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The File Allocation Table (FAT) - filesystem originally created for use with MS-DOS (and later pre-NT Microsoft Windows). Currently a later revision of FAT (FAT32) is used for USB flash disks.[1] It has made its way over to Linux systems and has official support in the Linux kernel.

As of August 26th, 2019 Microsoft has published the exFAT filesystem specification[2] which means support for exFAT can be worked into the mainline Linux kernel. Kernel 5.4 includes initial staging code[3] for exFAT support.



File systems  --->
   DOS/FAT/NT Filesystems  --->
      < > MSDOS fs support
      <*> VFAT (Windows-95) fs support
      (437) Default codepage for FAT
      (iso8859-1) Default iocharset for FAT
      [ ]   Enable FAT UTF-8 option by default
   -*- Native language support  --->
      (iso8859-1) Default NLS Option
      <*>   Codepage 437 (United States, Canada)
      <*>   NLS ISO 8859-1  (Latin 1; Western European Languages)
      -*-   NLS UTF-8

When planning on mounting FAT partitions, users may need to specify a codepage= option with mount. In the example above the codepage for the United States and Canada is used, however other codepages can be enabled a necessary. Optionally, users can also set a default codepage for FAT in the kernel configuration. Be sure each codepage value which is to be used has been enabled in the kernel.

Using the codepage option via the mount will override the settings used in the kernel.

Avoid setting Default iocharset for fat to UTF-8; it is not recommended. Instead, pass the utf8=true option when mounting FAT partitions (this requires CONFIG_NLS_UTF8 to be enabled in the kernel). For further information see mount man page or see the appropriate kernel documentation at /usr/src/linux/Documentation/filesystems/vfat.rst


The sys-fs/dosfstools package is needed for FAT userspace utilities:

root #emerge --ask sys-fs/dosfstools


It should be possible to mount FAT filesystems with the mount command. Resizing could be done using sys-fs/fatresize.


Slow file transfer speeds

If file transfer speeds are slow (can be viewed using iotop), ensure the filesystem is mounted with the async filesystem option. Edit /etc/fstab (or /etc/autofs/auto.misc when using autofs) system files as needed, likely removing the sync mount option. By default, filesystems are mounted using the async mount option.

The filesystem sync mount option inhibits slower transfer speeds than the default async mount option. The sync mount option may cause flash media life-cycle shortening also! See man mount option sync explanation.

If file transfer speeds are still slow, try remounting the filesystem with the flush mount option:

root #mount -o remount,flush /path/to/mountpoint

Alternative operating system compatible filesystems

Try UDF filesystem using UDFTools, requiring sys-fs/udftools and Linux kernel UDF filesystem driver. Recently code was added to mkudffs for a fix for creating a mock partition increasing compatibility with Microsoft related operating systems. If using an older Linux kernel, ensure block size is set to 512 for increased compatibility. Most options are now default for compatibility, except for the required --bootarea=mbr creating the mock partition.

root #mkudffs --bootarea=mbr --label=your_label /dev/device_file

Try Samsung's F2FS filesystem.

UTF-8/UTF-16 character hardware bugs

Sometimes hardware firmware bugs will occur on embedded devices (eg. car radios) when reading their required formatted FAT/FAT32 filesystems containing UTF-8 characters. A workaround is to ensure initially mounting the FAT filesystem using (current default) mount options codepage=437,iocharset=iso8859-1,shortname=mixed,errors=remount-ro.

For short filenames, codepage=437 is IBM-PC characters or basically ASCII. For long filenames, iocharset=iso8859-1 specifies ASCII. The option shortname=mixed is default, and can also try shortname=win95 option. Of which, are all current defaults. Additionally to further remedy UTF-8/UTF-16 incompatible characters, use a loop with sed to replace all incompatible UTF-8/UTF-16 characters with an underscore or other ASCII character. (See this replace_chars.sh script.)

For reference, this bug was encountered with a Sony car radio. The MEX-GS610BT radio model would hard reset upon attempting to read a USB flash media/drive containing UTF-8/UTF-16 characters.

As mentioned previously, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/filesystems/vfat.txt, the Linux Kernel vfat source code documentation, for further explanation on whether to use codepage, iocharset, or utf8 mount options.

Unsorted files and folders

When writing files to the FAT/FAT32 filesystem, devices used for reading the filesystem may show the files and folders as unsorted. Commonly, viewer prefer seeing files and folders sorted alphabetically. Install sys-fs/fatsort, and issue the following command:

root #fatsort /dev/device_file

See also

  • ExFAT — a Microsoft file system optimized for flash memory storage
  • ext4 — an open source disk filesystem and most recent version of the extended series of filesystems.
  • btrfs — a copy-on-write (CoW) filesystem for Linux aimed at implementing advanced features while focusing on fault tolerance, self-healing properties, and easy administration.
  • removable media — any media that is easily removed from a system.
  • /etc/fstab — a configuration file that defines how and where the main filesystems are to be mounted, especially at boot time.

External resources