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How to get over the 4GB limit on FAT32

How to get over the 4GB limit on FAT32

Private Disk’s manual says that I can create virtual encrypted drives of terabytes in size, but when I try to create one, I am limited to 4 GB, why?

The problem is caused by the fact that the file system of the drive on which you intend to create the encrypted image is FAT32. This file system has a 'natural' limitation for the maximum file size it can handle, which is 4GB. Note that the partition itself can have a greater size, but you will not be able to create files greater than 4GB. Most often this pops up when you play with video editing software (as uncompressed video files are pretty large), or when you try to backup a DVD. Of course, the same applies to encrypted partitions created by Private Disk, since they are “just a file” that resides on your drive.

So, how to exceed the 4GB file size limit?

There is no solution to this problem, because FAT32 imposes this limitation by design. Now that you understand that, here's a workaround that is good enough for practical purposes.

You can solve the problem by converting the partition on which you intend to create the image to NTFS. NTFS is a progressive file-system, which is fault-tolerant and more efficient than FAT32, it also allows you to handle files of a greater size and provides many other improvements. Those other improvements are beyond the scope of this story, however I will make a little sub-story that explains why people are afraid of NTFS.

My observations have shown that the #1 ‘excuse’ is “but if my Windows crashes, and I boot from a floppy, I will not see my partitions and my data cannot be backed up”. That is a reasonable argument, but here’s a counter argument – since I’ve switched to Windows 2000 and then to Windows XP (to which NTFS is native), I have NEVER had the need to boot from a floppy to recover from a disaster, because there were NO disasters.

How to convert a partition to NTFS?

There are several ways to do that, for instance, you can apply third-party utilities that promise to do it without a hassle. But why pay for a program if Windows comes with a nice little tool that does the trick in no time?

Windows' native conversion utility is called convert. It works from the command prompt (don’t let that scare you), here is an example [assuming the drive letter is G:]

convert G: /FS:NTFS

press enter and watch the magic happen. If the drive you try to convert is your system drive, i.e. the disk on which the currently loaded Windows resides, you will be told that you need to restart the computer and let the conversion happen before the system loads. This is a fully automatic process, so there will be no hi-tech questions you won’t be able to handle. Just make sure that you have sufficient free space on the partition, so that there’s room for temporary files that are created during the process; note that Windows will warn you if there is not enough space on the partition.

The conversion procedure is a safe one, I have never seen it fail, but still - extra security measures will never hurt. I advise you to backup your critical data, so that in case something goes wrong during the conversion process - you will not lose any files. Either way, regular backups are a wise thing to do, and if they aren’t a part of your practice, take a look at this guide – the importance of backups: don’t wait until disaster strikes.

The screenshot illustrates the process:
1. press start\run
2. type cmd (then press enter; this will open the command prompt)
3. type convert d: /fs:ntfs (substitute d: with the letter of the partition you wish to convert, then press enter)

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Comment from: Rory [Visitor] Email

Thank you for giving me the confidence to do that. I have just this moment made the conversion. No hitches yet.

Your easy style and self-assurance has won you a subscriber.

Thanks, again!
2008-01-12 @ 15:54
Comment from: Lisa [Visitor]
LisaI followed your instructions to the letter for a FAT32 external HD and it didn't work.
I typed in the command.
First it asked for the Volume's label, which I gave, then it said it was impossible to convert the unit because it's being used by another process (the HD is not being used for anything at the moment). It asked if I wanted to force the "smontaggio" (detachment? closing-down? - sorry my windows is in Italian). I said yes. Then it says it is impossible to unblock the unit, impossible to convert it.

What's up?
2008-12-02 @ 13:43
Comment from: Lisa [Visitor]
now i've repeated the whole process and it worked. Don't know what I was doing wrong the first time, but the "blocking" process worked itself out somehow and even though it said that the "handles would no longer be valid", my files are intact on the HD.

Thanks for your insutructions!
2008-12-02 @ 13:57
Comment from: Ajay [Visitor] Email
anyone can tell me whats the reason behind "the file size improvement in ntfs"?
2009-02-26 @ 20:43
Comment from: You are an Idiot. [Visitor]
You are an Idiot.The Title of the Article is "How to get over the 4GB limit on FAT32" Yet the solution is to not use FAT32 and to USE NTFS instead. How exactly is this getting over the 4gb limit on FAT32? Its like saying how to drive over 200mph in a small everyday city car - 1st sell it, 2step buy a super car - all of a sudden where not really using the small city car of FAT32 are we. Most over leading article title ever - thank you very much.
2009-05-11 @ 13:17
Comment from: Alex [Visitor]
AlexThanks for your comment, it is a bit harsh, nevertheless you are right.

The reason I still consider this a solution is because for most people, computers are just a tool. Are you surprised?

They don't care what file system they have, and they most likely don't know what it is. What they want is to be able to "store that file" because "Windows says I have 80 GB of free space!". For them - this is a solution.

The reason "FAT32" is mentioned in the title is to make it easier to see what causes the error.
2009-06-09 @ 17:26
Comment from: gregory [Visitor]
gregoryIt works! Great, thank you so much :)
2009-08-05 @ 13:22
Comment from: jimmyz [Visitor]
jimmyzI'm surprised!
I came here through google, looking for a solution on "How to override the 4Gs limitation on my FAT32 hd", NOT "How to convert my FAT32 hd to a NTFS one".

Anyway your howto is very nice, for the second case. Thank you, but change the title please.

Keep sharing, bye!
2009-09-22 @ 07:56
Comment from: guest FOR USB FLASH DRIVE ("memorystick") [Visitor]
2009-10-13 @ 22:15
Comment from: guest FOR USB FLASH DRIVE ("memorystick") [Visitor]
guest FOR USB FLASH DRIVE ("memorystick")Oh, and the max 4Gb limit for FAT32 is as much a natural maximum as C is for speed. (C = the speed of light, if you wondered)
2009-10-13 @ 22:19
Comment from: grodergave [Visitor] Email
grodergaveThank you,!
2009-10-25 @ 10:52
Comment from: blankinstein [Visitor]
blankinsteinMisleading title

My problem is that I use a mac at work where I have much faster downloads, but I have a P.C. at home and my Macdrive has expired, converting to NTSF does me no good now.

I thought you had a real 4gb hack
2009-11-09 @ 19:10
Comment from: Caiden57 [Visitor]
Caiden57Thank you soo much! This tip is super useful!
2009-11-20 @ 17:51
Comment from: Idiot [Visitor]
IdiotObviously your title is misleading. NTFS causes lots of problems, and it's a ton more complicated. You could have been saying 'Just buy a portable hard disk which is NTFS' which would solve the problem.
2009-11-21 @ 04:05
Comment from: steve [Visitor]
stevewho cares if the tittle is "misleading" it tells us how to get around the issue i've got x's who are not as picky as u lot are !
2010-02-01 @ 10:34
Comment from: too fat [Visitor]
too fatTitle is indeed very misleading.

Some of us (even us who use computer as tool) are forced to use fat32. For example dvd-players cant read non-fat disks or memory sticks. So PLEASE change the title.
2010-02-28 @ 18:49
Comment from: Smurf [Visitor]
SmurfIs it possible to reverse this process after its been done? for example; is it possible to convert an NTFS hard drive into a FAT32?
2010-03-11 @ 09:02
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexYou can do this with various third-party tools, but there is no standard utility from Microsoft for that.
2010-03-11 @ 10:57
Comment from: Steve [Visitor]

I've got an external USB hard drive with a lot of data on it. Can I convert it without loosing the data?
2010-03-18 @ 00:10
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexHi Steve; the standard tool offered by Microsoft promises to do the conversion without data loss; provided that you have enough free space on that volume.

I strongly advise you to make a backup though. Make sure the power supply is not interrupted during the conversion.
2010-03-18 @ 11:24
Comment from: Anon [Visitor]
AnonPlease be aware that flash drives fail more quickly if running NTFS.

For details, Google: problems ntfs flash drive
2010-05-18 @ 21:49
Comment from: mobile phone [Visitor]
mobile phoneFrom what I saw, the only time I really need FAT32, or FAT drives is when I am trying to switch from PC to MAC. As far as I've seen, iMACs and Apple Computers don't let you write new data in NTFS drives, I've had to partition part of my portable drive to FAT32 to get it to write properly.
2010-06-28 @ 19:19
Comment from: alexander [Visitor]
alexanderhi, well , won`t judge you but the misleading stuff(but u gotta admit it`s really , in fact) because lot of people may need this type of conversion and you told them how they could do that. however, i have a 16 gb flash drive that uses fat32 and i m trying to put in one file that has 7 gb. if i format the flash in ntfs, put the file and bring back the fat32, will i loose the data ?
if so, do you know any method of doing that because the computer that i`m using the flash with must really have fat32 to recognise the device.

thanks in advance and hope you can help me
2010-10-23 @ 22:50
Comment from: Steve Clark [Visitor] Email
Steve ClarkMy operating system is Windows XP Professional. Everytime I try to extract a larger 7.5 GB file I get this message: "Wrie error: only FTFS system supports files larger than 4 GB". I then went to Start..Run then typed CMD and covert f:/fs:NTFS. Now I have changed it to NTFS but I continue to get the same "Write error" What should I do? I don't know if I need to change operating system or can I just increase the 4 GB to 8 GB? HOW?
2010-11-06 @ 07:35
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexAlexander, if you have to transfer the file there and the system _has_ to be FAT32, then the solution is to use a file splitting tool. The easiest way is a multi-volume ZIP, RAR or 7-ZIP archive.

