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How to format an External Hard Drive or Flash Drive

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So alot of the older External Hard Drives come formatted as FAT32 as does alot of Flash DrivesFlash Drives. What is the difference between the different formats?

Well, basically if it's formatted as FAT32 it will only allow files that are 4GB and under. If you format it as NTFS then you can add larger files to the drive. NTFS is also more stable, and gets fragmented less often, meaning better performance.

Some things, such as Flash DrivesFlash Drives and external drives may not work on some computers if formatted as NTFS and then plugging into a FAT32 computer, and more and more, even devices like DVD players, such as the great one all of us GeekDroppers love, and televisons. FAT32 however can still work on NTFS computers. Most computers these days are Windows XP (using NTFS) or higher, so generally you're safe using NTFS, however you should be aware if this limitation anyway.

So what can you do if you have a drive that is formatted to FAT32 and you want or need to change it (or visa versa)?

First you should look to see how it's already formated.
Plug the external hard drive or flash into a USB port. Go to "my computer" (start > my computer) then find the new drive. Once you find it simply right click on it like this:

First you will want to go to "Properties" (see circled in red). Click on "properties" and you will see this:

In the red box you will see how it is formatted. As you can see, this Flash DriveFlash Drive is formatted to "FAT32". Now if I wanted to reformat it to NTFS then I would go back to "my Computer" and right click on it (like in the first picture) and then choose the option "Format" (circled in green). Once you choose that you can change what format you would like to use:

Note: before you format a drive make sure any information you have stored on it is backed up to another drive because all data on the drive will be erased.
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U2's picture
U2
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Re: How to reformat a External Hard Drive or Flash Drive
This is really excellent information! I ran into this a while ago when I tried to copy over to my external hard drive a movie and I kept getting an error message. I had no idea that FAT32 would only support 4GB and under. I was advised to convert it to NTFS and did so with no problems at all!
Smartmom's picture
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Re: How to reformat a External Hard Drive or Flash Drive

That is the same way I learned - I tried to back a movie up on the external and it wouldn't. I know it use to be standard that flashes and externals came auto FAT32 now they tend to make them NTSF

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Re: How to reformat a External Hard Drive or Flash Drive

I'm gonna have to check this out when I get home. I have a newer external drive with 1 TB on it, but I'm getting into making home videos, so this may apply.

Gilnix's picture
Gilnix
Re: How to format an External Hard Drive or Flash Drive

Thanks for this! Had trouble getting to FAT32 on Windows 7, so this is a great help! Smile

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