I would say, depends on the SD card capacity. According to the SD Association recommendation, 32GB or lower should format as FAT32, and above 32GB should format as exFAT.
In addition, the application/usage of the memory card is also an important factor you need to consider.
There is feedback from the gaming community, in particular, the use of an SD card inside the Steam Deck; formatting the card with FAT32 is better.
SD Association File Format Recommendation
Basically, the recommended capacity for each type of SD card and its prefer file system format is listed below:
SD -> up to 2GB (recommend formatting as FAT12/16)
SDHC -> above 2GB to 32GB (recommend formatting as FAT32)
SDXC -> above 32GB to 2TB (recommend formatting as exFAT)
SDUC -> above 2TB to 128TB (recommend formatting as exFAT)
The association also strongly encourages you to use their SD Memory Card Formatter to format your SD/microSD card. The latest version stated on its website is version 5.0.2. This formatting tool does not format the protected area on the memory card, which is being used for card security functions.
You will need to unlock the BitLocker before formatting if the card is being locked by the encryption function of the Windows system.
Without the File System in place, all the data stored on the SD Card become one large body of data. It will be difficult to know where the information begins and stops.
The pricing of SD cards has been decreasing in recent years and more people are buying larger capacities. The majority of the memory cards on the market are SDXC type. You are likely to purchase an SD Card formatted at the factory with an exFAT file format.
The Origin of exFAT
The full name for exFAT is Extensible File Allocation Table and it was introduced by Microsoft in 2006. This file system was proprietary until 28th August 2019 when Microsoft opened up its specification.
Microsoft developed exFAT as a successor to the File Allocation Table (FAT) file system family. Its focus was eliminating the limitations in the FAT32 file system, especially the support for larger files than 4GB, and improving the storage efficiency for files smaller than 64KB.
If you want to know whether your SD Card is exFAT or not? Right-Click on the drive which contains your memory card, and select Properties. Under the General Tab, you can check your File System.
exFAT Vs FAT32 Vs NTFS
Each file system has its own strengths and weaknesses. In order to fully optimize your SD card performance, decide whether you are using a Windows or Mac Computer, and what kind of applications and files you will be using.
We have summarized the key criteria each file system has over the others. Have a read so you can make a better decision.
- was introduced in 2006 with Windows XP
- it is the newest among the 3 file systems
- exFAT was designed especially for use in flash memory products like USB storage devices and SD cards.
- has a very large file size limit of 16 exabytes (EB), it is huge and most files today will not exceed this limit.
- you can recover data from your memory card better than FAT32
- only PlayStation 4 and 5 support exFAT, PlayStation 3 does not. Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 does not support exFAT too, except Xbox Series X, S, and One support it.
FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32):
- was introduced when Windows 95 appear
- It was introduced in 1977 by Microsoft
- the maximum file size is 4GB
- maximum partition size is 8TB
- work fine with all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, etc
- less secure than the NTFS system
- with the introduction of 4K movies, the file size limit is an issue
NTFS (New Technology for File System):
- It is the default file system used by Windows on non-removable drives
- widely used after Windows XP and was introduced in 1993
- NTFS uses Access Control Lists (ACL) and encryption to manage the security of those files on the memory card
- macOS has limited support for NTFS. It can only read and display the content, but not modify the files.
- Sony’s PlayStation console does not support NTFS, even Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 too.
If you want to further understand the differences between all these File Systems, watch the below YouTube:
What are the disadvantages of exFAT?
Although exFAT is the newest file system among all the three File Systems we mentioned in this article, it has its shortcomings.
Here are the 3 main weaknesses of exFAT:
- not so compatible with other devices/systems as FAT32
- no journaling function thus security is an issue (journaling refers to recording down any changes to the files on the memory card in a log before performing).
- because exFAT has a 64KB block size, if you store a lot of small files you will waste a lot of space, almost 12%.
If you want to change your file system from exFAT to FAT32, we have the following suggestion for you:
(Remember to backup your files before formatting)
1) using Windows built-in Disk Management Tool
Step 1: Open the Windows Start menu, type Disk Management in the search box, and hit Enter.
Step 2: With the Disk Management menu open, right-click the drive that contains the SD card.
Step 3: Select Format and a new menu will open.
Step 4: At the File System section, select the FAT32 option and hit Enter. Your SD card will be reformatted to the new file system.
2) using Windows Command Prompt
Step 1: Open the Windows Start menu, and select Command Prompt from the list of options.
Step 2: With the Command Prompt screen appearing, type “diskpart” and hit Enter.
Step 3: A new screen will appear with the DiskPart version number, type “list disk” and hit Enter.
Step 4: The screen will list out all the disk numbers.
Step 5: Identify the disk number with your SD card inside, for example, if your SD card is in Disk 1, type “select disk 1” and hit Enter.
Step 6: The screen will tell you “Disk 1 is now the selected disk”. Type “list partition” and hit Enter.
Step 7: The screen will show the partition number of your selected SD drive (usually is partition 1). Type “select partition 1” and hit Enter.
Step 8: The message “Partition 1 is now the selected partition” will appear on the screen. Input the command “format fs=fat32 quick” and hit Enter. The formatting process will start.
Step 9: Once the formatting has been completed, “100 percent completed” will appear. You may exit from the command prompt now by typing “exit” and hitting Enter.
If you have another SD card, you may consider transferring data from one SD card to another SD card. Thereafter, you can reformat the existing SD card to another file system, without worrying about loss of data.
Formatting using SD Memory Card Formatter
WARNING: Formatting will erase all the data on the SD card. Please back up all your data before doing it.
SD Association has created its own Card Formatter so that members of the public can use the right and proper tool to format their memory cards. It aims to optimize the SD card operating condition.
You can download SD Memory Card Formatter by clicking the link here. There are 2 versions: One for Windows PC Users and the other for Mac Users. Choose one according to your needs.
Here is a YouTube Video showing you how to use this formatting tool:
SD Memory Card Formatter is an always up-to-date tool developed by the global’s leading SD card manufacturers. It is a tool that you can trust.
The default file format for SD cards with a capacity of more than 32GB to 2TB is exFAT. This is the best file format you can use as it provides more security functions than FAT32 and has a higher file size limit than 4GB.
With exFAT, exchanging data and files between Windows PC and MacBook is also possible.
More 4K video files are being created each day, the use of exFAT will eliminate the file size limit you will encounter if you use the FAT32 file system.
Q) Why I cannot copy the movie on my PC to the SD card?
A) Because your SD card is formatted with FAT32. To solve the issue, reformat your memory card to exFAT. FAT32 has a maximum size limit of 4GB, if your movie is more than 4GB long, it will not work.
Q) Why I cannot change or write on the file I copied from my MacBook to the SD card?
A) Most likely your SD card is formatted in NTFS format. NTFS can be read by MacOS, but not written to it. Therefore, if you have Windows PC and MacBook at home/office, format your SD card with exFAT format instead of NTFS format. With that, you can copy and write data on your memory card.
Q) Why there is an error message “File is too large for destination file system” when I try to copy my file from the computer to the SD card?
A) Because your SD card is formatted in FAT32 format. This format cannot store a single file larger than 4GB. Most likely the file you try to copy from your computer is larger than this limit.