What is FAT32 maximum file size limit?

If you'd tried to copy files to a flash drive formatted with the FAT32 file system, you had probably discovered that while the drive worked perfectly for smaller files, it would give an error for large files (such as videos):

The file is too large for the destination file system

If you were wondering why an otherwise perfectly good drive would refuse to accept large files, it's most probably because it was formatted with the FAT32 file system, which has a rather low limit for how large a file it can have. This limit is 4GB-1, or exactly 4,294,967,295 bytes. If a file is larger than that, the FAT32 file system can't store it, and an attempt to copy such a file to a FAT32 formatted drive gives an error.

How to work around the FAT 32 max file size limit

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One way to solve the FAT32 file size limit is not to use the FAT32 file system at all: there are more recent systems to replace it, such as exFAT or NTFS. If you only intend to use the drive with your PC, then either of these systems should work just fine. If you plan to use the drive with non-microsoft devices, then exFAT would probably be a better choice, because exFAT system is supported by a wider range of third-party manufacturers. For example, if you format a micro-SD card with exFAT, chances are your Android phone would be able to recognize it, too.

It's quite easy to change the file system using your PC: you just need to use the format command on the drive. The most important thing to remember is that changing the file system destroyes any existing files on the drive, so before you begin, attach the drive to the PC and make sure it contains no important files of yours. If it does, save them for later by copying them out of the drive to some other folder on the PC.

To actually change the file system, open the This PC folder, right-click on the drive in question, choose Format... from the menu, and finally select the desired file system on the Format screen:

Formatting a FAT32 drive with a different file system

After the formatting is finished, your drive should be ready to accept files larger than 4GB limit with no problems.

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What if formatting the drive is not an option for some reason? In such a case you could still use a FAT32 formatted drive, for example, to transfer a large file between two PCs, but you need to split such a file into several chunks, smaller than the 4GB limit. Unfortunately, Windows does not have a built-in command to split a file into parts. However, you should be able to do that with a third-party tool such as our AB Commander, that offers, among many other tools, the Split and Merge commands designed specifically for such a task. (A free 30-day trial is available, no credit card required.)

Happy file managing!

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