File and partition size limitations using the FAT32 file system (Windows and Mac)


FAT32 offers the best compatibility for using a drive with more than one Operating System (OS) (Such as Windows and Mac OSX). However, FAT32 has inherent limitations in regards to file size, partition size, and performance.

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

  • A file cannot be transferred to a FAT32 partition if the file is larger than 4GB.
  • FAT32 max partition size is 2TB. If you have a 3TB drive or larger, you would not be able to format it as a single FAT32 partition. In this example, you would need a third-party partition manager to create such a large partition.
  • Apple's Time Machine backup utility will not store data on FAT32 partitions.

Limitations under Windows 8/7/Vista/XP:

  • A file cannot be transferred to a FAT32 partition if the file is larger than 4GB.
  • FAT32 max partition size is 2TB. If you have a 3TB drive or larger, you would not be able to format it as a single FAT32 partition. In this example, you would need a third-party partition manager to create such a large partition.
  • FAT32 file system performs more slowly than NTFS (Windows) or Mac OS Extended (HFS+).

Note:
When using an external drive with Windows 8/7/Vista/XP it is recommended that you reformat the drive to the NTFS file system. When using your drive with Mac OSX, it is recommended that you format the drive in the Mac OS Extended file system (HFS+). For instructions on how to change the external hard drive to the file system best for your specific OS, please see the link below:


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