Formatting an external 500GB HDD took almost >6 hours that I started like:

D:\>format /FS:fat32 F:
The type of the file system is EXFAT.
The new file system is FAT32.
Enter current volume label for drive F: musix

Proceed with Format (Y/N)? y
Formatting 476810M

finally responded with the error:

The volume is too big for FAT32.

However according to MSFT there are no such limitations. (I used XP specs, while I am formatting in Win7, ok?) I am not formatting the drive during setup but on an installed version from the command prompt.

I want to use this disk with the maximum available capacity as en external HardDrive connected to an MDI interdface in my car to play music.

What are the proper settings for that and can I use/format the (almost) full 500GB?

  • How large are your clusters? If your clusters are 32kb, then you max out at 8TB. If your clusters are 4 kb, I would assume you max out at 1TB, etc
    – soandos
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 6:43
  • 5
    Windows XP can mount and support FAT32 volumes larger than 32 GB (subject to the other limits), but you cannot create a FAT32 volume larger than 32 GB by using the Format tool during Setup. If you need to format a volume that is larger than 32 GB, use the NTFS file system to format it.
    – soandos
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 6:50
  • 6
    Any reason for reformatting away from exFAT? exFAT is a viable alternative to FAT32 on Vista and Win7 for large drives and goes beyond the limitations of FAT32, just be aware that Windows XP requires a download from Microsoft and Linux support may be patchy.
    – Mokubai
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 7:39
  • 1
    Hehe, according to Dave Plummer (the former Microsoft engineer who wrote the disk formatter for Windows NT), the FAT32 "limit" of 32GB is "because I said so" (YouTube). P.S.: He mentions Rufus or Fat32 Format as workarounds. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 3:41
  • 1
    @ChrisTollefson I had Rufus (portable) already, didn't know it can do it - indeed it works brilliantly. No installation, no fuss, open source. Why bother with all these supposedly free but maybe not ones which need installation? My Cowon J3 music player is more than 10 years old, I soldered in a new battery and keep using it, nice little device. It didn't see the exFAT-formatted 128 GB microSD card, but it works fine after I used Rufus to format it as FAT32. Commented May 22, 2023 at 19:15

5 Answers 5


You cannot format a FAT32 volume greater than 32Gig from XP or Win7 but you can mount and use a bigger one.

However you must use an alternate tool to format the volume.

There are limitations as to bootable drives on your greater than 32gig Fat32 drive

Partition Tool

Also read this guys page for more technical info.

  • 21
    DON'T USE the partition tool in the link of this answer. It installs, shows advertisements, opens, but doesn't do provide the "free" service it promises, but tries to make you buy a full license in stead.
    – nl-x
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 15:33
  • At the time this question was answered it didn't do all the things that you say. But ultimately ,"all succumb to the might need for dollars".
    – kingchris
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:04
  • And generally i wouldnt mind. But come on... make me pay premium for just formatting a drive once? Messed up. Btw does linux do this without a hassle?
    – nl-x
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:10
  • I have never tried to format a FAT32 partition via Linux but it is suppose to be possible according to Google. But as always run your disk tools, copy a whole bunch of files across. verify their CRC or MD5 or byte by byte compare. Defrag drive then compare files again. Let the User Beware.
    – kingchris
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:28
  • as aditional infomation it doesnt allow filer over 4GB :) as i know Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 14:44

What an annoying limitation! You can't format FAT32 volumes larger than 32GB from any version of Windows...

C:\Users\jeff>format e: /FS:fat32 /Q
Insert new disk for drive E:
and press ENTER when ready...
The type of the file system is EXFAT.
The new file system is FAT32.
QuickFormatting 58.9 GB
The volume is too big for FAT32.
Format failed.

... but they must exist because this Lexar USB 64GB drive right here is formatted FAT32! How?

It is possible to do it, you just have to use some other tool. I used this one, FAT32 Format.

enter image description here

  • 2
    For some reason I had trouble re-formatting a 64GB drive that was formatted to 32GB, I had to use DISKPART at the command line as indicated here: superuser.com/a/470663 Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 18:07
  • Great answer! It worked for me!
    – mathreader
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 20:40
  • 4
    This should be marked as the answer Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 22:19
  • Note that, at least for really large drives > 2TB, ie the current 4TB external drives, you need to prepare the drive by formatting them to NTFS with a large sector size, e,g, 4k; this should create a GPS partition and now GUIFormat.exe will do its job.
    – TaW
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 12:06
  • Also agree with that. This answer bhould be marked as the answer.
    – Jorge Luiz
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 12:15

Rufus can do this. Start it up, then:

  1. set Boot selection to Non bootable
  2. set File system to Large FAT32
  3. set Cluster size to 32 kilobytes
  4. click START

The Cluster size was an important step for me. On my system, only these options work:

32 kilobytes, 16 kilobytes

  • 3
    This worked for me, but I also had to check "List USB Hard Drives" in "Show advanced drive properties" for my external drive to show up. Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 15:47
  • +1 Personally I'd trust Rufus which is extremely well known over the anonymous Pendriveapps suggested in the accepted answer. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 21:21
  • This also worked for me and was anecdotally a little better than using FAT32 Format in one situation - using a large 128GB flash drive on Windows XP. When formatted with FAT32 Format, XP's Explorer seemed to take longer to access the disk. Just an anecdote with no real testing or benchmark, though.
    – ssh2ksh
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 16:16

It doesnt help when you want to use the maximum available capacity, but for those of you who need a fat32 disk under 32GB what I did was setup the primary partition as under 32GB.

Run these steps/commands
1. Open command prompt as administrator 
2. Diskpart
3. List disk
4. Select disk X (where x is the disk you want to partition/format)
5. Clean
6. Create partition primary size=30000   (where 30,000 is the size in MB you want the partition to be, under 32GB)
7. Select partition 1
8. Active
9. Format quick fs=Fat32

You can format your external hard drive in FAT32 using SwissKnife (freeware). It will let you bypass The volume is too big for FAT32 error.

  • 7
    note that unfortunately download.com has become an adware magnet.. the install process has literally 5 different "declines" you must issue to not get adware with your download :( Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 21:09
  • Official site.
    – Karan
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 22:11
  • @Jeff: Thanks for the feedback. Their official page only publishes the premium version. Those who want to download the free version may google for "swissknife free windows 7". That search brings download sites like tucows, softonic, etc. but I have no idea if they are adware magnets. Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 6:09
  • 1
    Doesn't seem to work on W10. Not recommended.
    – TaW
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 16:35

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