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Format Large Disks to FAT32 on Windows XP and Vista

When you try to format a drive that is larger than 32 GiB, Windows XP and Vista will force you to use the NTFS format, even though it can read and write FAT32 drives of any size. The FAT32 option will not show up under "File system" in the "Format Local Drive" dialog as shown in the screen shot below.

According to Microsoft, many tasks on a very large FAT32 file system become slow and inefficient.

Unknown to almost everyone, the command-line FORMAT.EXE utility, installed with every copy of Windows operating system, will be more than happy to help you format your drive to FAT32. All you have to do is open up the command prompt and issue the following command:

format drive /fs:fat32

Substitute drive parameter with the drive letter of the drive you want to format into a FAT32 volume. After answering a few confirmation questions, Windows will start to format your large disk to FAT32; no special program needed. :-)

Attached Image:

Format Local Disk.png

Chieh Cheng
Fri, 13 Jun 2008 23:45:50 +0000

I have been searching for a free partition tool now I don't need one. Thanks for this information. ^_^.

Tom Revill
Mon, 15 Sep 2008 08:52:07 +0000

Neat trick.
Note it doesn't seem to work with quick format option (/q) though.
And it takes a while on large drives.

Tue, 16 Sep 2008 02:38:31 +0000

I'm back to say I think this post is incorrect.
At first I tried it with the /q flag and it didn't work. So I tried without /q and it started formatting like normal. Unfortunately at the very end (an hour later) I got this message
The volume is too big for FAT32.

What version of XP are you using? I'm on SP3.

Tue, 16 Sep 2008 03:59:33 +0000

XP Professional. But I don't remember which version. Maybe SP2. Perhaps SP3.

How big is the volume you are trying to format? FAT32 has a maximum volume size of 2 TB. See the Wikipedia entry on "File Allocation Table".

Chieh Cheng
Tue, 16 Sep 2008 12:22:23 +0000

Does not work with XP Home either :-(

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 23:59:06 +0000

does not work when i try to format 80GB partition with format.exe.
i use WinXP SP3

any ideas?

Sat, 04 Oct 2008 11:42:12 +0000


George Birbilis
Wed, 15 Oct 2008 16:12:56 +0000

good evening is,t posible use this format ?

Attached File: (5 MB)

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 22:48:28 +0000

hi folks... here's how i do my hard drives... i use windows 2000 SP4 as the primary OS. create a DOS boot floppy to use for prepping a drive... use the FDISK and FORMAT utilities from Windows ME ( last OS to run under DOS )...
the FDISK util will partition the drive FAT32, and the FORMAT util will happily format the entire drive.. the format util will not report the correct drive size due to a bug in the way the size is calculated and displayed, but this only affects what gets displayed.. the entire drive WILL be formatted... i've done this successfully for drives up to 250G... some notes here... be sure your motherboards support large drive 48 bit LBA as necessary. i also usually will split drives into partitions no larger than 128G in order to avoid the FAT32 limits for certain disk operations. i currently have a pair of SATA drives active in my system on Win 2k ( 250g and 160g ). both appear to be operating without issues ( and i have filled these up without errors, best i can tell )...


Ron Gordon
Thu, 30 Oct 2008 01:08:40 +0000

try to use diskpart utility (type diskpart in windows cmd)
2TB is a limit for FAT32
p.s. Mac computers are able create FAT32 on large partitions and it works fast enough.

Fri, 31 Oct 2008 14:33:21 +0000

Figured out a way to do it with DriveImage XML. See the "Format Large Disks to FAT32 with DriveImage XML" TrackBack below.

Chieh Cheng
Sun, 16 Nov 2008 08:44:21 +0000

Great - thank-you. Outsmarting windows O/S once again!!

Sun, 14 Dec 2008 00:56:09 +0000

The format command is very powerfull : I use it in order to format my floppies to single sided 720K for my Amiga 2000 and my Oric atmos :)

Concerning the FAT32, you have another limitation : files will never be bigger than 4GB. For some multimedia content (videos), it can be a big constraint.

