOS, and was the primary file system for Microsoft operating systems up to MS-DOS 4.0. FAT12 supports drive sizes up to 32MB.
- FAT16 - The second implementation of FAT was FAT16, introduced in 1988. FAT16 was the primary file system for MS-DOS 4.0 up to Windows 95. FAT16 supports drive sizes up to 2GB.
- FAT32 - FAT32 is the latest version of the FAT file system. It was introduced in 1996 for Windows 95 OSR2 users and was the primary file system for consumer Windows versions through Windows ME. FAT32 supports drive sizes up to 8TB.