FAT32 & WinXP

Discuss hardware related to portable usage, including the kind of storage devices people use, and how they use them.
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FAT32 & WinXP

#1 Post by Hank7 » Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:16 pm

I'm usually not the first one to rant about Microsoft, but this one got me angry:

I have a few ISO images on my portable drive that are larger than 4GB. This forced me to format the HDD with NTFS, as FAT32 is not capable of storing such large files.

Having multiple partitions on that drive was no option, as drive letters would have been a problem.

While NTFS has it's advantages compared to FAT32, considering compatibility it seems not such a good idea. 95/98/Me can't handle it, and the audio/video industry is still stuck with FAT32. Most of the DVD players or Hi-Fi components with USB don't recognise NTFS.

I was very frustrated to see that XP is not able to undo this step. It's a 250GB drive, and FAT32 formatting is limited to 32GB partitions, which would mean 8 tiny logical drives :-(

I mean, what reason could there be for limiting FAT32 partitions to 32GB except for tricking people into buying expensive proprietary software to get a function that should be OS native??

I searched for an open source solution and found fat32format. Has anyone experience with this?

I'd really appreciate your opinions/recommendations.


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#2 Post by FlightGeek » Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:52 pm

This isn't the only problem with NTFS. It also has ownership and permissions. You will need to grant "Full Control" to "Everyone" :shock: in order to use it portably.

As far as storing files that are larger than 4GB on FAT32, you can forget it. The FAT32 metadata is simply unable to describe a file larger than 2^32 bytes (and now you can guess where the limit comes from) :( .

Also be aware that FAT32 partitions larger than 64GB are not universally supported.

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Re: FAT32 & WinXP

#3 Post by teobromina » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:20 am

Hank7 wrote: Having multiple partitions on that drive was no option, as drive letters would have been a problem.
Dear Hank7: I agree to your oppinion on the difficulty to use fat32 partitions in large discs. I have arrived to a balanced solution: To use for the majority of a disc a NTFS partition and to reserve a 32 Gb partition in fat 32. Then I am using the XP disc management utility (I am freely translating 'Administracion de discos' and it may be written different in a real English version of Windows) to change the disc letters as I like, for instance giving to the fat partition the name "F". For me is good, I do not know if it can serve to you...

"Lo que tengas que hacer, hazlo pronto" (Juan 13, 27) / "What you do, do quickly" (John 13, 27)
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teobromina / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobromine

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#4 Post by stunix » Mon May 28, 2007 12:52 pm

I use fat32format regularly, works fine from usb too. As a linux & M$ user i find that fat 32 (or vfat) is nicely ubiquitous.

the 750gb seagate usb drive i recently bought for work came formatted with fat32 and is fine. I think the partition limit is much bigger than any single drive anyway.

my advice is to use fat32 for everything but use a seperate NTFS (or ext3 for linux or mac) partition for your iso files, that is if you cant split or compress them <4gb.

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#5 Post by Kermode » Mon May 28, 2007 3:41 pm

32GB what are you talking about? I have a 133GB parition in fat32

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#6 Post by pipetman » Tue May 29, 2007 5:24 am

The Wikipedia article on FAT is very informative and should clarify any issues. Here's a quote directly from the FAT32 section:

In order to overcome the volume size limit of FAT16, while still allowing DOS real-mode code to handle the format without unnecessarily reducing the available conventional memory, Microsoft decided to implement a newer generation of FAT, known as FAT32, with cluster counts held in a 32-bit field, of which 28 bits are currently used.

In theory, this should support a total of approximately 268,435,456 (228) clusters, allowing for drive sizes in the range of 8 tebibytes with 32K clusters. On Windows 95/98, due to the version of Microsoft's ScanDisk utility included with these operating systems being a 16-bit application, the FAT structure is not allowed to grow beyond 4,177,920 (< 222) clusters, placing the volume limit at 127.53 gigabytes.[4]. A limitation in original versions of Windows 98/98SE's Fdisk causes it to incorrectly report disk sizes over 64GB.[5] A corrected version is available from Microsoft. These limitations do not apply to Windows 2000/XP except during Setup, in which there is a 32GB limit.[6] Windows ME supports the FAT32 file system without any limits.[7]

FAT32 was introduced with Windows 95 OSR2, although reformatting was needed to use it, and DriveSpace 3 (the version that came with Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows 98) never supported it. Windows 98 introduced a utility to convert existing hard disks from FAT16 to FAT32 without loss of data. In the NT line, native support for FAT32 arrived in Windows 2000. A free FAT32 driver for Windows NT 4.0 was available from Winternals, a company later acquired by Microsoft. Since the acquisition the driver is no longer officially available.

