The format window for a USB drive includes your choice of File System

  • FAT32 is the default
  • FAT
  • NTFS
  • exFAT

Using FAT32

Of course FAT32 is the default for flash drives as it works everywhere. Maximum file size is 4GB.

So what is the problem with FAT32?

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Switch to NTFS from FAT32

My work computer with Win 7 gives annoying messages about file properties every time I copy files to a USB drive. It seems that the problem is the USB drive uses FAT32 and Win 7 is NTFS. I experimented by reformatting a 4GB usb drive to NTFS. The result is no more annoying messages every time I copy files onto the USB drive.

The only downside I have found is on the Canon copy machine / scanner, the NTFS formatted flash drive is not recognized.


Choosing NTFS limits where my usb can be used. Some devices (the Canon copy machine) don't recognized the device. MACs can read only. But running only Win 7 and Win 8.1 won't be a problem. Win 10? Yes, it works just fine.


  • Capable of overcoming the limitation of files bigger than 4GB.
  • exFAT works on Windows, Linux, and OS X.
  • may not work on a non-computer device
  • similar to NTFS, the file properties are transferred and there is no annoying message when copying.


Excellent information source on FAT32, NTFS, and even exFAT for USB: What file system should I use for my USB drive?.

File sizes and limits

 Individual File Size LimitSingle Volume Size Limit
NTFSGreater than commercially available drivesHuge (16EB)
FAT32Less than 4GBLess than 8TB
exFATGreater than commerciallyavailable drivesHuge (64 ZB)
HFS+Greater than commercially available drivesHuge (8 EB)
EXT2, 316GBLarge (32 TB)

Source: What file system should I use for my USB drive?

Some portions originally on Scribbles - September 2015


Price is what you pay; value is what you get.

Ben Graham

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