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Windows 7: USB hd and FAT32 format

13 Mar 2011   #1

Win7 x64
USB hd and FAT32 format

I connected a new Intenso 2,5" Memorystation 320 GB USB drive and struggled somewhat to get W7 Pro 64-bit to recognize it. Eventually it did and I copied about 20 GB of folders as back up.

All fine but every now and then, while copying, I see a pop-up "Are you sure you want to copy this file without its properties?" If I hit Yes the copying proceeds. I can unplug and replug and all data still available. Rather than ignoring I scratched around and found that the drive is FAT32 and not NTFS. This seems to be normal with USB drives?

How should I treat this, should I convert or reformat and recopy or use as is because it is normal?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Mar 2011   #2

Windows 7 x64 pro/ Windows 7 x86 Pro/ XP SP3 x86

It depends on what OS's you're going to be using the drive with. If its just modern flavours of windows (win7, vista, xp), you can convert to ntfs because all these can read ntfs. Use this tut.

Convert FAT or FAT32 Volume to NTFS

But if you're going cross-platform to macs and linux, FAT32 provides greater compatibility. FAT32 is simpler- no security, no issues. FAT32 also has a 4gb size limit. Also see this thread.

NTFS or FAT32 with External Hard Drive?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Mar 2011   #3
Orbital Shark



You'll find that some removable storage is being shipped in FAT32 format to give it full usability on all hardware, mainly PS3 which only reads FAT32 external storage. I recently bought a 1TB Hitachi Simple Drive for backup purposes only to find (which was a plus point) that it was FAT32 ready which meant that I could plug it straight into my PS3 with no extra tinkering

You have to be carefull with drives formatted like this, however, as the max file size for any FAT32 partition/drive is 4GB, any more than that and it will display a message that the file is too large for the destination.

Some interesting info

Note the following limitations when you use the FAT32 file system with Windows XP:
  • Clusters cannot be 64 kilobytes (KB) or larger. If clusters are 64 KB or larger, some programs (such as Setup programs) may incorrectly calculate disk space.
  • A FAT32 volume must contain a minimum of 65,527 clusters. You cannot increase the cluster size on a volume that uses the FAT32 file system so that it contains fewer than 65,527 clusters.
  • The maximum disk size is approximately 8 terabytes when you take into account the following variables: The maximum possible number of clusters on a FAT32 volume is 268,435,445, and there is a maximum of 32 KB per cluster, along with the space required for the file allocation table (FAT).
  • You cannot decrease the cluster size on a FAT32 volume so that the size of the FAT is larger than 16 megabytes (MB) minus 64 KB.
  • You cannot format a volume larger than 32 gigabytes (GB) in size using the FAT32 file system during the Windows XP installation process. Windows XP can mount and support FAT32 volumes larger than 32 GB (subject to the other limits), but you cannot create a FAT32 volume larger than 32 GB by using the Format tool during Setup. If you need to format a volume that is larger than 32 GB, use the NTFS file system to format it. Another option is to start from a Microsoft Windows 98 or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me) Startup disk and use the Format tool included on the disk.

    For additional information about how to use a Microsoft Windows 98 or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me) Startup disk to format a hard disk, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base: 255867 (How to Use the Fdisk Tool and the Format Tool to Partition or Repartition a Hard Disk ) How to Use Fdisk and Format to Partition/Repartition a Hard Disk
    NOTE: When you attempt to format a FAT32 partition that is larger than 32 GB during the Windows XP installation process, the format operation fails near the end of the process, and you may receive the following error message: Logical Disk Manager: Volume size too big.

  • MS-DOS, the original version of Microsoft Windows 95, and Microsoft Windows NT 4.0-and-earlier do not recognize FAT32 partitions, and are unable to start from a FAT32 volume.
  • You cannot create a file larger than (2^32)-1 bytes (this is one byte less than 4 GB) on a FAT32 partition.

You can however, as explained by Bill, convert FAT32 partitions into NTFS.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Mar 2011   #4

Win7 x64

Thanks folk, all the info I needed. I'm running W7 only and therefore I decided to attempt the convert to NTFS option.
I do have Partition Wizard v5.2 and the USB drive is shown. When I select the option to convert from FAT32 > NTFS nothing happens, doesn't matter how long I wait.

Then I tried the command option (my USB drive is L) convert L: /fs:ntfs and the response is "CONVERT is not available for RAW drives".

Now things slowly moving out of my league, may I ask for new suggestions
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Mar 2011   #5
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

I would save the data and reformat. That will be the easiest.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 USB hd and FAT32 format

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