Formatting FAT32 Under Vista

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I needed to format a 120GB disk to FAT32 to run a few trial runs with MFSTOOLS for upgrading a TIVO unit with a bigger harddisk. You’ll also run into this, though, if you need to format a USB key, or removable harddisk as FAT32 (so it would be compatible with Linux or a Mac).

You can’t format at drive/partition with FAT32 format greater than 32GB under Vista.

Microsoft has apparently just put an arbitrary limit in the formatting routines.

Not only that, you can’t format FAT32 at all via the GUI, as far as I can tell. The drop down list for format type only shows NTFS.

You CAN format in FAT32 by opening a command prompt as administrator and running

Format {drive} /FS:FAT32

But that’s still limited to 32GB partitions.

I did find a couple of solutions, though.

The first is a freeware command line utility from RidgeCrop Consultants called fat32format.

The second is a GUI utility (but that’s putting it nicely) called Flash HD to GO!, for formatting USB keys, but it appears to work with any media.

They both seem to work just fine under Vista for formatting an actual harddisk (in my case a 120GB Seagate).

I will admit though, the Flash HD to Go utility can be a little nerve wracking to run, with it’s decidedly sparse UI and limited warnings and information about the drive that’s about to go bye bye.

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