Windows Vista Fat16/32 Support   40 comments

(edited 07-Sep-2007)

This post needs a cleanup, as I’ve committed the journalism sin of burying the lede.

For those new arrivals, here is a summary:

If you are attempting to format (either an internal or external device) with a fat32 or fat16 partition using Windows Vista, the built-in tools limit you to partitions <= 32 GB in size.

If you have a device that is bigger than 32GB, you have the following options:

  • Using the Logical Disk Manager, break the device into several different partitions < 32GB in size and format them independently (obviously suboptimal)
  • Download a copy of Fat32Format, which will replace the existing format utility built-in to Windows Vista.  Disclaimer -> I know nothing about the author of this software, and therefore cannot vouch for it, but many visitors to the blog have reported success.
  • Purchase and install Acronis Disk Doctor, which works in Vista.  This is not free, but has some nice additional functionality.
  • Download a Knoppix ISO image, burn it to CD, and boot into the Linux OS.  Linux file manager tools will enable you to format any disk <8 TB with Fat32.  I don’t recommend this either, unless you know what you’re doing.

To make a long story short, if you want a free solution and you’re not a power user, try the Fat32Format solution.  If you want a free solution and you’re already familiar with Linux, use the Knoppix solution.  If you don’t mind spending  a little money, buy Acronis.

— original post —

If you’re using Vista, here’s a gotcha.

In spite of this knowledge base article, and contrary to what it says on this Vista page, it appears impossible to format a Fat16/32 partition using Vista native GUI tools.

EDIT (25-Apr-07) : This applies to partitions larger than 32 GB in size. The GUI tools will support formatting partitions smaller than 32 GB in size. This is apparently by design. Although the maximum size of a Fat32 partition is ~8 TB, Windows formatting tools will not format large partitions.

The “right-click and choose format” instructions only give the option to format with NTFS, in spite of that second page.

Fdisk is no longer included in the OS. Format is still included, but you cannot run the format <drive> /fs:fat32 command at the command line using an account with Administrator privileges, you need to run it in elevated mode. More on that in at the bottom. Trying to format the disk using the Computer Management MMC doesn’t provide you with the option to choose anything but NTFS.

This workaround (which was required on the XP 64bit Itanium) doesn’t work, either.

People with dual boot machines, or people who use flash memory cards (say, for a digital camera?) are going to have problems. If I connect my digital camera via USB, it shows up as a drive. If I’m thinking about cleaning out all the pictures on my camera, I may choose to format the card, instead of deleting all the files. Well, your digital camera won’t read an NTFS partition, so if you format your card… you’re going to have to refer to my last post, or buy partition magic, or re-enable the Administrator account (which is disabled by default during the installation process, or run the command prompt in elevated mode.

** Update 09-Apr-2007 **

Apparently now that Vista is getting some penetration into the marketplace, some people are noticing this. From my stats page today, people have found this post by the following searches:

  • format FAT32 in windows vista
  • format to fat16 in vista
  • vista format drive fat32
  • fat16 formatter windows

Welcome, gentle reader(s)!

** Update 11-Apr-2007 **

5 more visits (10 & 11 Apr 2007) to the blog from searches containing FAT, Vista, and format. Looks like more and more people are starting to experience this problem…

** Update 16-Apr-2007 **

14 more visits in the last two days (15 & 16 Apr 2007).

** Update 16-Apr-2007 **Comments report Partition Magic 5 doesn’t run on Vista, which isn’t much of a suprise, as the current edition of Partition Magic is 8.0. However, Norton’s web site reports that PM 8 supports XP, 98, etc., but Vista is not listed.

** Update 25-Apr-2007 **

Still getting between 4-6 hits a day on this post. It’s currently the #1 response to a Google Blog Search for “format vista fat 16”.

According to their web site, Acronis Disk Director will run on Vista. I’ve just acquired a copy of Partition Magic 8, I’ll post results here when I get a chance.

** Running the Command Line in Elevated Mode **

See this blog page for a screen-shot description of running the command prompt as Administrator. When at the command prompt, in elevated mode, you can format using

format <drive>: /fs:fat32

Note, this limits you to a partition of 32 GB in size, for no real reason.

If you want to format a fat32 partition > 32GB, you need to use Ubuntu, Acronis, etc.


Posted April 5, 2007 by padraic2112 in OS, software, tech, Windows

40 responses to “Windows Vista Fat16/32 Support

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. so have you found a work around or this is just to collect stats?

