Fixing the “File is Too Large for the Destination File System” Issue on Windows

If you are a regular laptop user, you know how frustrating it can be to deal with limited storage space. One way of solving this is by purchasing a USB stick or an external hard drive to store your files, images, documents, and videos. Unfortunately, when saving large files that are more than 4GB in space, it is common to get the error, “file is too large for the destination file system” meaning you won’t be able to move it or copy it over. This isn’t because you don’t have the required amount of space, but rather it’s because the format that the file system is in, can’t handle it. What’s responsible? The FAT32 file system.

File Is Too Large for the Destination File System - Example error message

What is the FAT32 File System?

When you are first setting up a USB stick, external hard drive, or even an SD card, Windows will ask you to format the drive so that it can store data. There will be several file systems that you can choose from, with the most common being FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS. These file systems are simply just a way of organizing the drive and all come with advantages and disadvantages.

Why is the FAT32 System Still Used?

The FAT32 file system, also known as the file allocation table-32, was introduced back in 1996 as a replacement for FAT16 which was used with MS-DOS. Due to its long-running use – it wasn’t replaced until 2006 by exFAT – it is considered the “de-facto” standard across flash drives that are sold in stores.

Why? It ensures maximum compatibility across modern computers, game consoles, and other devices such as solid-state memory cards and digital cameras that plug in via USB. So, when you purchase a USB stick, it may come formatted with FAT32.

Why Does FAT32 Cause the “File is Too Large for the Destination File System” Error?

When trying to move a file that is larger than 4GB of space, you will get the “file is too large for the destination file system” error because the FAT32 file system can only support files up to 4GB in space. And although the total amount of files that you can store on a FAT32 drive is upwards of 2TB in space, the file system won’t take an individual file that exceeds this 4GB maximum.

How to Solve the “File is Too Large for the Destination File System” Error Caused by a FAT32 Drive? 5 Solutions!

The easiest way to solve this issue is to convert the drive to a newer file system, compress or split the files, or use an alternative storage arrangement.

1. Using Compression Software to Split a Large File.

When you have an extremely large file, such as a video, and you want to place it onto a USB stick or external hard drive (that doesn’t have a lot of space left), you can use compression software to split it so that you can move it. While this is the easiest solution to use because it doesn’t require you to re-format anything and you don’t have to worry about backing up files, it’s a lengthy process.

  1. Download a compression software. The most popular are WinRar and 7Zip.
  2. Install the compression software to your computer.
  3. Click on File Explorer and find the folder that contains the file you want to compress, split, and move.
  4. Right-click on the folder, find WinRar or 7Zip in the menu and mouse-over.
  5. Choose the top option, “add to archive” to get an archive name and parameters box to pop up.
How to Access the Add to Archive Option
  1. Look for the “split to volumes, bytes” box and click it to see a drop-down menu of options. You can either select one of the existing profiles or type in the maximum size of the file you are compressing – the output file.
How to Access the Split to Volume Option
  1. Once you have the right split volume, hit okay and watch as WinRar or 7Zip compresses the source file. It will be split into several small compressed files that contain the preset file size you assigned in the step above. The larger the preset file size you’ve assigned in the step above, the fewer compressed files you will get.

Now you can go ahead and move each of these files over to your storage device. Once they are transferred, unzip the files in the correct numbered sequence. This will only work if the total file size is less than what the storage device can hold and if each zip you move over is under the max limit – 4GB in the case of a FAT32 storage device.

2. Convert a FAT32 File System to an NTFS File System – Using Windows File Explorer

With this method, we are going to use Windows Format Manager to convert your USB FAT32 file system over to the newer NTFS system.

Warning: Formatting erases all data that is on the drive. Before going ahead with the following steps, make sure to copy all files on your USB to your computer to ensure that files are not lost during the file system conversion.

  1. Plug your USB stick into your computer.
  2. Open your Windows File Explorer. Found in your taskbar/toolbar.
  3. Look for your USB stick on the left-hand side.
  4. Right-click on the USB stick and find the Format Option.
How to Access the Format Option for a USB Stick
  1. This will open a Format pop-up window.
  2. From the File System drop-down menu, choose NTFS.
  3. Hit the start button.
How to Format & Convert to NTFS.

Once the formatting is done, you will be able to copy over your files that you saved to your computer without getting the “file is too large for the destination file system” error message.

3. Convert a FAT32 File System to an NTFS File System – Using Windows Command Prompt.

Warning: With the command prompt code line, this conversion method will definitely cause data loss so make sure to back up your USB files onto your computer or another hard drive that is a secure location.

Here is how to reformat a drive as NTFS using the Command Prompt:

  1. In your computer’s search box (start menu), search for CMD.
  2. In the best results, find the command prompt app and right-click it.
  3. Choose to run it as an administrator.
How to Run Command Prompt as Administrator
  1. In the CMD window that pops up, you will need to run a command line where you replace [drive] with the letter associated with the drive that you want to reformat as NTFS.
  2. The command line that you need to type is: convert [drive] /fs:ntfs
  3. Then hit Enter.
The Command Line for Conversion

So, if your drive was D, the command would look like: convert D: /fs:ntfs

It will take a few seconds to convert the drive, but once it is converted, you won’t have any problems placing 4GB+ sized files onto the drive and you will no longer get “the file is too large for the destination file system” error.

4. Convert a FAT32 File System to an NTFS File System – Using Disk Management.

Another very easy way to convert your FAT32 USB or Hard Drive to an NTFS file system is by using the built in Disk Management Software.

Warning: This will erase all of the data on the drive, so back the files up first!

  1. Open up File Explorer and find “This PC” in the left-hand menu.
  2. Right-click it and choose Manage.
How to Find the Manage Option
  1. In computer management, right-click the USB or Hard Drive under Storage.
  2. Choose the format option.
How to Format From Computer Management
  1. Under “file system” swap it to NTFS.
  2. Check mark the “perform a quick format” option.
  3. Hit okay to confirm the choice.
How to Convert USB to NTFS Using Computer Management

Once the conversion is done, you will have fixed the “file is too large for the destination file system” error and you won’t have any problems copying over large files.

5. Convert Using Third-Party Tools.

With so many built-in options to convert your FAT32 file systems to NTFS and back, there isn’t really a reason to use a third-party tool to solve the “file is too large for the destination file system” error but it is understandable that some may feel more comfortable using a third-party tool than built-in programs. Just make sure to look at the reviews before downloading or making any third-party purchases.

Wrapping It Up

If you really don’t want to hassle with the compression split option or the conversion process, the other alternative for the “file is too large for the destination file system” is to use a different storage device that uses the NTFS file system natively. Just simply transfer the files over from the FAT32 to the NTFS hard drive or USB stick or move from the FAT32 file system to your computer and then to the new NTFS USB stick or hard drive as needed.

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