Windows XP/2000 FAT32 Formatting Limit

    "While the FAT32 file system can support drives up to a standard theoretical size of 2 terabytes, (it 'can' be jury-rigged under Windows Millennium Edition to support partitions of up to 8 TB), Windows 2000 Professional and XP Professional cannot FORMAT a volume larger than 32 GB in size using their native FAT32 file system.

    "The FastFAT driver can mount and support volumes larger than 32 GB that use the FAT32 file system, such as those created locally by Windows 98 or ME in dual boot configuration, (subject to other limits listed here for Windows 98, ME and 2000 and here for Windows XP), but you cannot CREATE one using the Format tool from within either Windows 2000 Professional or XP Professional. If you attempt to format a FAT32 partition larger than 32 GB, the format fails near the end of the process with the following error message:
Logical Disk Manager: Volume size too big."

MC MCSE: Windows XP Professional File Systems Overview


The simple solution to creating and formatting a larger FAT32 partition is to use Ranish Partition Manager to do so. (I use and recommend version 2.43)

Hints: When I used the above program to create a single FAT32 data partition on a larger hard drive, it was necessary to toggle the Boot Flag on then off. This forced the MBR list to recognize the newly created (and formatted) FAT32 partition. Then the F2 key could be used to save the changes to the hard drive, before exiting the program. And as that data drive did not need a bootable partition, I ignored the "No active partition" warning on exit.

Windows XP Resource Kit > ch 13 > FAT32 File System

    This "cannot Format more than 32GB" behavior is by design, as Microsoft recommends using the NTFS file system for partitions greater than 32GB. One reason for this is: as a FAT32 partition goes beyond 32GB, the cluster size that is used jumps from 16K to 32K, thus "wasting" far more drive space when small files are stored. (See the FAT16 page for more about Cluster Size and Wasted Space.)

FAT32 file system cluster sizes
Partition Size  Cluster Size
less than 260MB  512 Bytes
260MB through 8GB  4KB
8GB through 16GB  8KB
16GB through 32GB  16KB
32GB through 2TB  32KB

    However, as Windows 2000 or Windows XP fully supports using a FAT32 partition over 32GB, and only does not permit formatting a FAT drive over 32GB, it is possible to use a Windows 98 or Windows Me boot diskette to get a larger FAT partition formatted. Just be extremely careful that the correct partition is formatted when booting from a diskette.


Windows 98/Me Boot Disk Tips:

The boot diskette will not assign a drive letter to things like an NTFS partition. Fdisk can be used to display which letter was assigned to which drive partition. However, both the updated Windows 98 Fdisk and the Windows Me Fdisk may only show the most significant 5 digits of any drive or partition size.


Related Information:

[Webpage Copy or 'Mirror']Windows 98 FDISK bug
When the original Windows 98 fdisk is used to partition a hard drive larger than 64GB, fdisk does not report the correct size of the hard drive. The updated Windows 98 fdisk is not designed for 48-bit logical block addressing (LBA), so it does not support ATA drives larger than 128GB (137 billion Bytes).
Using both the updated 98 Fdisk and the Windows Me Fdisk to partition a 120GB drive, the Fdisk program displayed the drive capacity in MB (Mega-Bytes) and only used a 5 digit drive size. So only the most significant 5 digits of the drive size were displayed, and I could not enter a partition size larger than 99999MB. However, selecting to use the entire available capacity, or expressing the partition size as a percentage of that capacity, both continued to work as expected.
[WWW Link]Format Displays Over 64GB Partition Size Incorrectly    [New Window]
"When you use to format a partition or logical drive that is larger than 64 gigabytes in size, does not report the correct size of the drive being formatted at the beginning of the format process. However, as the formatting process progresses, the entire drive is formatted, and the correct formatted size is displayed when the operation is finished."
Note: Since the Windows 98 Fdisk was not designed to support 48-bit LBA, I also would not attempt to use the Windows 98 Format command on any partition that goes beyond the first 128GB of a (larger) hard drive.
[WWW Link]Fdisk.exe 512GB limit    [New Window]
[WWW Link]FAT 32 Formatter    [New Window]
A third party program for formatting larger FAT32 drives or partitions.
Back UP To: Specific Drive Capacity Limits
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Page Content Updated: 21 June 2006

"The maximum file size on a FAT32 formatted partition is 4 GB or 4,294,967,296 bytes minus 2 bytes ..."

 Experts Exchange: FAT32 file size limit