  2. Yea, I want a 100g FAT32 partition for all my mp3s. I backup my system using ghost to external drive and I want to be able to read all my mp3s off the ext. drive on any system, not just my home Vista system. I’ll try Partition Magic, thanks.


  3. Partition Magic 5 won’t run on Vista.

  4. You are probably going to get a lot more hits as the PS3 doesn’t support usb drives that are ntfs. As of 5-30-07

    And my mp3’s have never sounded better.

  5. I need the portable HDD I bought to work both in OSX and Vista (It is a long story; don’t ask) It is a 120GB USB HDD and Vista keeps telling me that it is too big for FAT32. Any suggestions?

  6. I find it amusing that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will only read USB hard drives formatted as FAT 32 yet they have introduced this limitation in Vista and XP! This is ridiculous! The disk utility companies will do very well out of this..

  7. Found a way to do it.

    Enter Elevated Mode by right clicking on Command and choosing Run As Administrator.

    Then do the Format X /FS:FAT32

  8. Steve ->

    Yes, that works, but only on partitions less than 32 GB in size.

  9. Comment number 4 worked fine for me on Vista, just formatted a 160GB IDE HD in FAT32.

  10. If like me you have spent hours trying to find a way to format a large external drive using fat32 so you can hook it up to your PS, and you are running Vista on your PC, then look no further…this solved the problem for me……

    I have a ps3 and 7000 MP3 albums. As everyone on here seems to note, good old mircosoft have made it nigh on impossible to format a large (mines 1tb) drive using fat32, which if you want to hook up to play on your PS3 *currently running OS 1.9 you’ll need to do as PS3 doesnt see the NTFS external disks.
    I am running Vista 32bit on my pc and the following worked.
    1) use diskmgmt.msc (type it in the search box) and delete the drive partion = note you will lose all data though = of the drive you wish to format, then

    2) right click and create simple volume, work your way through the wizard, but ensure when prompted you select “DO NOT FORMAT”.

    3) Download Fat32format (search for it in google) and extract it to drive C:/.

    4) go to the start menu and right click on CMD Prompt and “run as administrator”

    5) type – no quotes – “cd fat32format” and press enter.

    6) then type fat32format x: and press enter (where x is the drive letter of the drive you wish to format) and that should be it…it worked for me.


  11. Here are my findings for anyone…

    Firstly, Comment 4 does not seem to work in Vista. twistywizard, not sure how you got it to work but the program fat32format does not recognize drives in Vista to format. At least not for me.

    Second, Partition Magic 8 still has some issues with working in Vista and beyond that even if it started to work I never saw the option for formating into least not easily.

    Third, Acronis Disk Director 10 works perfectly in Windows Vista and formats very easily to Fat32 which anyone could figure out.
    You can get the Free Trial here:

    Which should be enough for you to format your one drive to FAT32 or whatever you need to format.

    I figured all this because I wanted to use a 500GB external with my PS3…and know I can:) Cheers

  12. Pingback: On Warrantless Wiretapping « Pat’s Daily Grind

  13. Fat32format worked for me… thanks #4!

  14. #8 worked for me, but you weren’t totally clear on how to do this, so here goes:

    -Click Start/All Programs/Accessories
    -Right click Command Prompt, choose “Run as Administrator”
    -type (without quotes) “format x: /fs:fat32” Note the colon after the drive letter, which was not in the #8 post.
    -It will ask you to enter the CURRENT volume label, so go ahead and do that and you should be ok.

  15. Bob –

    Were you formatting a partition > 32 GB?

  16. Used Fat32Format and it worked perfect. Really quick too!

  17. so, you’re high on the google search rank for people searching this issue. just great! woohoo! yet, I don’t see a solid remedy for this problem.

  18. confused:

    There are a few remedies here, but if you need clarification, here’s the two easiest:

    #1 – purchase and install Acronis Disk Director (available from the link in the post). Acronis will run under Vista, and will format large partitions with Fat 32.

    #2 – Download Fat32Format, and run it as Administrator. I don’t know anything about the authors of the software, so although visitors have reported that it works, I can’t recommend it myself.

    Alternatively, you can download a Knoppix boot image and boot the Linux installer from the Knoppix boot CD, the disk partitioning tools with Linux will allow you to format a large partition with Fat32. I don’t recommend this either unless you know what you’re doing; you can rather easily format your local hard drive and wind up with a computer with no operating system.

    Unfortunately, if you’re trying to format a partition > 32 GB, you cannot do it with the tools that ship with Vista. If that’s your definition of “solid remedy”, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.

