How to Format a Large Hard Drive With FAT or FAT32

How to Format a Large Hard Drive With FAT or FAT32

Windows do not make it easy for the user to format any partition with a size larger than 32GB using the FAT32 file system.

However, FAT32 actually supports up to 16TB of hard drive size, and most operating systems allow up to 2TB of storage. Restricting Windows to 32GB is an artificial limit you can ignore.

We will show you how to format a large hard drive with the FAT / FAT32 file system or create a partition larger than 32 GB using any of these file systems.

How to Format a Large Hard Drive With FAT or FAT32

FAQ about FAT32

The File Distribution Table (FAT) file system is a relic of the XNUMX years. It may be older than most operating systems that exist today, but it’s still useful.

Comparison of FAT, FAT32, and exFAT: What’s the difference?

The main difference between FAT, FAT32, and exFAT is related to the file size and limits that each file system supports. Check The difference between formats with FAT, FAT32, NTFS, REFS, exFAT.

FAT, the original version of the file system designed for floppy disks, can keep an 8-bit record of the data sets stored on a disk. With FAT32, the size has increased to 32 bits. exFAT is the 64-bit version of the FAT file system. With each increase, the maximum size and file sizes supported by the file system also increase.

The maximum file size supported by FAT32 is just under 4 GB. If you need a compatible file system that supports large files, exFAT is the way to go. In fact, with exFAT, the file size limit is just under 16EB (Exbibyte) or 1,845e 7TB. Basically, the exFAT file size is unlimited.

Why would anyone want to use FAT32?

Many users still rely on FAT32 because it is a widely known file system. When you need to transfer files between different operating systems or between your camera or Android phone and your Windows PC, you will probably need a FAT32 format drive.

Why has Microsoft limited the size of a FAT partition?

Microsoft has set a 32GB partition size limit for the FAT / FAT32 file system to promote the reliability of NTFS, which is generally more efficient when working with large partitions. This limitation is only present in recent versions of Windows. Also, Windows recognizes large hard drives formatted with FAT / FAT32.

Configuration tools for FAT or FAT32

If you don’t want to mess with the command line for manual configuration, you can use tools that apply the same principle but provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for your convenience.

FAT32 format

FAT32 format It is a mobile app that provides a single-task GUI and requires no installation. Its only job is to format drives with FAT32, and it does that very well.

FAT32 format works with Windows XP up to Windows 10 and supports up to 2TB of the partition size. You can choose the allocation unit size and give the partition a new volume label. Unfortunately, it is not possible to create new partitions.

EASEUS Partition Master

EASEUS Partition Master is an excellent alternative to the Windows built-in disk management tool. Which allows you to manage your partitions and format them with FAT32. Just don’t let yourself be tempted to buy the paid version before trying the free version, which is usually enough for most users.

Right-click on the disk you want to format and select Coordinate. In the Format Partition window, add a label, select the desired file system, choose a block size, and press OK. EaseUS Partition Master can queue multiple processes. When you’re done, click the Run button in the upper right corner to get started.


Windows 7 users can also try Fat32Formatter. It is a self-running application with a convenient graphical user interface that allows you to format large hard drives using FAT32. Which directs tips for the user to become familiar with its functions through the balloon. No other documents are available. Although we could have run this app on Windows 10, it just crashed or crashed.

This app is almost too simplistic. Although you can delete a partition and create new ones, you cannot choose the allocation unit size.

If you want to manage your partitions, ie create new partitions or resize them, I recommend you to use a dedicated app. First, create a partition you want to format with FAT32. So if your partition manager cannot do this, use one of the tools above to implement the FAT32 format.

How to Manually Format a Drive with FAT or FAT32

Attention: Several readers have commented that this method failed with a “Too big for FAT32” error after several hours. To avoid frustration, use a third-party tool or try the quick format option below.

Still, want to try the manual method? Instead of using the standard Windows formatting tool, switch to the command line.

In Windows 10, right-click the Start button to open the powerful user menu and select Windows PowerShell (Admin) or Command Prompt (Admin). Then type the following command in the window, while “X” is the drive letter of the external device you want to format:

format /FS:FAT32 X:

Click Enter to run the command.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to wait hours, encounter an error with the above command, or generally want to avoid third-party tools, you can also try the quick launch command:

format /FS:FAT32 /Q X:

You should note that a quick format will only delete the file table. It will not erase or overwrite files currently recorded on the drive. But if you want to completely delete the contents of your hard drive, we show you how to do that.

Format with FAT for a large hard drive

FAT and FAT32 remain popular file systems because they work across multiple platforms. If you are moving drives between multiple operating systems, you will need a format that is widely supported.

Depending on the underlying platforms you’re using, however, you should also consider exFAT because it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and later versions of macOS and there’s virtually no limit to individual file sizes.