Windows 10 doesn’t let you format external USB drives larger than 32GB to the FAT32 file system. The format utility dialog offers just NTFS, and exFAT file systems for USB drives larger than 32GB.
Although NTFS is the preferred file system by Windows 10, users who often need to use their USB external drives with other operating systems like macOS and Linux might want to format USB drives to FAT32 for compatibility reasons. As you likely know, macOS doesn’t let you write files to NTFS file system whereas it can both read and write to FAT32 file system.
As Windows 10 format utility doesn’t let you format USB drives larger than 32GB to the FAT32 file system, we need to either use the disk utility from the Command Prompt or use a third-party tool to format the USB drive to the FAT32 file system.
Before we tell you how to format your USB drive to the FAT32 file system, remember that the FAT32 doesn’t support files larger than 4GB. That is, if a file is larger than 4GB in size, you cannot transfer it to FAT32 drives.
Method 1 of 2
Use Command Prompt to format USB to FAT32
Please note that formatting large USB drives to FAT32 might take hours. If you cannot wait for hours, please use the tool mentioned in Method 2 of this guide.
IMPORTANT: Formatting the drive will delete all data on the drive. Please back up all data to another location before proceeding. If you want to convert your drive from NTFS to FAT32 without losing data, use the tool mentioned in Method 3 (scroll down to see).
Step 1: Open the Command Prompt as administrator. To do that, type CMD in the Start/taskbar search field, right-click on the Command Prompt entry and then click Run as administrator option.
Click the Yes button when you get the User Account Control screen.
Step 2: At the Command Prompt window, execute the following command. WARNING: All data on the drive will be erased.
Format /FS:FAT32 X:
In the command, replace “X” with the actual drive letter of the USB drive that you want to format to the FAT32 file system. As said before, it might take hours to format the drive.
Press the Enter key when asked to execute the command.
Method 2 of 3
Format USB drives to FAT32 using FAT32 Format tool
If you don’t want to use the Command Prompt, you can download this free utility to format USB drives larger than 32GB to the FAT32 file system.
Step 1: Download and run FAT32 Format utility.
Step 2: Select your USB drive, select the Quick format option and then click the Start button to begin formatting the drive to the FAT32 file system. All data on the drive will be erased.
All third-party partition management tools around support formatting 32GB+ drive to the FAT32 file system. You can use any of them.
Method 3 of 3
Convert NTFS to FAT32 without losing data
Well, there are quite a few third-party utilities out there to help you convert NTFS drives to FAT32 without losing data, but they are not free!
While there are some free utilities available, they support small USB drives only. Partition Wizard, Partition Master and AOMEI NTFS to FAT32 Converter all enable you to convert NTFS drives to FAT32 without causing data loss, but none of them are free!
There is a convert utility in Windows, but it can convert FAT32 to NTFS only and not vice versa! So, if you need to convert NTFS drives to FAT32 without losing data, it would be wise to back up data to another location and manually format the USB drive to FAT32 rather than buying a third-party program for the one-time job.
Do let us know if there is a genuine free program (without any limitations) to convert NTFS to FAT32 without causing data loss.