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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary (also found in English - English (Wordnet), )
File Allocation Table
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file system (FAT) The component of an MS-DOS or Windows95 file system which describes the files, directories,
and free space on a hard disk or floppy disk.
A disk is divided into partitions. Under the FAT filesystem each partition is divided into clusters, each of
which can be one or more sectors, depending on the size of
the partition. Each cluster is either allocated to a file or
directory or it is free (unused). A directory lists the name,
size, modification time and starting cluster of each file or
subdirectory it contains.
At the start of the partition is a table (the FAT) with one
entry for each cluster. Each entry gives the number of the
next cluster in the same file or a special value for "not
allocated" or a special value for "this is the last cluster in
the chain". The first few clusters after the FAT contain the
The FAT file system was originally created for the CP/M[?]
operating system where files were catalogued using 8-bit
addressing. MS DOS's FAT allows only 8.3 filenames.
With the introduction of MS-DOS 4 an incompatible 16-bit FAT
(FAT16) with 32-kilobyte clusters was introduced that
allowed partitions of up to 2 gigabytes.
Microsoft later created FAT32 to support partitions larger
than two gigabytes and pathnames greater that 256
characters. It also allows more efficient use of disk space
since clusters are four kilobytes rather than 32 kilobytes.
FAT32 was first available in OEM Service Release 2 of
Windows 95 in 1996. It is not fully backward compatible
with the 16-bit and 8-bit FATs.