Sun, 14 Dec 2008 02:43:38 +0000

Download a trial copy of Acronis True Image 2009 Home
install for a month only
Go to Disk Utilities Tab
Add New Disk
Click Next, Identify the USB Hardrive click it, Click Next
Is better to delete the partitions but is up to you. Click Next
Creat Partition click next, and Click Next again
Then select file system format that you want FAT 32 Click Next
choose Logical drive if you don't intent to boot from the disk click Next
see new volume information Click Next
Enter New Volume name click Next
If you want another partition click it otherwise click next again
after verifying the operations to perform click in proceed
Congratulations you have your new FAT 32 DRIVE

Sat, 27 Dec 2008 15:39:18 +0000

David you are a life saver!
I had a spare 320Gb drive that I want to use on my new PS3, and was struggling to come up with consistant advice on how to format it to FAT32.
Read your comment; I had already bought a full copy of Acronis True Image which I use for creating a backup copy of my computer's hard drives. Launched the software and had the new drive partitioned and FAT32 formatted in about 20 secs! Brilliant.

Sat, 03 Jan 2009 11:24:30 +0000

you are a life saver. worked a treat. only took like 2 mins :)

Sat, 14 Feb 2009 12:55:24 +0000

Great Trick really usefull.. I needed to format my External hdd onto FAT32 so i can connect it onto my ps3 this worked out fine!

Thu, 19 Feb 2009 16:11:47 +0000

Thanks david! Got the program and did it in less than a minute!

Tue, 24 Feb 2009 21:44:44 +0000

just used the Acronis true image to format my 2Tb HDD (WD) to FAT32

Sat, 09 May 2009 16:47:22 +0000

This is excellent stuff. Tyvm. God bless.

Sun, 24 May 2009 21:07:04 +0000

WAU, great find!!! Just formatting a 40gb drive in Vista Home Premium, seems to be working great!!!!

Wed, 27 May 2009 19:46:32 +0000

I have been using this method on every computer I use since I still have to use DOS simultaneously and boot up with dos to run some programs that I have written in the past (and still writing). It seems however that for partitions larger than 128 GB (obviously much smaller than the theoretical limit of 2TB)FAT32 formatting with WINDOWS 98 format utility produces track zero bad m essage and terminates. Are there any aother reliable format utilities to overcome this problem?

murat tokgozlu
Tue, 23 Jun 2009 09:53:28 +0000

Use this free program:

Formats FAT32 drives up to 500GB. Worked for me with a 500GB USB drive, using Win XP. Does not say that it is compatible with Vista

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 01:46:24 +0000

David - I have spent hours trying to connect my USB hard drive to my Airport Extreme on Vista. You suggestion (use Acronis) worked perfectly. Thank you for posting. I hope others find this well. Why MS won't easily support FAT32 on Vista is beyond me. Thanks for the work around!!

Tue, 21 Jul 2009 09:36:11 +0000

Acronis True Image worked great, even with vista thanks david

Sat, 19 Sep 2009 01:51:43 +0000

Thanks mate
It worked like breeze :) cheers

Fri, 25 Sep 2009 22:09:37 +0000

Use this if it is a external drive -

Thu, 22 Oct 2009 12:02:56 +0000

I have never commented on a website before but Wilfrid AVRILLON really got me out of a hole with his Acronis True Image 2009 Home idea, thanks alot

Sun, 15 Nov 2009 22:41:51 +0000

i spent more than 30hrs trying different stuff online to partition my 500GB HDD, and with this solution it took me 25secs...absolutely brilliant stuff

Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:11:29 +0000

Absolutely brilliant. Thanks so much. Wasted hours try to format a 500GB HDD to FAT32 using dos etc and once I followed your advice it was done in 15 seconds.

Tue, 29 Dec 2009 15:16:52 +0000

Thanks David. That was the best advice on how to format a hard drive to FAT32. I've spent hours searching forums and trying different suggestions. This was the only one that worked for me and it was quick & easy. Awesome!

