Slack Space

The unused space in a disk cluster. The DOS and Windows file systems use fixed-size clusters. Even if the actual data being stored requires less storage than the cluster size, an entire cluster is reserved for the file. The unused space is called the slack space.

DOS and older Windows systems use a 16-bit file allocation table (FAT), which results in very large cluster sizes for large partitions. For example, if the partition size is 2 GB, each cluster will be 32 K. Even if a file requires only 4 K, the entire 32 K will be allocated, resulting in 28 K of slack space. Windows 95 OSR 2 and Windows 98 resolve this problem by using a 32-bit FAT (FAT32) that supports cluster sizes smaller than 1K.

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