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Raspberry Pi SD card format

What is Raspberry Pi SD card format? How to reformat SD card for Raspberry Pi? In this post, we show you a brief introduction to the best Raspberry Pi as well as introduce the best SD formatter for Raspberry Pi.

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Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It can be connected to a computer monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.

Originally, Raspberry Pi was designed aiming to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. Today Raspberry Pi has achieved great success. In July 2017, sales reached nearly 15 million, making it the 3rd best-selling "general purpose computer".

Raspberry Pi SD card

But one thing you need to pay attention to is that Raspberry Pi is a bare computer and you have to install Raspbian (the official supported Operating System) on an SD card to boot it (see picture above).

How to install Raspbian on SD card Windows? View the official installation guide if you are interested, or you can use the easy installer NOOBS to help you simply install.

However, some users find their Raspberry Pi won't boot from the installed SD card, which makes them confused. Actually, the problem is caused by the unsuitable file system. Next, in this article, we show you what you are looking for.

Raspberry Pi: exFAT or FAT32?

Although we know SD card is the essential media to running Raspberry Pi, some users are still at a loss and wondering "What format do I need my SD card to be for Raspberry Pi?" See what we extract from raspberrypi.org/forums:

Q: Will exFAT work or FAT32? I just got a 64GB Micro SD card and I'm just wondering if I should format as exFAT or FAT32, Also if they both work – What's better?
A: exFAT won't work, as the boot code simply expects an FAT32 partition, so yes FAT32 is "better".

As we know, FAT32 is the most commonly used file system for flash drives. However, it brings the 4GB file size limit that is we cannot save individual files larger than 4GB to FAT32 partitions. To address this issue, exFAT is introduced. According to the standards for SD capacity, SD cards larger than 32GB employ SDXC standard and are formatted to exFAT.

The problem is that FAT32 has better compatibility, compared with exFAT. And most devices including Raspberry Pi do not recognize hard drives formatted to exFAT. The Raspberry Pi's bootloader, built into the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and non-updateable, only has support for reading from FAT file systems (both FAT16 and FAT32 included) and is unable to boot from an exFAT file system.

On this occasion, users have to format the SD card for Raspberry Pi. Next, we show you how to format SD card FAT32.

You might also be interested in 3DS SD Card Format | How to Format SD Card for 3DS.

How to Format SD Card for Raspberry Pi

In fact, no matter your SD card is larger than 32GB or not, as long as you intend to use it on Raspberry Pi, you should format it to FAT by following the guide below. Note that formatting will definitely lead to data loss. So if you are using a used SD card, you might need to back up SD card if files in it mean a lot to you.

*If your SD capacity is larger than 32GB, download MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.

If the SD card you are using has a capacity larger than 32GB, you will need a third-party partition manager to do the formatting, because Windows installed on MBR disk only allows formatting such capacity to exFAT and NTFS.

To get FAT32 file system for 64GB/128GB SD card, here the best SD card formatter – MiniTool Partition Wizard is recommended not only because it is easy to use but also because it offers multiple file systems. Above all, SD cards between 32GB to 2TB can be successfully formatted to FAT32 file system, breaking the limit in Windows. Press the button below and get the free SD formatter Raspberry Pi.

Free Download

After installing MiniTool Partition Wizard to your PC, connect SD card to your PC and launch Partition Wizard to the main interface. Then follow the simple tutorial below which guide you through Raspberry Pi SD card format FAT32:

Step 1. Select the SD card partition and choose Format Partition from the action panel. If the SD card does not appear in the disk map area, click General > Refresh Disk button or reconnect the SD card.

Step 2. In the pop-up window, drop down the File System selection box and choose FAT32 as the desired one. Then click OK to go back to the main interface.

Step 3. In the toolbar, click Apply to start the Raspberry Pi SD card format and wait for the process to finish.

format Raspberry Pi SD card to FAT32

*If your SD capacity is smaller than 32GB, you have multiple choices:

1. Use MiniTool Partition Wizard

If your SD card has a small capacity such as 2GB/4GB/8GB/16GB, you can also use MiniTool Partition Wizard Free to help you format the SD card. The steps are the same as the above:

  • Connect SD card to your PC and run MiniTool Partition Wizard Free.
  • Then select the partition on Raspberry Pi SD and choose "Format Partition" from the action panel.
  • Finally, click "Apply" to execute the change.

2. Use Disk Management

Disk Management is the most commonly used tool for Windows users to configure their hard drives. As a built-in partition tool, it is able to format SD card to FAT32 as long as the SD card capacity is no more than 32GB. Here are the simple steps you can refer to for Raspberry Pi SD card format.

