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Sort Files Alphabetically On A USB Stick Or MP3 Player

Most USB storage devices use the FAT file system.  This includes pen drives, and MP3 players.  There's nothing wrong with FAT, and it's ideally suited to removable devices because, unlike NTFS, there's no cacheing of data happening behind the scenes.  So there's less chance of losing information if you unplug your device at the wrong time.

But the FAT file system doesn't sort files in alphabetical order.  So, unless you access the device via a system that does, the order in which the files are displayed becomes ever more random as you continually copy files to it, delete them, or rename them.

The problem doesn't show up in Windows, because the OS sorts filenames before it displays the contents of the device.  But try a directory listing from a command prompt, and it's a different story.  As is using the device in an MP3 player and expecting the tracks to play in order.

If this is a problem for you, the solution is to simply find a utility that can sort the contents of the drive for you.  And one great such utility is called FAT Sorter.  It's free, it runs on Windows XP and above, and you can get it from  It's only a 0.4 MB download, but you'll also need .NT 3.5 if you don't already have it.



My thanks to site user Keith for this recommendation.  Apparently his daughter is using it to sort out her MP3 files and is very impressed!



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by runkl (not verified) on 20. November 2012 - 7:16  (102602)

Hey, thanks for your comments.
My LG LAC 5800R car stereo also doesn't play files sorted.
I use Xubuntu so fatsort is very useful!!
Kind regards,

by Mick Lehr (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 4:32  (101428)

It's amazing that the USB Players don't care about ID3 tags in sorting songs.

by alexo on 29. January 2012 - 15:56  (87988)

Is there a utility that allows reordering of files and folders in FAT/FAT32 instead of just sorting alphabetically?

by Jim117 (not verified) on 5. November 2011 - 17:27  (82775)

Surprisingly, some cars with USB functionality don't sort the folder either, such as my 2010 Nissan. Windows users can use the above. For Linux users like me, "fatsort" is easily installed and does the job nicely. You have to re-sort after adding tracks, or new tracks will appear at the end.

by Eiskratzer (not verified) on 18. June 2011 - 22:27  (73973)

I'm using DriveSort. Better GUI, more options, no .net needed, portable (no installation) and just rewrites the FAT instead of copying all files in order.

If the FAT is sorted, adding files won't be a problem (if you add them in order). If you delete and add files, it might be necessary to sort the FAT again.
Better MP3 players usually don't have such problems. This is only necessary for (cheap) MP3 players, where the developers didn't add a "sort files" routine.

by Dave Burnett (not verified) on 3. June 2011 - 11:51  (73156)

Any decent defrag tool that works on a USB will do the sort, but what happens when you add a track.
Far better to use a player that allows a play list that you can update/sort.

by tendnot (not verified) on 29. May 2011 - 13:59  (72903)

This is really interesting. I always wondered why my car's mp3 player wouldn't play the songs alphabetically.

by ChronicChaos on 29. May 2011 - 2:46  (72888)

Sounds like a great proggy. Does anyone know of one that randomizes files, such as MP3 song files?