  19. Pingback: Bad Security 201: Dual Boot « Pat’s Daily Grind

  20. Followed comment #11 exactly and have just reformatted 200GB Maxtor to FAT32 and the PS3 reads it great as does the Vista laptop.

    Many, many thanks.

    (Reformatted whole external HDD, not partitioned)

  21. i just used fat32format on my 320gb external, thank you very much, been a few hours of searching and trail and error before i found this. so siiiimple! lol. thanks!

  22. Hey there,
    My problem is abit different… Trying To format my new Ipod Classic back to Fat32 after i did a horrible mistake and formmatted it to NTFS through Vista. Now the ipod isn’t functioning and the only option is to Restore throgh itunes but the restore doesn’t work. so i Think ill try the acronis

  23. There is a much simpler solution that is provided by Vista and works from within Vista. You have to use format at a command prompt level.

    If you open a higher level command prompt (type cmd in start search box) you can run format at the command prompt level. Running a standard command prompt will generate an error that you don’t have sufficient user privileges.

    Type FORMAT E: /fs:FAT32

    For a full list of commands type FORMAT /?

    [editor’s note] Sorry, Rob, this doesn’t work. You’re missing the size limitation. You can’t format 32+GB partitions at the command line.

  24. Pingback: Wow, that’s one big honkin’ drive « Pat’s Daily Grind

  25. Comments #8 and #15 work fine on > 32G. I am formatting a 240G USB drive with FAT32 as I type…

    format e: /FS:FAT32

    I have UAC in Vista turned off (Im always administrator) so you might have to jump through the extra hoops if you still use UAC.

  26. I take it all back! Vista limped along formatting my drive for 3 hours and then, once it finally reached 100%, gave me an error:
    “The volume is too big for FAT32.”
    And now my drive sits in an unusable state. Neat!

  27. thank you for the tips. it just worked..

  28. Hi Guys,

    You can always format using the command prompt:
    format p: /fs:fat32
    where P is the drive letter.

    If you ar running UAC, right click the command prompt and choose “Run as Administrator” so you have the appropriate permissions.

    Jeoff, there is a limitation on the number of clusters for fat32, which is just over 4M (4177918). So in your case, just make each cluster bigger and you should be fine. Try this:
    format p: /fs:fat32 /a:64k

    That should make each cluster 64k. 64K x 4177918 = 273799856130, which is over the 240GB your drive has. And you should be done with it!!!

    For bigger drives, use a bigger sector size.


  29. Oh, and first thing’s first. If you don’t even have a drive letter, just go to the storage mgmt snap-in (Right click “My Computer”, click Manage… choose Storage, then Disk Management).

    Select your drive. RIght click it, delete the partition. Create a new simple partition, give it a letter, and DON’T format it.

    You’ll have a RAW partition with a drive letter, just ready to be formatted.


  30. This document is pretty useful:

  31. helped me out for the ps3 also…thanks CRAIG u rock man

  32. Andre –

    You’ll note that the knowledge base article you link to states specifically:

    The following limitations exist using the FAT32 file system with Windows operating systems:

    • Clusters cannot be 64 kilobytes (KB) or larger. If clusters were 64 KB or larger, some programs (such as Setup programs) might calculate disk space incorrectly.

    I would not advise using your solution of increasing cluster size.

  33. Here is a much easier way to format FAT32 in Vista:
    1. Create a shortcut for COMMAND.COM
    Note: cmd.exe is a native Vista command and will not allow you to perform step 2.
    2. right click the shortcut and select properties – compatibility mode –
    and select “Run this program as administrator”
    Note: other ways exist to run in elevated mode but this was easy
    Note2: by default your admin account runs as a std user
    3. execute your shortcut and now you have a DOS window in elevated mode
    4. format drive: /FS:FAT32 /A:64K
    Note: this should work for drives up to 250G
    bigger – you need a different /A parameter

  34. Hank –

    If you read the comment just prior to yours (12-25-2007:20:19:00), you should know that this is not a recommended solution.

  35. if you’re trying to format an external hard drive in fat32 to use in mac, just go to windows disk management and break it up into 32 gb partitions then in os x disk utility, format the whole drive as “ms-dos” which is just fat32

  36. fat32format worked for me (Vista Home Premium, 250gb external drive already at FAT32). As a bonus — when it’s done, exit command prompt; go to your ”
    Computer” window, or the Disk Management tool. Right click on your drive letter, left click properties, left click tools, error checking, check both boxes, hit start, go to bed, wake up knowing your drive should be good to go.

  37. Pingback: Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 - Best Day « Pat’s Daily Grind

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: