Formating Large Drives in FAT32?

February 16, 2007 at 12:35:51
Specs: Windows/Linux, Core2, 2GB RAM
Is there any downside to formatting a large harddrive in Fat32? I have a slave 250GB Harddrive that I would like to format in Fat32 to allow read/write access from Linux and Windows. I have heard that Fat32 degrades severely when drive sizes are over a certain size. I appreciate you input.

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February 16, 2007 at 12:50:52
There are issues that you have to consider first.

Go to my website (Homepage link) and look up the section titled "Working with Large Hard Drives (Barriers and Limits)".

Also look at this site which has even more deatiled information on the subject.

When everything else fails, read the instructions.

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February 16, 2007 at 13:11:06
how to NTFS with Linux:

Today's subliminal thought is: 'Calm down ... it's only ones and zeros.'

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February 16, 2007 at 13:52:21
If you want to format a large drive as FAT32 from Windows XP instead of Linux, you can use the utility
Site also has info on XP's limitations

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Related Solutions

February 16, 2007 at 13:52:23
"I have heard that Fat32 degrades severely when drive sizes are over a certain size"

Depends on what you mean by "degrades". Performance does not degrade. You do have more "disk waste" due to larger clusters if storing smaller files but otherwise there are no issues.

Give a person a fish, they eat for a day. Suggest they internet search and they learn a skill for a lifetime.

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February 16, 2007 at 14:41:58
Yeah - it's not milk, and won't spoil (or 'degrade')

Large FAT32 partition = large clusters which can be wasteful due to slack space - as well, largest permissable file size is around 4Gb

Smaller partitions would be advisable if FAT32 is employed - there's a chart

I'm not one of those who think Bill Gates is the devil. I simply suspect that if Microsoft ever met up with the devil, it wouldn't need an interpreter.

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February 16, 2007 at 15:03:45
If you format your HDD using the manufacturer's software, you can create FAT32 partitions as large as you like, plus you can customize the cluster size. I routinely create FAT32 partitions in excess of 32GB & maintain a 4k cluster size.

As jboy pointed out, the largest file size allowed with FAT32 is 4GB. That may or may not be a problem for depends on what you use your system for.

I know most external HDD's come preformatted as FAT32. I'd be interested in knowing what cluster size they use. Does anyone know?

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February 16, 2007 at 19:32:08
Up to 7.5G it is 8k then it's 16 and so on.I keep my partitions under 40G.


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February 16, 2007 at 20:24:08
just a off hand comment but when was the last time you did a search and looked at your file sizes?

my average is around 5,000KB. does it make sense to use small clusters with that average?

if you do the math at 8k thats 625 cluster reads. Woo thats alot. at 64k clusters we get about 79 cluster reads.

which do you think will be faster?

if the drive was completely defragged and the files were contigueous the 64k cluster size would read faster.

this whole small cluster size is a leftover from the days of small drives and small files.

I don't know about you but except for directories I don't have any small files.

Knowing the correct answer and giving a correct answer, are two different things

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February 17, 2007 at 05:18:02
This question came up before and I read an article that warned about using FAT32 for partitions greater than 120GB. "You can do it but I wouldn't trust it." I had a 160GB external drive that was FAT32 for use with WIN98SE and WIN XP. I've since converted it to NTFS as I no longer have any computers running WIN98SE.

Was that warning just BS?

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February 17, 2007 at 07:45:07
Inevitably different folks will record different experiences with this one (ss in many other areas too). I gues one reads it all, then decides which way to go - based on the info to hand - and the phase of the Jovian moons?

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February 17, 2007 at 08:21:47

I suggest you try searching your system. I guarantee you that you have a crapload of .dll, .inf, .ico, & numerous other files that are less than 64k.

I just did a search of my system & I have over 9,000 files that are 4k or less. If my FAT32 cluster was 64k (which it would be if I didn't customize), I would have 9000 x 60k = 540MB of slack space (at least).

Searching for files that are 63k or less, I have close to 15,000.

And none of that takes into account files that spill over into the next cluster...such as a 65k file using 128k of space on FAT32 partition with a 64k cluster size. Smaller clusters are more efficient.

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