Tue, 29 Dec 2009 21:24:47 +0000

G'day...Great info. After reading through others responses I'm really glad I selected this link first! You've saved me heads of time. Thanks again

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 02:20:26 +0000

Thanks for the Info been along time since I DOSed it up nice refresher.

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 23:20:31 +0000

I tried to format a FAT32 hdd for a few days but failed.
However, with Acronis True Image, the format was done in just a few seconds!!!
David, thanks

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 06:42:50 +0000

Thanks so much worked for my 40GB hard drive!!

Only thing you might want to point out is, when it asks for drive name, it is the drive name not e.g H:.


Tue, 11 May 2010 14:52:12 +0000

DJACID!!! Your website works like a miracle!! OMG... am so happy...

Evry other solution took me a few days to do .. only to be disappointed with "ur file is too big to be converted.. etc etc) ...

Thanks... everyone go to that website k? less than 5 minutes i got it solved... woohoo!!!

Wed, 19 May 2010 03:54:44 +0000

I know this may be a very basic question but how do I get to the place were I can type in the command prompt? Thanks

Wed, 16 Jun 2010 11:51:15 +0000

Start menu -> Accessories -> Command Prompt

Chieh Cheng
Wed, 16 Jun 2010 14:31:39 +0000

Seagate Disc Wizard will do a FAT 32 format on large external drives - Seagate drives only! I used it for My 1 terabyte Seagate Barracuda.

But it wouldn't work for my WD Caviar Green. David's recommendation of True Image DID work for the WD external drive (1 terabyte).

CNET downloads will take you to the 2010 True Image version if you click on the 2009 link. That's where the link in David's post will take you, too. You can find the 2009 version with a bit of gogling. I wasn't able to do the format on the 2010, but I may not have followed David's instructions properly. Just go with the 2009 version, and the important part is to choose the Partition function.


It took me 48 hours to figure out how to partition the Seagate drive to FAT 32 - then I had to uninstall Disc Wizard to eject the drive safely. Disc Wizard kept running in the background and wouldn't let me eject the external drive I'd just formatted. When Disc Wizard failed to recognize my WD this evening, I luckily came across David's excellent advice pretty quickly.

Unless you're planning to format another drive to FAT 32 within the 30 day trial period, I'd uninstall Acronis after formatting, too, and run Spybot or other malware program afterwards just in case.

Props and gratitude to David.

Sat, 31 Jul 2010 16:25:08 +0000

i am using fat32format.exe, but i received meassage that :
Faild to Write
Getlasterror()=121: the semaphore timeout period has expired.....
any help...........?

Wed, 11 Aug 2010 06:27:28 +0000


Thu, 02 Sep 2010 20:26:29 +0000

DJ ACID's link still works. Formatted a 1tb external hdd in less than 3 minutes. On a slow computer. Thanks DJ ACID

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 06:00:05 +0000

Same here, DJ ACID's link worked perfectly. Simple application, no fussing with the lame swissknife that everyone seems to be suggesting which is a total wate of time since it is not free. An the DOS method does not work unless you have some old lame computer with NT on it. Just use the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool from DJ ACID's link.

Thanks again

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 12:49:03 +0000

On Windows Vista and Windows 7 systems I boot with Ubuntu to format partitions as FAT32. I download and creat a boot CD for Ubuntu that will boot from CD without making any changes to your hard disk drive.

On Windows XP systems I use the freeware EASEUS Partition Master 4.0 Home Edition. This free utility will also work on Vista and 7 systems if you remove the hard disk and connect it to the XP system using a SATA/IDE USB adapter. Of interest is that once the FAT32 partition is created, Vista and 7 will display FAT32 as a format option.

I think it's a pain that maintaining FAT32 on new computers keeps getting harder to do, but both the above options work and they're free.

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 15:59:46 +0000

Thanks too David,,, 4 hours stuffing round and you helped me within minutes... love your work

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 04:58:08 +0000

HP utiity didn't work for my setup - a lacie 2big quadra in "mixed" config (1/2 raid 0 and part unprotected). HP utility wanted to treat the two drives (E: and F:) as one - I want to keep the Raid config in NFTS and the unprotected 1TB as FAT32.
Hmmm what next...?

