FAT32 File Size Limit

FAT32 File Size Limit

If you are looking for information about the FAT32 file size limit, you have landed on the right page. The limitation of this format drives people to adopt the new NTFS technology. Read to know all about it.
Techspirited Staff
Last Updated: Jul 4, 2018
While formatting the hard drive into different volumes, one has two options to choose from, when it comes to the kind of file system you want. One is NTFS (New Technology File System) and the other is FAT (File Allocation Table). 
If you haven't given much thought, as to which is the best file system to opt for, then you eventually will have to, when you know about the size limitation of FAT32 file formats. It decides how 'fat' a file, you can store on any hard drive, with this format.
About FAT32
The FAT32 file management technology, along with its predecessors (FAT16 and FAT12), was developed by Microsoft. It was developed in particular, in 1996, and launched with the Windows 95 operating system.
Though it has been outperformed by more sophisticated and advanced file systems like NTFS, it is still the preferred file system for storage devices like flash memory cards, digital cameras, external hard drives, and USB flash drives.
It is compatible with most disk operating systems, including Linux, Macintosh, and Windows. The main reason for the ineptitude of this format is the simplistic data structure that it has, which makes every file operation very time-consuming.
It allows for drive sizes of 8 Terabytes (240), with 32 Kibibyte (a Kibibyte is equal to 1024 bytes) clusters. Theoretically, a FAT volume cannot go beyond 137 GB, in size, as the FAT structure cannot grow beyond a maximum size of 222 clusters. This limitation was imposed because, with greater volume sizes, data transfers becomes too slow under this format.
File Size Limit for FAT32
Most computer users are usually not aware of the fact that there is a maximum file size memory limit on every formatted hard drive. This file system's maximum limiting size on stored files is set by its inherent design considerations.
The size limit is 4 GB minus 1 byte (232 - 1 bytes). That means, any kind of file cannot attain a maximum size of 4GB. Therefore, FAT32 is unsuitable as a file system for large databases and video applications.
Many people that use video converter software, find that creating video files greater than 4 GB, is just not possible on a hard drive, that uses this format. Though initially, one may think that it is due to some flaw in the video converter software, the problem lies in the limitation of file size itself.
So, there is no option but to resort to the NTFS format for hard drive formatting, when you have large sized files, greater than 4GB. The actual maximum volume size, allowed under this format, is 2 terabytes. The maximum number of files that one can store is 268435437.
One way out of this constraint is to split the file into two parts, with sizes not exceeding 2 GB. The best option is to convert the file system from FAT32 to NTFS, by using the following command. Just open command prompt, by going through 'Start > Run' and then type the following:

C:\> convert Drive Name: / fs : ntfs
Type the name of the drive, in place of the drive name and your FAT32 drive will get converted to NTFS. With that, your problem will be solved as NTFS allows a maximum file size limit of 16 Terabytes.
The inherent file size limit on FAT32 makes it inevitable for people who create or transfer large video or audio files, to switch to NTFS, that offers a substantially higher limit.