How to create a big FAT32 partition

(Well, this is at least one way to do it… I’m sure there are easier and faster ways.)

Windows XP and up doesn’t let you create a FAT32 partition that’s bigger than 32GB. It can handle them, but not create them.
One obvious way to do it, is… use Linux.

  1. Install Linux in VMware. I used Slackware 12.0 on VMware Workstation 5.5.5.
  2. Add a physical hard disk that uses the disk you’d like to partition. To figure out the exact disk number (i.e. PhysicalDisk5), use diskmgmt.msc.
  3. If you don’t have patience to figure out how to make SCSI work in Linux (as I didn’t), change the disk to an IDE disk:
    • Close VMware and edit the .vmx and .vmdk files manually (with Notepad or any other editor).
    • In the .vmx file, remove the line scsi0.present = “TRUE”
    • In the .vmx file, change any occurrence of scsi0:0 to ide1:1 (this will make the disk IDE Secondary Slave – make sure you have a Secondary Master).
    • In the .vmdk file, change the line ddb.adapterType = “lsilogic” to ddb.adapterType = “ide”
  4. Boot into Linux and login as root.
  5. Run fdisk /dev/hdd (this assumes your HD is IDE Secondary Slave; otherwise, use the correct device name).
  6. Press p to list partitions; delete them all by repeatedly using d; create one partition spanning the whole disk by pressing n and using the default for each question.
  7. Change the type to FAT32 by pressing t, and for the partition type hex code, enter c
  8. Make sure you did nothing wrong, and press w to write the partition table to the disk. This is irreversible!
  9. Back in the root prompt, format the new FAT32 partition by using: mkdosfs -F 32 /dev/hdd1

That’s it – you now have a big FAT32 partition. Make sure you don’t mount it in both Windows and Linux at the same time, because they won’t be sync’ed. (To unmount in Windows, choose “Change Drive Letter and Paths” in diskmgmt.msc, and remove all drive letters and NTFS mount points.)


8 Responses to How to create a big FAT32 partition

  1. Rob Paveza says:

    The question is, why would you WANT to create a FAT32 partition larger than 32gb? FAT is a horrible filesystem that has been around far too long because of Microsoft’s mainstream support of it through Windows ME, the unpublished structure of NTFS (and the consequent open-source implementation incompatibilities), and the tie-in of kernel- and user-mode dependencies on NTFS that make it nigh impossible to use a non-Microsoft-designed FS for Windows (such as Reiser or ext3).

    I could go on for days as to the inadequacies of FAT, but I suspect you already know them.

  2. Yoni says:

    I know, I know ;)
    And it’s not the first I’ve been criticized of doing this.

    It’s just that while FAT32 is so awful in every way, it *still* (unfortunately) beats any other FS in terms of compatibility. Therefore, it’s good for an external hard drive (which might be connected to any OS).
    NTFS doesn’t work too well on non-Windows OSs (assuming I want the disk to be writable); Various open-source alternatives don’t work at all on Windows (assuming I don’t want to install FS drivers anywhere I go).

  3. yoni says:

    Ok, FAT32 has failed me for the last time: You can’t have files bigger than 4GB on a FAT32 partition.

    convert D: /fs:ntfs

  4. FOR windows 2000 /XP /2003 users:
    USE swissknife it works really easy


    ReyeR from CLS Computer Support Holland

  5. worldwideweb

    • TattooDTA says:

      One reason to use FAT32 is that if you want to watch movies or play music from a portable device on an xbox360 you still have to use FAT32 unfortunately.

  6. INFO says:

    If you are dual booting Mac OS X and Windows, good luck communicating between the two using write commands without a FAT32 partition. Mac OS X uses HFSJ+, but cannot write to NTFS AT ALL. So if you want to read/write and swap files between the two, I find that having a 25 gig FAT32 partition works well.

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