July 13, 2024
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Why Can’t I Copy Large Files Over 4GB To My USB Flash Drive?

The capacity of your external flash drive is large: 8GB, 16GB, or more. There is enough free space on the drive. You can copy the smaller files to the external drive just fine. Yet, when you attempt to copy a large file (4GB or larger) to the external drive, Windows gives you an error (such as: There is not enough free space on the drive, or similar.) Does this sound familiar?

If you experience such a problem, most probably it’s caused by the fact that your flash drive is formatted with the FAT32 file system. This type of a file system has a built-in limitation on the size of the files that it may contain. The size of each individual file may not exceed 4GB. Why would anyone design a system that would not allow for the larger files? The FAT32 file system was designed back in the days of Windows 95. Perhaps no one anticipated that we would have such large files in use today. Or, maybe the designers hoped that by the time such large files become common, the use of the FAT32 system would be replaced by the more modern systems.

In any case, how to solve the problem of copying the 4GB files? Easy: you need to replace the FAT32 file system on the drive with the NTFS file system. The latter does not have the 4GB file size limitation, and it also allows for many other functions not supported by FAT32: file security, encryption, compression, etc. One caveat, however: The older versions of Windows (such as Windows 95, 98, or Windows Millennium, remember those?) do not support the NTFS file system. If you plan on using the drive with such old computers, then DO NOT format the drive with NTFS, because you won’t be able to get the old Windows to recognize it. If, however, you only plan on using the drive with the more recent versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and of course Windows 7, such computers should work with the NTFS drives just fine.

How to change the drive from FAT32 to NTFS format?

There are several ways to go. If the drive is empty or contains no important files, the easiest way is to use the Windows Format command to format the drive with the NTFS file system. Specifically:

1. Attach the external flash drive to the computer, wait for Windows to recognize it and assign a new drive letter to it.

2. Open the Computer folder and locate the drive letter assigned to the flash drive you want to format with NTFS.

3. Before continuing, open the drive in a window and make sure it’s empty or does not contain any important files, because after you format a drive all information that was on it will be erased! If there are files on the drive that you want to keep, copy them to the hard drive or some other drive.

4. If you are sure that the external drive contains no important files, go back to the Computer folder, and right click on the icon of the external drive:

5. Select Format from the menu, and then choose the formatting options:

6. Make sure to select NTFS in the File System drop-down list. That’s what determines the kind of a file system that the drive should have. Select the Quick Format option; this speeds up the formatting process considerably.

7. Press Start, and Windows should warn you once again about erasing any existing information on the drive. Again, if you are sure the drive does not contain any irreplaceable documents confirm that you want to proceed with the formatting.

8. If you’ve selected the Quick Format option, the formatting should take no longer than a minute or two.

As a result, you should have the same drive, but now it should have the NTFS file system on it. Now you should be able to copy files larger than 4GB to the drive just fine.

In addition to formatting a drive with the NTFS file system, Windows also offers a way to convert a FAT32 drive to NTFS. The difference is that the conversion process would keep the existing files on the drive. See Windows Help and Support of your computer for the instructions on how to do that conversion.

NetworkMasters, LLC provides IT support services to businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We specialize in small and midsize companies. Our IT services include network installation, new office setup and relocation, data backup and recovery, network support, remote access, hardware and software upgrades, spam/virus protection, server and network monitoring, telephony and cabling. We also offer customized managed services solutions. You can reach us at 201.353.7998 or email me directly at haroldn_networkmasters.biz

By Harold Nussbaum

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