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What Is FAT32 Partition Size Limit and How to Break It?

  • Contents:


    Basic Information about FAT32 Limitations


    FAT (File Allocation Table) file system is created in 1977 by Microsoft, and FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32) is the most common version of FAT. FAT32 has been widely used all through the DOS years, and can even be used in Mac OS X. But now it is losing popularity due to FAT32 partition size limit.

    Why?

    To answer this question, we have to mention another file system, which is called NTFS.

    NTFS (New Technology File System) is a newer file system. First introduced in 1993, NTFS was not that popular on personal computers until the release of Windows XP in 2001. Then in Windows 7 and 8, NTFS was set as default file system on new PCs because it is superior to FAT32 in many aspects - more secure, robust, and supports larger file sizes and drives.

    Compared with NTFS, FAT32 has following limits:

    • FAT32 maximum file size - 4GB. If you have a video larger than 4GB in size, you just couldn’t save it on FAT32 file system; Error "The File Is Too Large for the Destination File System", "The Parameter Is Incorrect", or "Flash Drive Says Not Enough Free Space but There Is Plenty" can occur frequently. A true example is shown here:

    • Question:
      I recently purchased a 64GB USB 3.0 flash drive, plugged it into my computer, and started copying some files onto it I wanted to transfer to another computer. The little files (MP3s, documents, etc.) all transferred fine but I have some DVD ISO files on there and when it came time to copy them I got the error "The file 'DVDBACKUP1' is too large for the destination file system." and the transfer fails.
      What exactly does that error mean? Why can’t I put a 4.5GB file on a 64GB drive? Help!
      --from howtogeek.com


    • FAT32 max partition size - 2TB. If you have a 3TB drive, you couldn’t format it as a single FAT32 partition. Please note that you need the help of third-party partition manager to create such a huge partition. If you turn to Windows Disk Management, the largest partition size it helps to create is 32GB, and Extend Volume option is greyed out happens when the partition already occupies 32GB capacity, no matter there is unallocated space following it or not.

    • FAT32 is not a journaling file system, which means that file system corruption can happen much more easily. With NTFS, changes are logged to a “journal” on the drive before they’re actually made. If the computer suffers power failure during file writing process, the system won’t need a long scandisk operation to recover.

    • FAT32 doesn’t support file permissions. With NTFS, file permissions allow for higher security. System files can be set as read-only so that typical programs cannot modify them, and some users can be prevented from looking at personal files, and so on.

    Knowing FAT32 limitations, how to break these limits? Among the many answers, converting FAT32 file system to NTFS catches the point. Next, we will go through how to convert FAT32 file system to NTFS.

    The Way to Overcome FAT32 Size Limit


    Generally speaking, there are 4 ways to break the 4GB file barrier and 2TB partition barrier of FAT32 file system. Among them, only 2 ways are safe to convert FAT32 to NTFS without bringing any influence on your data. One is to use MiniTool Partition Wizard, the other is to use Command Prompt.

    Here we list MiniTool Partition Wizard as the first choice because it is not only able to convert FAT32 partition to NTFS without brining any data loss, but also is capable of converting NTFS to FAT32 safely. What's more, it breaks the limit of Disk Management, and can create/format/extend a FAT32 partition to the largest extent - 2TB.

    Now that we know what MiniTool Partition Wizard is, let's see it in practice:

    Way 1. Perfect FAT32 Converter - MiniTool Partition Wizard


    Here, the FREE partitioning software - MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition is strongly recommended due to its reliability and high efficiency. Besides, it is compatible with Windows personal computers, including those using Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, both 32 bit and 64 bit.



    Guide on FAT32 to NTFS conversion by using MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition (example based on Windows 10):

    Step 1. Launch this program to get its main interface, you can see the detailed information of your disks in disk map and all available operations in action panel:

    main interface

    Step 2. Select the FAT32 partition you are going to convert and choose "Convert FAT to NTFS" from the action panel or pop-up menu to get the file system conversion window.

    convert fat ntfs

    Step 3. Click "Start" button to start converting file system. When it shows "Conversion complete", hit "Close" to exit. At this time, file system conversion is finished without data loss. You can open that partition to have a check.

    converting

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    More Reasons for You to Choose MiniTool Partition Wizard:

    As we have said, we list MiniTool Partition Wizard to the first place not only because it can convert FAT32 partition to NTFS without data loss, but also because it can make up for the deficiency of Disk Management when creating/formatting/extending FAT32 partitions. Next, we will show you how powerful MiniTool Partition Wizard is to manage FAT32 partitions.

    1. Disk Management cannot create a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB but MiniTool does.

    In disk map, click the unallocated space to choose "Create Partition". Then in the pop-up window choose FAT32 as the desired file system. Also you can customize the partition size/partition type/partition label/drive letter/cluster size before you click "OK". You can see in the picture that even an 80GB FAT32 partition is allowed to be created. Finally hit "Apply" to confirm the creation.

    create fat32

    Tip:
    Although Disk Management cannot create such a large FAT32 partition, Windows is able to read and write it without any trouble. So you don't need to worry whether it works normally in Windows.