Windows 2000 and Windows XP can read and write to FAT32 filesystems of any size, but the format program on these platforms can only create FAT32 filesystems up to 32 GiB. Third party utilities are available which can format larger FAT32 filesystems. Thompson and Thompson (2003) write[8] that “Bizarrely, Microsoft states that this behavior is by design.” A Microsoft knowledge base article[4] indeed confirms the limitation and the "by design" statement, but gives no rationale or explanation. However, a Microsoft TechNet article states that the 32 GiB limit was an arbitrary limit imposed because many tasks on a very large FAT32 filesystem become slow and inefficient.[9] Peter Norton's opinion[10] is that “Microsoft has intentionally crippled the FAT32 file system.”

The maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4 GiB minus 1 Byte (232−1 bytes). For most users, this has become the most nagging limit of FAT32 as of 2007, since video capture and editing applications and some other software can easily exceed this limit. Most new Windows machines now ship with NTFS and thus avoid these problems, but those who run dual boot systems or who move external data drives between computers with different operating systems have little choice but to stick with FAT32, or to install the FUSE library (on Linux) together with the NTFS-3G application. (although between Windows and Linux it is possible to use ext2 or ext3 through the use of external drivers such as ext2 IFS).

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#7 Post by Kimero » Tue May 29, 2007 12:19 pm

from MSDN:

You cannot format a volume larger than 32 GB in size using the FAT32 file system in Windows 2000. The Windows 2000 FastFAT driver can mount and support volumes larger than 32 GB that use the FAT32 file system (subject to the other limits), but you cannot create one using the Format tool. This behavior is by design. If you need to create a volume larger than 32 GB, use the NTFS file system instead.

Their argument is based mostly on performance/efficiency, although ntfs needs to be on a much bigger partition than 32gb to start taking over fat32 speedwise [leaving all the features aside..]

I have a 150gb fat32 partition with huge 32kb clusters created by Gparted:

you can also use freedos' fdisk:
http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/micro/pc-stu ... dos/fdisk/

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Back to NTFS

#8 Post by Hank7 » Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:57 am

Thank you all for your replies & sorry for neglecting this thread so long.

In the meantime I too have tried fat32format.exe and was satisfied (at first I was suspicious because formatting took only a sec, but checking the drive for errors revealed nothing).

GParted would have been my second candidate if that hadn't worked; actually I was just too lazy to burn the LiveCD and was looking for something I could use from within a running Windows installation, but I will have a second look at it for future use.

After a few weeks of being able to compare one and the same drive with two different filesystems I decided to switch back to NTFS. Mostly because the worst-case-scenario did happen.

A bad system crash forced me to press the power button. All drives suffered data loss, but only the FAT32 drive couldn't recuperate. This was the second time I lost the content of a FAT32 drive, never happened with NTFS.

My second reason for this decision was FAT32's bad handling of programs that work with databases consisting of many small files, e.g. TV-Browser. This application takes a few seconds to update it's data if run from NTFS, on FAT minutes (both standard cluster size on XP).

Also, defragmenting bigger files on an almost full drive seemed impossible as there are certain parts in a FAT32 filesystems that cannot be moved (and are randomly cluttered all over the disk).

A few days ago I had to copy files from NTFS to a Mac, plug-and-play as expected. With 95/98 beeing a dying breed (and ME a D.O.A.) I guess I'll be prepared for most situations.

And as for multimedia... I am running out of free disk space, anyway. I'll get me one of that HDs with built in media player that are now available from various manufacturers, so I don't even have to worry about hi-fi/home cinema compatibility.
My name is Mike. His name is Bob.

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fat 32 error checking

#9 Post by stunix » Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:24 am

I'll get me one of that HDs with built in media player that are now available from various manufacturers,
not meaning to sound negative, but these are always formatted fat32 due to licensing. also the 3 different types of media player i have bought all died, hd failed due to overheating, however they were permanently running. I now host movies on an ext3 partition on a linux file server and play them on a fanless itx based pc over wifi.

as a suggestion, after using fat32format, windows will and should do a full scandisk and possibly defrag of said partition to fully integrate with windows. this is a possible cause of your data loss.

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#10 Post by Hank7 » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:43 am

stunix wrote:but these are always formatted fat32
That's true but no obstacle. I intend to use each drive for a different purpose. Computer-related work feels more secure on NTFS (especially with apps constantly reading from and writing to the disk), while I don't care so much about my media files (which, after copying, only get read from time to time).

I could even convert to NTFS as now I wouldn't depend on special Hi-Fi/TV equipment with USB but could connect with Cinch, Scart or S-Video to pretty much any multimedia device. The file system wouldn't be important anymore.

That is, if the built-in player supports NTFS. Most laptops or media centers that I have seen so far use a tiny Linux OS to run a player that reads from any drive, so that should be no problem, but I could be wrong.
stunix wrote:as a suggestion, after using fat32format, windows will and should do a full scandisk and possibly defrag of said partition to fully integrate with windows. this is a possible cause of your data loss.
I did the scan disk and defrag, and the drive worked fine for weeks. I'm pretty sure fat32format is innocent, the crash was originally network related and all drives suffered. It's just that Windows couldn't restore the data on the FAT drive.
My name is Mike. His name is Bob.

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