You can use a third party utility like “FAT32 format” to format large USB drives. You can also launch PowerShell in Administrator mode and type “format /FS :FAT32” into the Window. This will format your “X” drive to FAT32. Change “X:” to the drive letter of your USB device.
The regular Windows format tool does not offer the option of formatting USB drives bigger than 32GB using the FAT32 format. How to fix it.
FAT32 works well for external hard drives as long you do not plan on using files larger than 4GB. You’ll have to use NTFS, exFAT or something similar if you need larger files. FAT32 has the advantage of being portable. It is supported by all major operating systems and devices, so it’s great for those drives that you want to use from multiple platforms. Manufacturers’ specifications on the file system as it relates to drive sizes created the myth FAT32 is only able to be used for drives up to 32GB. This may explain why Windows native tools and other systems have this limit. FAT32’s theoretical limit is 16 TB. However, the practical limit for USB drives today is 8 TB.
You’ll learn two different ways to format large USB drives using FAT32. The first method is done using PowerShell or the Command Prompt, while the second uses a third-party free tool.
Easily Format Large USB Drives with FAT32 Format Tool
If you are willing to install a third-party app for free to do this, the GUI version FAT32 Format from Ridgecrop consultants is the easiest. (Click the screenshot to get the app.) This is a portable application, which means you don’t have to install it. Run the executable.
Select the volume to be formatted and, if desired, type in a label. Click the “Quick” format option and click “Start”.
You will receive a warning that you’ll lose all the data. To format the drive, click “OK”.
This tool makes formatting USB drives much faster than using the method described below. It took this tool only a few minutes to format a 64GB USB stick, which took over an hour using PowerShell.
Before you can format your drive, you will need to close all File Explorer windows. The tool may interpret your drive as being in use by another application and the formatting process will not work. Close the File Explorer window and retry if this occurs. There is no need to restart the program or do anything else.
PowerShell can format large USB drives with FAT32.
The format command can be used in PowerShell and Command Prompt to format USB drives bigger than 32GB using FAT32. Both tools use the same syntax. This can be a lengthy process. It took us almost an hour to format our 64GB USB, but we have heard that larger drives can take hours. You won’t be able to tell if the formatting process failed until the whole thing is complete. It may not happen often, but it can.
If you can’t or don’t wish to download a third party app, the format command will do. PowerShell can be opened with administrative rights by pressing Windows+X and selecting “PowerShell(Admin)” in the Power User Menu.
Type the following PowerShell command at the PowerShell prompt (replacing
X: by the drive letter that you wish to format) and hit Enter:
As we mentioned, formatting a hard drive in this manner can be a lengthy process. If you have the option to use the download from a third party that we discussed in the previous section, we recommend you do so.
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