So you have a 128GB USB flash drive with a FAT32 file system and you want to use it as a backup storage device. However, whenever you try to copy a huge movie file to it, a message pops up telling you that the file is too large for the current destination file system.
Do you think it’s a problem with the file system of your USB drive, or do you simply need to reformat your drive from FAT32 to exFAT?
NTFS vs. ExFAT vs. FAT32
Generally, we can assume that the FAT32 file system formatted drive does not support large files. In most cases, if you want to store, copy, or move a file with a size of more than 4GB to a FAT32 file system, you have to convert the file system first to NTFS or exFAT format. Both formats are capable of supporting larger file sizes.
Below are some distinguishable properties of the three common file systems:
- FAT32 – It is the oldest of all three file systems available to Windows. It was first introduced in the Windows 95 operating system with a goal to replace the FAT16 file system. Because it’s old, its biggest advantage is it supports almost all devices, be it gaming consoles or modern computers. Its primary disadvantage, however, has something to do with its age as well. If you’re working with FAT32, your individual file sizes should not exceed 4GB.
- NTFS – This a modern Windows file system. As soon as you install a recent Windows operating system, you need not worry about compatibility because your system drive is automatically formatted to this system. This file system is ideal for internal drives because it does not have any file size or partition size limitations.
- exFAT – Introduced in 2006, the exFAT file system was widely used in older Windows versions like Windows XP and Vista. Although it does not quite match the compatibility of a FAT32 file system, it is more compatible with NTFS And since this system has been optimized for flash drives, it is widely used in businesses and organizations that heavily involve file transfers in their daily processes.
Overall, if you need to store a file that has a size beyond 4GB, exFAT and NTFS are the best file systems to work with. But as previously mentioned above, NTFS is a Windows file system, while exFAT can support both Mac and Windows. That said, if you want to conveniently transfer large files from a USB device to any computer (whether Windows or Mac), better convert or export your current FAT32 file system to exFAT.
Exporting FAT32 to exFAT
There are three ways to export a FAT32 file system to exFAT. It is fairly easy to convert it, especially if you are using an external drive like a USB flash drive. But before you learn how to convert a FAT32 file system to exFAT, make sure you take note of these important things:
- Formatting your drive will cause all your data to be lost. Make it a habit to back up all your files before you start the operation.
- For Mac users, take note that if your current Mac OS version is older than 10.6.5, the exFAT file system won’t be suitable for you.
- Before you plug your USB drive to your Mac, scan your computer with Mac repair app. It’s a great way to get rid of junk files on your Mac.
- Be sure to plug your USB drive to a working computer and that it can be detected by your operating system.
Now here are three ways to convert a FAT32 file system to exFAT.
Method #1: Use the File Explorer.
You can effortlessly format a USB flash drive from FAT32 to exFAT by using Windows File Explorer. Follow the instructions below:
- Open File Explorer by double-clicking on This PC.
- Check if your USB flash drive is in the list of drives. If you see it, right-click it and select Format. If you don’t, use Disk Management, a built-in tool in Windows devices that allows you to manage your external drive.
- Scroll down and select exFAT from the list.
- Click the Start button.
Method #2: Format your drive via CMD.
If you are confident in using the command prompt, use it to format your flash drive or external hard drive. The steps below will serve as your guide:
- Open the command prompt by pressing the Windows + R keys.
- In the command line, enter diskpart.
- Click the OK button to run DiskPart as administrator.
- Enter the commands below in the same order. Make sure you hit Enter after each command:
select disk n
select partition m
- Note that n represents the external drive number and m represents the number of the external drive partition.
- Wait for the formatting process to be done. Once the message “DiskPart successfully formatted the volume” shows, type exit.
- Finally, hit the Enter key to close DiskPart.
Method #3: Use third-party exFAT converters.
You should be able to format your USB flash drive or external drive to exFAT by using DiskPart utility or Windows File Explorer. However, there are instances when these tools are unable to properly format your drives to exFAT because of write-protection reasons.
If that is the case, feel free to use third-party exFAT converters. Don’t worry because there are lots of free and reliable tools available for you.
Below are the general steps to follow when using third-party exFAT converters:
- Download and install your converter of choice.
- Launch it.
- Right-click your targeted drive and select Format Partition.
- Choose exFAT from the list of options under the File System drop-down menu.
- Click the Apply button to start converting the drive.
Using a USB flash drive or an external drive between Windows and Mac computers can be a headache because you have to constantly reformat your drive to make it compatible with the computer you are using it on. But instead of reformatting your drive every now and then, maybe you can just convert it to an exFAT file system so you will never have to format it again. Makes sense?
Let us know your thoughts. Do you have any interesting experience to share about the NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32 file systems? Comment it down below; we’d be glad to hear from you.