Step 1. Connect SD card to your PC first. Then press Win + R keys at the same time to call out the Run box. Now input diskmgmt.msc in the input box and press OK to load the Disk Management console.

run Disk Management

Step 2. In the new pop-out Disk Management window, find the SD card by viewing the disk partition information in the disk map area. Then right-click the SD partition and choose Format from the shortcut menu.

choose Format

Step 3. In the next small window, pull down the file system list and choose FAT32 as the target file system. Then click OK to continue.

choose FAT32 as the target file system

Step 4. You will see a warning message which reads "Formatting this volume will erase all data on it. Back up any data you want to keep before formatting. Do you want to continue?" At this time, you can press the OK button to reformat SD card.

formatting will lead to data loss

If the Raspberry Pi SD card format failed, you may read our previous guide to find solutions: How Can You Fix "The Format Did Not Complete Successfully"?

3. Use Command Prompt

Command Prompt is a command line interpreter application available in most Windows operating systems. It is frequently used to execute entered commands so as to automate tasks via scripts and batch files, perform advanced administrative functions, and troubleshoot certain kinds of Windows issues.

Many users think it hard to run commands. In fact, to format Raspberry Pi SD card to FAT32, you just need to input several simple commands lines.

Step 1. Connect Raspberry Pi SD card to your PC and press Win + X keys to load the Power User Task Menu. Then select Command Prompt (Admin) from it. When you see User Account Control request, click YES.

run Command Prompt

Step 2. In the Command Prompt window, type the following commands one by one and each one should be finished with the Enter key:

  • Diskpart
  • List disk (this will list all disks including removable disks connected to your PC)
  • Select disk n (n needs to be replaced with the correct number of the SD card)
  • List par (this will list all partitions on the SD card you select and usually there are only one partition on an SD card)
  • Select par n (n needs to be replaced with the correct number of the partition on the SD card)
  • Format fs=fat32 quick (this will quickly format the SD card to FAT32 file system)

View the picture below to get a more intuitive instruction:

format Raspberry Pi SD card in CMD

When you see diskpart has successfully formatted the SD card, continue with the final commands:

  • Exit (leaving diskpart)
  • Exit (leaving Command Prompt)

That's all for how to perform Raspberry Pi SD card format.

"I find the easiest way to reformat SD card for Raspberry Pi – using MiniTool Partition Wizard. This SD formatter Raspberry Pi helps me to format SD card with a large capacity to FAT32. Easy to use and works perfectly. Recommended!"Click to tweet

Create FAT32 Partition on SD Card for Raspberry Pi

In addition to Raspberry Pi SD card format FAT32, there is another way to make FAT32 partitions, and that is to create a FAT32 partition on SD card directly. Here we also recommend using MiniTool Partition Wizard Free, which is capable of creating FAT32 partitions on all kinds of SD cards regardless of the SD capacity.

Free Download

Step 1. (If there is no partition on the SD card, move to Step 2.) Connect SD card to your PC and run MiniTool Partition Wizard to get the main interface. Then select the partition on the SD card and choose Delete Partition feature from the action panel. Finally, press Apply on the toolbar and confirm the deletion.

delete partition on SD card

Repeat this step if there are multiple partitions on the SD card until the whole SD card become unallocated. (Note that data backup is significant before Step 1 if you have important files saved on the SD card.)

Step 2. Now select the unallocated space on the SD card and choose Create Partition from the action panel.

create FAT32 partition on Raspberry Pi SD card

Step 3. In the pop-up window, drop down the File System box and choose FAT32 as the desired file system. (You can also customize other properties like partition label, partition type, drive letter, partition size, etc.) Then click OK to exit this small window. Finally, on the main interface of MiniTool Partition Wizard, click Apply to bring the creation into effect.

SD card formatter FAT32

See by using MiniTool Partition Wizard, creating a FAT32 partition on SD card for Raspberry Pi is so easy. Reading here, you might be wondering: how about using Windows Disk Management utility? Similar to formatting, Disk Management can create FAT32 partitions only when the SD card capacity is no more than 32GB.

But with MiniTool Partition Wizard, you can create a FAT32 partition on 64GB, 128GB, and even larger SD cards. Which tool do you prefer? You already have the answer.

Free Download

"Hey! This SD card formatter MiniTool Partition Wizard also helps create a FAT32 partition on 64GB SD card. Amazing! Don't you want to have a try?"Click to tweet

You might also be interested in the subject “Raspberry Pi SD card format Mac”. You can refer to How to set up and use a Raspberry Pi 3 with a Mac to get the details.

The Bottom Line

Here comes the end of Raspberry Pi format SD card Raspbian. Now we guess you know what Raspberry Pi is, the suitable file system for your SD card to be running on Raspberry Pi, and how to format SD card for Raspberry Pi as well as how to create a FAT32 partition.

If you have any questions during the formatting, you can leave us comments in the lower comment section. Or you can send an email to [email protected]. We read every thread.

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