Hokey Wolf
Sun, 17 Oct 2010 02:17:44 +0000

Hi, I've formatted a 2TB HDD to FAT32 for extra storage on my PVR and it's working and recording. However, although on the computer Disk Management it comes up as Healthy primary partition FAT32, 1,863.2GB, when I plug it into the PVR the display says -189.4 GB of -185.-10GB fr. What's with the negative numbers? Does this mean I can't use the full 2TB available on the HDD? does anybody understand what's going on here? I would be very grateful for any info you could give me as I'm stumped. I've rung the manufacturers of both the PVR and the HDD and they were not able to enlighten me as to why I have negative numbers appearing.

Viv Kennedy
Thu, 28 Oct 2010 16:22:40 +0000

The Acronis method works as of 11/29/10. Note - you have to "add a disk" then format it as file type you need. Took less than 3 mins to format a new 1.5 TB NTFS WD My Book Elite USB drive to FAT32 (so I can use it as a DNLA drive on my network to access from Sony S570 BD player-which requires FAT32!). I agree, performance after going to FAT32 is slower. The options in our technology are nice, but configuring them isn't. Sigh.

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 19:52:19 +0000

Thanks for the info...formatted 500gb FAT in less than 2 min with the Acronis 2011 tool

art vandelay
Tue, 30 Nov 2010 22:40:45 +0000

thanks for the info I have formatted 1.3Tb with this..

Fri, 03 Dec 2010 07:38:45 +0000

works without all the hasle of installing the huge backup software with a 1 month trial.

Just use free tools for easy tasks instead of installing a bloated software collection just to use a 40kb part of it.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:05:35 +0000


You are a legend ! 14 seconds wow.

Tue, 11 Jan 2011 01:14:43 +0000

David. You are the man. If anyone is trying to format a hard drive to FAT32 then download Acronis as David says. 2011 version works. 1TB hard drive converted in about 20 seconds! Thankyou David! =)

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 13:36:11 +0000

David you are the man. I take my hat off to you my man.

Wed, 09 Feb 2011 06:46:07 +0000

acronis 2011 works brilliantly! just did WD 2TB with it. cheers david.

Wed, 09 Feb 2011 11:50:47 +0000

Acronis True Image is not good as you know.There's a better software outside there that can simply format to any FAT,FAT16,FAT32,NTFS,NTFS5 etc..that is MiniTools Partition Wizard Home 5...the best software better than Acronis.

Thu, 10 Feb 2011 09:39:55 +0000

I did this with Windows XP. You open the command prompt. You do cd.. till you are down to the c: prompt. Then you do cd:/g and press enter. The g: prompt apears. Then you do forrmat g:/ fs:fat 32 and it works. Just follow the instructions on the screen from there. Hope it helps someone!!!

Daniel Guénette
Thu, 17 Feb 2011 23:36:52 +0000

Thanks, it's good for Seven

format "lecteur" /fs:fat32 Good work for me.

Scuse me, i'm french, and my english is bad :)

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 18:19:48 +0000

My Version OS is : Seven 32 bits x86

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 18:21:08 +0000

Just used David's method. Worked great. Just be sure to change the options when you have the chance during the partition step.

Just me
Wed, 23 Feb 2011 03:42:26 +0000

Just used David's method. Worked great. Just be sure to change the options when you have the chance during the partition step. I'm using XP.

Just me
Wed, 23 Feb 2011 03:43:09 +0000

Just used David's method also. im running xp sp3. it worked great and took about a minute on my 2TB WD external drive. Thanks David!!

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 15:39:13 +0000

Great job David. Acronis still works, and nice instruction list...

glenn tamura
Tue, 15 Mar 2011 16:17:45 +0000

ACRONIS 2011 works perfect!Thanks for your post David! I just formatted my Lacie Neil poulton design !tb from NTFS to FAT32 and works great!Thanks again man!

Fri, 25 Mar 2011 22:15:34 +0000

thanks bro, i wasted 2 hours before finding your entry and finishing it within 30 seconds, lifesaver BRO! now my PS3 has HUGE memory capabilities

Luke ONeill
Thu, 31 Mar 2011 21:30:42 +0000

Hey, I know that this has been answered several times, but I am having a major problem formatting my 2 TB WD Elements hard drive to FAT32. I want to be able to use it with my PS3. However, after 20 hours of formatting (using the DOS cmd "format /FS:FAT32 E:"), it told me that "the volume is too big for FAT32".

Now, I have researched and found on several sites that 2 TB is too large for FAT32, yet on other sites (such as this one) it says that FAT32 can handle up to 2 TB. But for some reason, I cannot get my hard drive formatted as such. Any help to get me formatted would be GREATLY appreciated! Please e-mail me with "FAT32" in the subject line, if you can help!

Thank you!

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 00:12:44 +0000

I just bought a new WD 6500GB external hard drive for HD recording. I found your instructions and followed by using Acronis. It works well now! Million thanks!

Sat, 02 Jul 2011 13:34:49 +0000

keep eyes open at 1000G external drive for ps3...worked 1st time...backed up to it...all recognized by pcs too....simples! make is MEDION...

ritchie glencairn
Sun, 17 Jul 2011 00:17:10 +0000

just used EASEUS Partition Master 4.0 Home Edition - as per DouglasLourey post - less than finve minutes for a FAT32 partition of a 250GB internal IDE drive - shazaam! Many thanks.

Wed, 20 Jul 2011 22:13:42 +0000

Just used David's method. Worked great also with Acronis True Image Home 2011
I managed to format 2TB WD extern drive to FAT32. Many thank`s David.

Mon, 15 Aug 2011 20:24:01 +0000

I used EASEUS Partition Master 4.0 Home Edition and downloaded it from Formatted my 500GB in less than 1 min... I had been looking for a solution for 2 days!!

Fri, 19 Aug 2011 02:15:40 +0000

hi guyz .. i had try this and it started .. got to 99 percent done then told me my volume waz too big to be reformatted .. was reformatting my 1tb fo my ps3 ... Help please ...???

Savana Walford
Tue, 23 Aug 2011 05:16:26 +0000

Open up run, type cmd for command shell. In the shell type DISKPART. When new shell opens type list disks. Locate the disk to format, unplug any usb disks not being used for now to make it easier to locate if you have lots. now type tyhe number of your disk as this, select disk xx (with the x being the number of the drive) shell will confirm selected disk, now type format fs=fat32. will take a while and will do up to 2gb.

Sat, 10 Sep 2011 00:25:36 +0000

I used David's suggestion on my WD 1TB and formatted it from NTFS to FAT32. Awesome!

"Download a trial copy of Acronis True Image 2009 Home
install for a month only
Go to Disk Utilities Tab
Add New Disk
Click Next, Identify the USB Hardrive click it, Click Next
Is better to delete the partitions but is up to you. Click Next
Creat Partition click next, and Click Next again
Then select file system format that you want FAT 32 Click Next
choose Logical drive if you don't intent to boot from the disk click Next
see new volume information Click Next
Enter New Volume name click Next
If you want another partition click it otherwise click next again
after verifying the operations to perform click in proceed
Congratulations you have your new FAT 32 DRIVE

Sat, 27 Dec 2008 15:39:18 +0000"

Mon, 10 Oct 2011 05:50:53 +0000

The command works on Windows 7 Ultimate. However, after spending half an hour to an hour formatting an 120 GB hard drive, it reported that "The volume is too big for FAT32." The following is the transcript:

C:\>format d: /fs:fat32
The type of the file system is NTFS.
The new file system is FAT32.
Enter current volume label for drive D: data

Proceed with Format (Y/N)? y
Formatting 114470M
The volume is too big for FAT32.

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 03:18:50 +0000

Why install all that Acronis software on your computer when you can use this small and simple program? Worked for me. All I needed was to format a external drive so I can load stuff onto my PS3,duh.

Thu, 08 Dec 2011 20:46:29 +0000

FFFFAntasic Acronis True image. Tried converting Samsung 1Tb portable drive from NTFS to fat32 using dos command 3 hours later VOLUME TO BIG.
Used acronis 1 minute finished

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 14:34:18 +0000

I needed to format an 80GB HD to backup my PS3. Of course running it through the command prompt didn't work. It appeared to work, then after about and hour I get the message that it's too big. I solved my problem by having a co-worker format it on his MAC laptop. It worked in 3 seconds flat.

Fri, 27 Jan 2012 21:56:23 +0300

HP Format Tool did not work for me. However, the Acronis True Image 2012 worked like a breeze and now I will be able to use this drive on multiple platforms. Thank you for the suggestion.

Sun, 05 Feb 2012 18:57:55 +0300

format h: /FS:FAT32

"h" is my drive.... it asked what the lable was (the name you name it, I had named it Fat).... and it's working right now... I too am about to upgrade my ps3's drive.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 20:10:31 +0300

Thank you David after spending nearly 3 hours trying to convert a 2tb drive from NTFS to FAT 32 Acronis True Image 2009 Home worked like a dream. I had the 2012 version and couldn't find the Add New Disc option.So best find a 2009 version but it WORKED!!! thank you again

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 11:15:23 +0300

Found a little utility called guiformat.exe at

Its 72kb, only does fat32 formatting and worked fine on my 1TB drive. Quick format took under 10 seconds. Awesome.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 06:53:29 +0300

Thanks Anon, guiformat.exe at worked like a charm. thxs

Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:14:46 +0400 worked superbly for me too. Nice, quick and simple. Thank you, Anon!!

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 23:31:56 +0400

That was simple and excellent. thanks a lot.

Fri, 24 Aug 2012 04:07:09 +0400

simple, useful on a 500 GB on windows XP

no name
Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:04:45 +0400

That's all great except that you can't format a partition unless it exists. A drive letter doesn't exists until a partition is created. Show me how you create a partition with the "format" command.

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 14:16:06 +0300

You can't create a partition with the "format" command. To create a partition on Windows, you have to use "Disk Management".

Chieh Cheng
Thu, 15 Nov 2012 22:01:27 +0300

The guiformat link is a lifesaver!! After digging on the internet and downloading numerous useless apps, this file quickly and painlessly formatted my portable HD to FAT32. For the first time in days I can rest!

Sat, 24 Nov 2012 02:30:04 +0300

Thanks Anon, worked like a charm for me aswell.
Easy, quick and simple.
Thank you, Anon!!

Tue, 05 Mar 2013 08:15:45 +0300

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Title: Format Large Disks to FAT32 with DriveImage XML
Weblog: GearHack
Excerpt: So far, formatting hard drives larger than 32 GB with FAT32 is quite difficult on Windows XP and Windows Vista. But today, I figured out a new trick. DriveImage XML, a free for private use software, can help you format a large hard drive to FAT32 easily. All you have to do is to backup an empty FAT3 . . .
Tracked: Sun, 16 Nov 2008 08:43:43 +0000

Title: Use FAT32 with PS3
Weblog: GearHack
Excerpt: Does not work under Vista either. I'm trying to reformat a 40GB hard disk for using it with my PS3, which unfortunatley does not support NTFS.
Tracked: Sat, 03 Jan 2009 22:39:47 +0000

Title: Format 2nd Partition of a Large Drive to FAT32
Weblog: GearHack
Excerpt: My problem is, how to format my 2nd partition as FAT32 without touching my NTFS partition. I got a 2 tera hdd with data on it.I partitioned it using Partition Magic (1 tera per partition). Problem now is how to format the empty 2nd 1 tera partition to FAT32? Tried the DOS syntax, but I too get the " . . .
Tracked: Mon, 11 Apr 2011 16:31:49 +0000

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