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Format usb flash drives to NTFS

By DominicD
Removable usb flash drives are usually formatted in FAT32 file system. While this is sufficient for most users, there’s always a possibility of hitting the maximum file size that FAT32 can handle. The FAT32 file system has an upper limit of 4GB per individual file, this means that you cannot copy a file larger than 4GB to your usb flash drive. This becomes a problem in case you need to copy high definition videos or database/installer files larger than 4GB. To resolve this problem, format your flash drive to the Windows XP NTFS file system. The NTFS file system can handle file sizes up to 16TB per file!

By default Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 will always recommend you to format usb flashdrives to FAT32.

If you attempt to copy files larger than 4GB for a FAT32 flash drive, you will get a weird error:

We need to tweak Windows’ settings to allow formatting to NTFS.
1. Open My Computer, right-click on the usb flash drive, click Properties
2. Click Hardware, select the name of your usb flash drive, click Properties

3. Click Policies, select Optimize for performance, click OK, disconnect your usb flashdrive

4. Reconnect your usb flash drive, and click Format. The option for format your usb flashdrive to NTFS is now available

5. You can now copy files larger than 4GB to your NTFS formatted usb flash drive

Tech details about why Windows defaults to FAT32
Why is this – why bother with FAT32? And why not just give the better and larger limit through NTFS? Microsoft has carefully thought of this issue. Its true that the current size of media files (movies, music, dvd’s, game and installer files) will occasionally grow beyond 4GB and will simply not fit FAT32. However, setting usb flash drives to NTFS also has some drawbacks.

1. A usb flash drive formatted to NTFS needs to be properly removed and ejected. NTFS formatted usb flash drives are not as easily and quickly removable when compared to FAT32. While you can simply pull a FAT32 disk out from the usb slot, this proves risky to NTFS. Simply pulling an NTFS removable drive out of the usb port can cause data corruption.

2. NTFS file system offers a double-edged feature of data security through its encryption. NTFS preserves the file permissions and security of each file. This will work good if the usb flash drive is stolen (and assuming you have set encryption). This is bad if you want to freely share the contents of the flash drive – if the files are encrypted, other users might not be able to copy and view the contents at all.

3. NTFS is not 100% compatible with older Linux and MAC systems. Some older versions of Linux and MAC might not fully support writing into NTFS file system, they would often restrict to just copying the drive contents.


In summary, the FAT32 file system works best for most home and office users. Take the tips given above and use only when needed. Remember to revert the formatting back to FAT32.

I hope you enjoyed this tip and the background info on FAT32 and NTFS issues on usb removable flash drives 
By jasontaylor on 10-01-2012, 10:06 AM

Sometimes we can use the USB as a bootable disk. Is this true? Can we do that?
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