• How-to format a disk to FAT32

    by  • 2009/04/23 • How-to, PS3, Software • 5 Comments

    When backing up my PS3 for repair I needed to plug in a external hard drive to back up the system. My PS3 is only 40 GB but even that is larger than any USB flash drive I have so I needed to pull out one of my USB hard drives for the backup. I started the the backup process and when it asked for a hard drive I plugged in my terabyte external hard drive but nothing happened. I soon found out that the PS3 will only read FAT32 formatted hard drives. I did not think this would be as much of a problem as it was.
    First I tried the format tool built into Windows but I found out that Microsoft decided not to let any drive larger than 32 GB be formatted in FAT32 because…well because they suck and wanted everyone to move to NTFS. So I tried formatting from a command line with: format d: /fs:fat32But I got an error saying the drive is too large for FAT32. I know that isn’t true because FAT32 is technically able to format drives up to 2 terabytes. So I decided to try gparted in Linux. Of course gparted wouldn’t have any problems right? Well in gparted I only had the options for ext2, ext3, reiserfs, and unformatted. That’s a bummer. So how about from the terminal? I tried variations of mkfs and mkfs.vfat but I know there was something I was doing wrong because each time it would just give me a error.
    Finally I found a way to do it! There is a program called Fat 32 Formatter. This is a command line program that works in Windows XP/2000/Vista and all you need to do is open a commend prompt and type in:fat32format.exe d: You need to replace d: with whatever your drive is currently mounted as. Once the process completes you have a fully formatted FAT32 drive for your PS3 backup needs. There is a mirror of the fat32format tool here just in case it is removed from online.
    And yes this was far more complicated than it needed to be. If you have the commands for completing this task in OSX or Linux please leave them in the comments.


    Avid learner with a passion for technology and people. He is always trying new things or taking something apart to make it better.

    5 Responses to How-to format a disk to FAT32

    1. 2009/04/23 at 00:27

      I’m surprised that Windows doesn’t allow you to format a hdd over 32GB in FAT32, but you are right: Limitations of the FAT32 File System in Windows XP. Funny thing is that they recommend that you boot into Win98 if you want to format a drive that’s more than 32GB to FAT32.

      But there are good reasons to avoid FAT32 on modern OSes, security being one of the biggest reason. Another big reason is the max file size per file is 4GB for FAT32, while the max file size per file is 16TB on NTFS.

    2. 2009/04/23 at 05:58

      One downside of using Windows 98 as recommended is, from what I found, Windows 98 doesn’t support SATA or USB 2.0. So your format times will be painstakingly slow. Especially if you are using something more than even 200 GB.
      And the only reasons I see using FAT32 as a good option is if you go between OS’s that cannot right to NTFS *cough*OSX*cough* or can’t read/write to ext3/4 without extensions *cough*Windows*cough*. I haven’t had a chance to try out exFAT which is supposed to get rid of the FAT32 file size limits, but I guess you may still have a problem if OSX doesn’t support it.

    3. Larry T
      2010/01/21 at 18:59

      Another good reason which I have encountered is that all newer car stereos with USB inputs will only accept FAT32 file systems. If you want to use an external hard drive in your car (like I do) it needs to be FAT32. Probably because the manufacturers didn’t expect people would be wanting to use hard drives in their cars, just USB thumb drives, etc.

    4. Cemore
      2010/03/08 at 15:40

      This whole hard dreive stuff has me bugged! I have a DVD player in my truck and I recently purchased
      a 1T iomega hard drive cuz I was being a dj in the bar that I owned. I’m out of the bar business now and
      I have all this music that I wanted to listen to in my truck, but I kept getting un readable file so I called Pioneer
      to see wat was up and it turns out that my head unit doesn’t support ntfs just fat32. I’m not much of a guru when it comes to computers, so I’m asking anyone to simply step by step help me through wat I need to do so I have lots of music for my enjoyment while in my truck. Much like Larry T mentioned. That is the exact portion of this thread that I’m faced with. Thanks for anyone trying to help me out!

    5. Jon
      2012/12/09 at 09:09

      many thanks, that works on windows 7 as well, after trying to do it on a command line and waiting 10 hours, this did it in 5 seconds = doh!

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