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What file and partition size limits does the FAT32 file system have?

July 4th, 2010

Fat32 File System FAT32 offers the best compatibility for PC and Mac operating systems, including cross-platform compatibility with the MAC OS X. However, FAT32 has inherent limitations in regards to file size, partition size, and performance.

Limitations under Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac X:

  • A file cannot be transferred to a FAT32 partition if the file is larger than 4GB.
  • Apple’s Time Machine backup utility will not store data on FAT32 partitions.

Limitations under Windows 2000/XP/Vista:

  • A FAT32 partition cannot be created that is larger than 32GB.
  • A file cannot be transferred to a FAT32 partition if the file is larger than 4GB.
  • FAT32 file system performs more slowly than NTFS (Windows) or Mac OS Extended (HFS Plus, Mac).

Using an external hard drive with Windows:

Note: When using an external drive with Windows 2000/XP/Vista it is recommended that you reformat the drive to the NTFS file system.

Using an external hard drive on a Mac:

Note: It is recommended that you format the drive in the Mac OS Extended file system (HFS Plus).

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