How to Format FAT32 on Harddisk Larger Than 32 GB



Among various file system types available, i prefer to use FAT32 for my hard disk drive even though the Windows OS recommended file system is NTFS. My reason is that FAT32 is backward compatible with DOS, so whenever a crash happen i can always access and recover all the files in my FAT32 partition using DOS boot disk/CD. Simple and easy. Other file systems such as NTFS cannot be accessible via DOS without a third party software. FAT32 is also the most recognized file system type by various operating systems in the market todays. Don't know when it will become outdated, but until then i am still a happy user of FAT32.

But a problem came over me a few years ago, when my hard disk had totally died because of bad sector in track zero. A low level format won't help, that was why i decided to purchase a new hard disk. The smallest hard disk size i could get was 160GB, because i was aware of my old BIOS limitation which might not be compatible with large hard disk size.

As usual, i still preferred FAT32 file system and tried to format the new hard disk with FAT32, but an error occured "Volume size too big".

While the FAT32 file system can support partition size up to a theoretical size of 2 TB, but native Windows "Format.com" utility cannot format a volume larger than 32 GB using their native FAT32 file system. And even a new Windows installation process forces us to use NTFS file system.

If you are just like me who loves FAT32, there are 2 possibilites to overcome this limit and format a volume larger that 32 GB using FAT32 file system:

  1. Using Windows98/ME boot disk.
    Though Windows 2000 or Windows XP can mount a FAT32 volume of any size (larger than 32GB), and only does not allow their "format.com" to make a FAT32 drive over 32GB, it is still possible to use the format.com from Windows 98 or Windows Me boot diskette to get this large FAT32 partition formatted.
  2. Using a simple third party software.
    Fat32format from RidgeCrop has size less than 50 KB and you can use it as a substitution to Windows "format.com". Despite its small size, it can format FAT32 file system on very large volume size, even 1TB using 8 sectors per cluster. Checkout the command line help and download link below:

Usage Fat32Format X:
Erase all data on disk X:, format it for FAT32
It is also possible to specify a cluster size for the disk, e.g
Fat32Format -c1 X: - use 1 sector per cluster ( max size 137GB for 512 bytes per sect)
Fat32Format -c2 X: - use 2 sectors per cluster ( max size 274GB for 512 bytes per sect )
Fat32Format -c4 X: - use 4 sectors per cluster ( max size 549GB ... )
Fat32Format -c8 X: - use 8 sectors per cluster ( max size 1TB ... )
Fat32Format -c16 X: - use 16 sectors per cluster
Fat32Format -c32 X: - use 32 sectors per cluster
Fat32Format -c64 X: - use 64 sectors per cluster
Fat32Format -c128 X: - use 128 sectors per cluster (64K clusters)
Version 1.05, see http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/fat32format.htm
This software is covered by the GPL
Use with care - Ridgecrop are not liable for data lost using this tool

Download source:
FAT32format.zip

Mirror:
FAT32format.zip








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