Split the archive into 2GB chunks, transfer them, then assemble them back on the spot. If "the spot" is not an appliance (ex: media player, TV box...), then setting up the archive program there to do the assembly - piece of cake.

If this is not an option, check the specs of the device and see which other file systems it supports; perhaps you can use a file system other than NTFS or FAT; it depends on the circumstances.

You also ask about "put the file and bring back the fat32", I am not sure I understand that. You mean whether it is possible to convert an NTFS volume back to FAT32? As far as I know, there is no Windows tool for that, but you can try various third-party tools a la Partition Magic. Personally, I would just re-format the drive to FAT32 after the procedure was complete. These conversions usually take a lot of time, so formatting is much quicker.

Steve, I think the explanation is that you converted the wrong drive to NTFS. Are you sure it was disk F: which you were targeting?
2010-12-06 @ 19:17
Comment from: jason [Visitor]
jasonok for everyone who is wondering... the file-size limit on FAT32 is (2^32)-1 bytes, or one byte less than a full 4GB.

the partition size can handle up to 2TB of data. do not confuse "file size" with "partition size". The FAT32 structure is needed more for Linux operations eg ubuntu. A file splitter mentioned above would be ideal. however, changing a file from ntfs to FAT32 or vice versa will only work if the file is at least one byte short of 4GB. The limitation is on the coding level.

It should be noted that the FAT16 (earlier File Allocation Table) structure was only capable of 32 sectors of 512mb each. I believe that the limit on this was up to 512 files in the root directory. the amopunt of files in FAT32 in the root directory is in fact not limited. only file size.... hope this helps
2011-02-11 @ 06:16
Comment from: henrik [Visitor]
henrikWill it delete all information on that drive??
2011-05-01 @ 12:50
Comment from: susanne [Visitor]
susanneMy external hard drive is formatted in nfts but still will not let me transfer any more than 4gig of data, it stops and says error once it get to the 4gig,
how can if fix this problem help
2011-06-02 @ 18:13
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexHenrik, this conversion tool is designed to transform the partition without losing data. In other words, your files will stay there.

Susanne, if you are absolutely sure it is NTFS, then tell me what exactly is the error code - perhaps it will shed more light on the subject.

Also, are you sure there is enough free space on the disk?
2011-07-01 @ 14:44
Comment from: Duane Allmark [Visitor] Email
Duane AllmarkYou're solution and title (thinking back to You're an idiots, and others, comments) were perfect for me. Just what I needed to transfer a large file to USB stick. So from me a big thank you.
2011-08-16 @ 11:49
Comment from: Dinesh the networK!NG [Visitor]
Dinesh the networK!NGWorks like charm, TFS
2011-09-11 @ 16:57
Comment from: newzr [Visitor]
newzrThe author tries to answer question 'how to...' but the answer is completely wrong!
If we ask him 'How to get salt out of sea water?' his answer will sound like 'What? Salt in seawater? Forget it! Go to nearest shop and get the bottle of fresh cold water!'
BTW and FYI, NTFS has its drawbacks even when compared to crapy FAT32! But there is handfull of really better file systems, no matter M$ have no support for it - it is M$ problem and stupidity to stay on their lame NTFS...
2011-10-27 @ 01:59
Comment from: Diane [Visitor]
DianeThanks for this string...

I am trying to copy my 5.45GB .pst file to my external HD currently conf'g'd as FAT32, with pre-existing data.

Do you suggest creating a NTFS partition or changing the whole thing to NTFS?

If I change the whole thing how will that effect the existing data?

Will it effect restoring the files?

2011-10-29 @ 22:16
Comment from: Diane [Visitor]
DianeBeautious! Worked on the empty USB, now to figure out what to do with the external HDD - as per above.

2011-10-29 @ 22:29
Comment from: sanjeev [Visitor]
sanjeevthis is not a solution... i came here through google to get a solution for "how to copy more than 4GB data in FAT32 usb" not for how to convert FAT to NTFS.
you can convert any USB to FAT or NTFS by right click on that and select format then select FAT of NTFS in option... no need any command line process.
2011-10-30 @ 03:35
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexDiane, sorry for not replying earlier. As you can see from other people's reports - this thing works reliable.

If I were you, I would copy my PST file (keeping a backup is always a good idea), then I could convert the whole partition to NTFS.

Sanjeev, you're right - you can format a disk to NTFS, which implies that the data are lost. In contrast, this method explains how to convert the disk without losing data.
2011-11-04 @ 14:59
Comment from: Kenneth [Visitor]
KennethWorked like a charm.

About to reformat, get rid of Windows Developer Preview and go back to good old XP SP3 and needed some files backing up to external HDD.

Totally forgot about this and its a good joob you reminded me as i have some Dual-Layer DVD ISO's that needed backing up at around 7.5-8.5 gig each. After doing this, the files transferred perfectly without the annoying "File too large for destination file system" or whatever it is message.

I did get a data error (cyclic redundancy check) but I think that might be becase the hard drive is so old it looks like it was given to me by Fred Flintstone.

Worked like a dream, would reccommend this to anyone.
2011-11-12 @ 23:47
Comment from: anonymous [Visitor]
anonymousJust a note. It is possible to have more a file bigger than 4Gb using a non-standard sector size. The standard sector size is 512 bytes but as far as I know, there is nothing preventing to use other sizes.

2011-12-19 @ 23:05
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexHmmm, I see how that will affect the maximum size of the partition itself, but not the size of a file within the partition.
2011-12-22 @ 11:39
Comment from: Anonymous [Visitor]
AnonymousTo the author, pay no attention to the snarky remarks from the peanut gallery. This was a very nicely written and easy to understand article that described perhaps one of the simplest ways to overcome the 4 GB file size limitation inherent to the FAT32 file system. As other commenters have stated, a thumb drive formatted in NTFS also works well for the same purpose, though the journaling features of NTFS will tend to wear the flash memory out faster.

To the people who offer knee-jerk responses like "you should've just used NTFS in the first place," I happen to be an "advanced" user who prefers FAT32 to NTFS because it outperforms the latter on small volumes in RAID 0 with 32kB clusters and a 64kB stripe, and this holds true even on volumes with thousands of files like my system drive (N.B. I "short stroke" my drives and use partitions instead of "one big C:").

The file size limitation is a non-issue for me because I rarely, if ever, create files larger than 4 GBs. I don't require the "fault tolerance" of NTFS because if one HD in my RAID array fails, my data's toast anyway (due to there being no "redundancy"). I've also never once experienced corruption or loss of data from a power outage, and when the OS misbehaves due to incorrect file size entries, a simple scheduling of CHKDSK from Safe Mode gets things back on track 99.9% of the time.
2011-12-24 @ 22:14
Comment from: Eric [Visitor] Email

You said you can convert any USB drive to NTFS of FAT by right-clicking it. That's not true. I had to find this article because when I try to do what you just said with my drive, I only get the option of FAT32 or exFAT (not NTFS, which I need). Therefore, I need to type this solution into the command prompt in order to convert it.

As for the title, get off of his back everyone. His title is going to reach more of the targeted audience - people like me who are having trouble copying over big files. I needed a way to work around the 4GB limit and he gave it to me. If it was titled "how to convert USB drive from FAT to NTFS" the common end-user might not realize that would fix their 4GB limiting dilemma.
2012-01-23 @ 20:23
Comment from: terra [Visitor]
terrahi all

you can convert from ntfs to fat32, and use the full partition.

you do not need any third party utilities
microsoft own format command works fine.

you cannot convert/format through the GUI.

command as follows...make sure you use an Admin prompt, if you're using Vista or greater.

Format E: /FS:FAT32 /A:16K

Where E: is the volume
/FS: is the file system
/A: is the allocation size

I'm formatting a 320GB drive right now from NTFS to FAT32

Format /? for more info

You can do that, of course. But formatting will erase all your data on the drive.
2012-04-03 @ 17:33
Comment from: MJ [Visitor]
MJThanks sooo much man!! Workin fine so far.
2012-05-08 @ 20:24
Comment from: Paulo [Visitor]
PauloFor the people saying the title is misleading:

He says "So, how to exceed the 4GB file size limit?
There is no solution to this problem"

And that indeed is the case. It is not possible in FAT32, there is no "hack".

FAT32 is just that: File Allocation Table with 32 bits. It means the filesystem can only deal with 32 bit values.
What is that? It's 2^32, so 4294967296 bytes = 4GB.
The filesystem can only "count" up to that value. It's not possible to count more.

