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What Is FAT32 File Size Limit & Workaround to FAT32 4GB Limit

You may get used to saving media files to the FAT32 file system, chances are you are likely to receive an error message "The file is too large for the destination file system". This is pretty embarrassing because of the FAT32 file size limit. If you are still unknown of the max file size in FAT32, stay on the page, where you will learn what's the maximum file size for FAT32, and how to break the FAT32 file size limit.

Part 1. What Is FAT32 Drive Size Limit?

What's FAT32?

FAT32 is a file system that uses the 32-bit binary number record management to store and retrieve data on devices like HDD, SSD, USB flash drive, SD cards, and so on. As the most popular version of the FAT file system created in 1977 by Microsoft, FAT32 is now widely used on PC, Mac, smartphones, tablets, action cams, drones, game consoles, and so on.

Compared with exFAT and NTFS, FAT32 has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are the relationships among FAT32, exFAT, and NFTS, in terms of compatibility and file size limit.

  • OS Compatibility: FAT32 > exFAT > NTFS
  • Maximum file size: NTFS > exFAT > FAT32

FAT32 edges over NTFS and exFAT when it comes to compatibility and stability. The former works with almost all operating systems including Windows 98, XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, 10,macOS and Linux. However, FAT32 is gradually losing popularity due to the size limit. So what maximum size for the FAT32 file system?

What's the max size for FAT32?

4GB maximum file size: For FAT32, the maximum file size of a single file is 4GB. Specifically, you may run into trouble with an error such as "The file is too large for the destination file system", when you try to transfer files larger than 4GB to a FAT32 formatted drive. Or your video clips will be split into multiple segments within 4GB each when you try to shoot some footage with an SD card in FAT32 format.

FAt32 File Size limit

Besides, FAT32 has a 2TB maximum volume size. Typically, you cannot format a drive as a single FAT32 partition if it is larger than 2TB.

Part 2. How to Work around the FAT 32 Max File Size Limit?

There are two cases the FAT32 4GB limit brings. In the following section, you will be led to specific solutions to break the FAT32 file size limit.

Case 1: How to transfer files larger than 4GB to FAT32 drive such as USB.

To avoid the "the file is too large" error and fix FAT32 4GB limit effortlessly, you can follow the 3 suggestions.

Option 1: Format your file system in exFAT or NTFS.

There are two relatively new file system formats – exFAT and NTFS. The former is more suitable for flash memory, meant to fill the gap of FAT32, and is recognized by all versions of Windows and modern versions of macOS. The latter has a maximum file size of 16TB. Especially, there is no realistic file size or partition size limit, and NTFS works with all versions of windows, but it is read-only with Mac and some Linux distributions by default. So if you are a PC user, feel free to convert FAT32 to NTFS, a feasible Fat32 max file size workdaround. If you are a Mac user, you can choose to format your drive in exFAT to break the FAT32 file size limit.

Option 2: Split the file into small segments.

NTFS and exFAT have worse compatibility with OS than FAT32. If formatting the file system isn't the optimal workaround to Fat32 file size limit, you can choose to split the large file into multiple clips each within 4GB to bypass the FAT32 file size limit.

You can rely on some tools such as 7-zip, WinRAR to do the task. Here we take 7-zip as an example. Right-click the large file > move the mouse over 7-zip > click "Add to archive …" > change "Archive format" as zip and Split to volumes, bytes: as 1000M or smaller > click OK and then move the split files to the FAT32 drive. Note: If you want to transfer some videos larger than 4GB to your USB drive or another storage device with FAT32 format, you can rely on video editing software to split the video into clips smaller than 4GB beforehand.

Option 3: Compress the file to a smaller one.

If you want to transfer files larger than 4gb to fat32 without formatting, you can consider compressing the file larger than 4GB to a smaller one, depending on the exact file type. For example, if it is a movie file, you can feel free to compress the video file with WinX Video Converter. It will reduce the video size to 80% smaller without losing quality visually.

Case 2: Why my recordings split into multiple segments?

If you are a videographer, chances are your GoPro, Sony, Canon, DJI or any other cameras split your recording into multiple clips. This is because your microSD card or SD card is formatted in FAT32. And your video files are divided into pieces within 4GB in size. The workaround to fix the FAT32 file size limit error is to re-format your SD card in another file system format. Or else, you can choose to combine the clips into one using video editing software.

You can follow the solution to merge the separated video files brought by the FAT32 size limit.

Part 3. FAQ about FAT32

1. How can I tell if my hard disk or storage device is formatted as FAT32 or others?

To check what file system your hard disk or storage device is using, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Connect your storage device to a Windows computer.
  2. Open Windows Explorer (My Computer).
  3. Right-click on the storage device > choose "Properties" from the pop-up menu.
  4. See if the "File System:" is FAT32.

2. Why Are FAT32 Drives Limited to 4GB Files?

Since FAT32 is 32-bit, the maximum possible value (all 1's) for that 32-bit field is 2^32, which counts to 4 Gigabytes. Hence FAT32 can support a maximum file size of 4GB.


author - Kaley Torres

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Kaley Torres is a self-motivated, creative editor with eight years of marketing and SEO experience, specializing in writing on DVD, video, audio, images, new digital contents etc. With a partiality DVD collection, Kaley also enjoys digitizing DVD and is keen to share her DVD video conversion solutions as well as video sharing tips on social media.

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