Tips, Tricks, Thoughts & Ideas

Getting that LARGE File onto Your Thumb Drive 

Monday, October 12, 2009 9:16:08 PM

Enabling a thumb drive to accept a file larger than 4GB

Many of us have files that we want to transfer from computer to computer or simply carry around with us as a backup.  The proliferation of USB thumb drives has made this nice and easy.  However, sometimes that file is very large file.  Maybe it is a movie file, a legal copy of a DVD or Windows Virtual Machine Virtual Hard Disk file.  Either way, when copying something larger then 4Gigs onto a thumb drive, you will get the error stating "not enough disk space".  This is frustratingly true even when there IS enough disk space.  The reason is that thumb drives are almost always formatted in something called FAT32.  I will spare you the details, but in the end, the FAT32 file system can only read, write and manage files that are less than 4GB.  What you need is a different file system. 

NTFS to the rescue...

What you can do if convert that thumb drive to the NTFS file system.  Again, I will spare you the details.  The NTFS system will allow your computer to manage files on that thumb drive that are larger than 4GB. 

The following instructions are from the Microsoft Website:;en-us;307881

How to convert a FAT volume or a FAT32 volume to NTFS

Note Although the chance of corruption or data loss during the conversion is minimal, we recommend that you perform a backup of the data on the volume that you want to convert before you start the conversion.

To convert an existing FAT or FAT32 volume to NTFS, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt.
  2. At the command prompt, type the following, where drive letter is the drive that you want to convert:

           convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs

    For example, type the following command to convert drive F to NTFS:

    convert f: /fs:ntfs

    If the operating system is on the drive that you are converting, you will be prompted to schedule the task when you restart the computer because the conversion cannot be completed while the operating system is running. When you are prompted, click YES.
  3. When you receive the following message at the command prompt, type the volume label of the drive that you are converting, and then press ENTER:

          The type of the file system is FAT.
          Enter the current volume label for drive drive letter

  4. When the conversion to NTFS is complete, you receive the following message at the command prompt:
         Conversion complete
  5. Quit the command prompt.


Within this process, you may run into file issues and the message of "Failed to convert to NTFS" is displayed.  If somewhere in that message string is the suggesstion to run a "fix", then simply run CHKDSK with the flag to fix (which is /F).  For example, the run it on drive F would be:


After running check disk (and converting whatever issues it may find to "files"), you should be able to convert without any problems.  Once converted, you can copy those large files to your thumb drive. 


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