Imagine you have a garage in your house. Can you fit a plane in it? No.
2012-06-02 @ 07:21
Comment from: Vincent C [Visitor]
Vincent CHi.

I'd like to say thanks to the author. This is a perfectly written article with a suitable title.
Mind those who complain. There WILL be other articles with different title but with the same solution. A title is just a way to get the message delivered to the right audience.

I'm not looking to overcome the file limit of a FAT32. However, the solution provided in this article does help me solve my problem, to convert FAT32 to NTFS, without messing around in Device Manager to enable the Format to NTFS function in XP.

If you are suggesting author about something, do it nicely. Don't take things for granted.

Thanks Alex for this wonderful "convert" command. I do prefer to do things in command line. I came from DOS era and worked with linux/unix before.
2012-07-10 @ 04:03
Comment from: Dinko [Visitor]
DinkoThanks man I needed this simple solutin
2012-09-28 @ 23:21
Comment from: Rana Naveed [Visitor]
Rana NaveedIt Works......"convert G: /FS:NTFS" thank you mite
2012-10-12 @ 14:23
Comment from: Leighton Cragg [Visitor]
Leighton Craggworked a treat thanx so much 3d movies here i come.
2012-11-08 @ 10:30
Comment from: boubou algeriano [Visitor]
boubou algerianothnx men U the best waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw

*******U aou me one 0_^*******
2012-11-22 @ 13:11
Comment from: sdths [Visitor]
sdthsDelphi fucks this up. when i type, it sais its some kind of Delphi form conversation program. it can not find files on specified drive. how to get rid of thid Delphi bug without unistalling delphi from pc?
2012-12-05 @ 21:55
Comment from: adrian ccfc [Visitor]
adrian ccfcabsolutely fab was trying to send a 4.01gb file to memory stick for ages and kept saying not enough space but it was a full 8gb stick so googled it and came up with this easy simple solution really made up now gr8 work.
2012-12-18 @ 15:58
Comment from: update [Visitor]
updateI had Delphi 7 installed, so it messed up this convert command in cmd.
If you fail at cmd commands, try this:

1) Go to computer management. Right click 'My computer' and select 'manage' or
Control Panel -> Administrative tools -> computer management.

2) Select 'Device manager'

3) In device manager select 'Disk drives', then find your USB flash or momory card.
I used SD + USB adapter so there were two devices named 'generic storage device USB device'. On my setup I just clicked on one of them.

4) Right click 'generic storage device USB device' and select 'Properties'

5) Go to 'Policies' tab and select option 'Optimize for performance'. Then press OK.

6) now you can close computer management window.

7) Open 'My Computer'

8) Right click on your memory card or USB flash. Select 'Format'.

9) In box 'File system' select from drop down menu 'NTFS'.

10) Mark the box 'Quick format'

11) Click 'Start'

12) Congratulations! You did it!
2012-12-20 @ 14:53
Comment from: Clem [Visitor] Email
ClemAnyone knows how to convert back my Thumbdrive NTFS to FAT32?
2012-12-20 @ 15:47
Comment from: will [Visitor]
willand i bet the idiots that complained about the title wasted even more time looking for another solution that does´nt exist, lol
Who´s the idiot now ???
I have half of my 2TB external in fat32 and half in ntfc.. it works, but the ntfc format is much more prone to losing all data if the drive is not ejected properly..
Do things properly and it works fine.
2013-02-01 @ 13:40
Comment from: David [Visitor]
DavidCheers. It was very helpful.
2013-02-19 @ 11:03
Comment from: Salvo Daze [Visitor]
Salvo DazeThanks a lot for the conversion trick. Worked like a charm on my 8GB USB stick which I am using to transfer a 6GB file as we speak :)
2013-03-07 @ 11:18
Comment from: usman [Visitor]
usmanhello i have a smart phone and that also runs at fat32 android v.4,1.2 jelly bean system and accepts only fat32 memory card. now i have a 32 gb mem card and the 3d movies i want to play are grater then the size of 4 gb.so plz tell me what to do? is it even possible to copy larger files then 4 gb into my card..thanks
2013-08-28 @ 17:31
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexUsman, in this case there is no workaround in this case - the phone won't understand other file systems.

You might want to experiment with formatting the card to ext3 or ext4 (these are file systems used on Linux).
2013-08-29 @ 08:07
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexClem, converting back to FAT32 is not possible, the only solution is to format it (thus losing all data).

If you can back it up elsewhere, then formatting the drive again is the way to do it.
2013-08-29 @ 08:09

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