    2. Disk Management cannot format a partition larger than 32GB to FAT32 but MiniTool does.

    In Disk Management, formatting a partition to NTFS is easy, but formatting a partition to FAT32 is more difficult, for it can only format small partitions (no larger than 32GB) with FAT32 file system.

    Here we use a 100GB NTFS partition to show the story. Click the 100GB drive and choose "Format Partition" feature. Then select FAT32 as the target file system. Finally press "Apply".

    format fat32

    3. Disk Management cannot extend a FAT32 partition to surpass 32GB limit but MiniTool does.

    If you want to break FAT32 limitations due to its small partition size in Disk Management, you can also use MiniTool Partition Wizard to extend this partition with free space on the same disk.

    Click on the FAT32 partition you want to expand, and choose "Extend Partition" from the action pane. Then in the Extend Partition window, choose a location to distribute some free space. Finally hit the "Apply" button.

    extend fat32

    Note:
    "Extend Partition" is helpful only when there is free space on the same disk. If not, you can choose "Copy Partition" to make it larger on another hard drive, provided that the second drive can offer more disk space. This way is also very useful for FAT32 partition backup.


    Right click the FAT32 partition and choose "Copy" to enter Copy Partition Wizard.

    copy fat32

    Select where you want to create the copy. Here I select the unallocated space of disk 3 that is larger than the source FAT32 partition as the destination location. For you it may be different. Then click "Next" to continue.

    copy to

    At this step, drag the small arrow to occupy the whole unallocated space. Now click "Finish".

    edit partition

    You can preview the changes to be made on the disk map. Confirm you want to do it and finally click "Apply".

    apply copy

    See! MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition is really helpful when you deal with all FAT32 related issues. With intuitive guide user-friendly interface, each task can be finished within a few clicks. Now download this freeware to help you.



    Way 2. Command Prompt Helps Us to Break FAT32 Size Limit



    Command Prompt is a very useful application available in most Windows operating systems. It is most commonly used to manage dynamic and basic disks, execute batch files, solve Windows boot issues, etc. Hence, we can use Command Prompt to break FAT32 limitations.

    Here is the solution:

    Step 1. At Start menu, type "cmd" in search box and run it.
    Step 2. In the command shell type "convert [drive letter:] /fs:ntfs" and press Enter. For example, if you want to convert partition E to NTFS partition, you should type "convert E: /fs:ntfs".

    convert cmd

    Note:
    You are likely to see the "Data error (cyclic redundancy check)" message in the end. But please don't worry, for your partition is already converted to NTFS. You can repeat "convert E: /fs:ntfs" to check.


    Nevertheless, this operation is irreversible. Once we convert a partition to NTFS, we cannot convert the partition back to FAT or FAT32 simply by using this command prompt, unless we reformat the drive or partition to FAT or FAT32 in Windows Disk Management utility, which will erase all data on the partition, including programs and personal files.

    Next, we will show you how to reformat FAT32 partition to NTFS to break FAT32 partition size limit.

    Way 3. Reformat FAT32 Partition to NTFS


    Many users know they can reformat a FAT32 partition to NTFS by using Windows built-in Disk Management Utility, but this will result in data loss. Thus, before you format a FAT32 partition to NTFS, data backup is necessary.

    There are two simple ways to back up data in FAT32 partition. You can copy and paste files from the FAT32 partition to another location, or copy the entire FAT32 partition to another location using "Copy" feature we just mentioned in the former part.

    After that, let's start with formatting FAT32 to NTFS.

    1. FAT32 Formatter - Windows Explorer

    Step 1. Now that the backup is finished, we can right click the FAT32 partition in Windows Explorer and choose "Format" to continue.

    format windows explorer

    Step 2. Then the format window appears, with many options for you to choose. Here please choose NTFS as the target file system so as to break FAT32 partition size limit, and hit "Start" button. A warning message appears, saying "formatting will erase ALL data on this disk. To format the disk, click OK. To quit, click CANCEL". Here we need to continue "OK".

    confirm formatting

    2. FAT32 Formatter - Disk Management

    Step 1. We can turn to Disk Management to do this formatting as well. First of all, run "diskmgmt.msc" to open this utility. Then right click the FAT32 partition and choose "Format" from the selection box.

    disk management format

    Step 2. Then the format box will come out. There you should confirm that NTFS is selected as the target file system. By hitting "OK", you will see a similar 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?" Since we have already made a backup in advance, click "OK" to confirm.

    confirm

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    Do It Yourself


    After reading this post, I guess you must have had a general understanding on FAT32 partition size limit, and the ways to break these limits. In a word, converting FAT32 to NTFS without data loss by using MiniTool Partition Wizard or converting through Command Prompt is the best choice.

    We all have heard the saying that "practice makes perfect". Now it's your turn to break FAT32 limitations by using either Windows built-in Command Prompt or free MiniTool Partition Wizard. Why not get rid of FAT32 size limit right now to enjoy Blu-ray movies and big games as you wish? We believe you will make a wise choice. For any questions towards using MiniTool, leave us comments below.