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Windows 7: Windows 7 unable to read external drive formatted FAT32

10 Nov 2009   #1

Windows 7
Windows 7 unable to read external drive formatted FAT32

I have an external drive that was formatted FAT32 which I have been using with my XP laptop for the past year. I have data on it that I want to transfer to my Windows 7 laptop. However, as soon as I connect it to my Windows 7 laptop, it comes up with a message saying "You need to format the disk before you can use it. Do you want to format it?" I assumed that Windows 7 was unable to read the drive because it was FAT32, so I connected it back to my XP laptop and ran the conversion: CONVERT E: /FS:NTFS - The conversion completed successfully and I connected the drive back to my Windows 7 laptop. But it still came up with the same message that the drive needs to be formatted. Does anyone know what the problem could be?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Dec 2010   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

What I would do, is format the drive using Windows 7 then copy the files with your XP then copy them over to your 7. Windows 7 uses NTFS system while XP can use both so if the drive is formatted with 7 then XP can backwards convert it. Windows 7 kinda sucks when it comes to accessing drives. I don't know why they did that but oh well.....
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Dec 2010   #3

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

Theres no issue with win7 reading fat32 usb drives. The "Do you want to format it?" is a well-known nag that mostly happens because the drive is flagged dirty for some reason, maybe because it was yanked off instead of being ejected properly.

You're lucky, XP can read the data. Just copy the data over to the hard drive, then format the drive in win7- fat32 would be perfectly fine. After that copy the data over to the win7 computer.

USB drives can be optimized either for quick removal or for performance. If you're the yanking out types, set it for quick removal.

How to Optimize Your Flash Drive for Quick and Safe Removal |
My System SpecsSystem Spec

08 Dec 2010   #4
Night Hawk

W7 Ultimate x64/W10 Pro x64 dual boot main build-remote pc W10 Pro x64 Insider Preview/W7 Pro x64

I doubt the OP will reply since this thread is over a year old. As far as having 7 recognise the Fat 32 volume on any external drive when first plugged in you would take a fast trip into the Disk Management tool and use the Add New Volume wizard which will likely be seen first when going to right click on the drive to use the change drive letter option.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Dec 2010   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

So... If WIn 7 has no problem with FAT then how come it can't read either of my two FAT Hard drives? The Problem is not that Windows just recognized a "Dirty Drive" it recognizes them fine but you can't access them. If you look in device manager, yes they show up but you cant access them in any way. They Don't show up on MY computer and since they have no assigned drive letter you can't manually tyoe in an address. Microsoft just dropped the ball the last few years making everything only posible their way and no other way will work.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Dec 2010   #6
Night Hawk

W7 Ultimate x64/W10 Pro x64 dual boot main build-remote pc W10 Pro x64 Insider Preview/W7 Pro x64

First you have to go into the Disk Management tool whenever adding on any new drive or device like a flash in order to initialize the drive or device there. 7 will read and write to Fat 32 volumes since MS returned Fat support with the new version due to flash drives along with the use of external drives.

External hard drives boxed as Windows/Mac compatible will come with a factory Fat 32 volume or the new exFat in order to be cross platform. Drives intended for Windows only the way they are packaged will see NTFS being native to 2000 through W7. Flash drives come with Fat by default to available for use on most OSs.

Once in the DM and you right click on the drive or device seen there you will likely see the Add New Volume prompt appear like the image attached here. That will take you through the steps of selecting the mbr or guid type partition info as well as selecting the drive letter available to be assigned.

Once that is seen to the auto play prompt flashing may be seen as the drive is then listed in Windows Explorer with that same drive letter. If the volume has been corrupted somehow then a reformat would be necessary while a good partition table will see immediate access.

For a flash drive or memory card you would find that under removable storage while an external hard drive will be mixed in along with the internal drives. The other image shows a look at a usb flash drive with Fat 32 as the file system viewing the iso for a Linux distro written to it. Note the properites screen in particular showing on the 64bit 7 Ultimate here.

Attached Thumbnails
Windows 7 unable to read external drive formatted FAT32-fat32-available-64bit-windows-7.jpg  
Attached Images
Windows 7 unable to read external drive formatted FAT32-add-new-volume-wizard-prompt.jpg 
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 Aug 2012   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Win7 will read FAT32. - Yipper.

Solutions are simple. Go methodical. Eliminate one by one.
Try these:

1. Plug into the USB port at the back of the computer. Why? Some drives like the 'direct' connection than some circutous route to get to reading the drive.

2. Change the USB cable. Try another one if you have it. You may laugh. It worked for me. As simple as that. Sometimes solutions are simple and they are staring at you and we tend to miss it. LOL

3. Go to Devices and Printers (control panel). See if your drive shows up there. Right click, open. You now can read files.

4. Start ->Mycomputer->Rightclick-> Manage ->System->diskmanage. See if your drive shows up without a letter. Assign a letter and it will work.

So there you have it. One of the 4 solutions will work. Trust me, WIN7 will read FAT32. No question about that. MS built it to be backward compatible.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Windows 7 unable to read external drive formatted FAT32

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