Format hard drive with FAT32 in two steps

I recently bought a nice-looking external hard drive from Vantec. Since I have both PC and Mac, I need to format the hard drive in FAT32 filesystem and by Windows Vista’s disk management, it doesn’t give you the option to format with FAT32, only in NTFS. That’s no good because Mac cannot write to NTFS, it can only read the filesystem. With some Googling, there is a turnaround to this. The command line is your solution.

1. Go to ‘run’ from the start button and type ‘cmd’ to bring up the command window.
2. Type this in the command line: format (Drive letter): /FS:FAT32

That’s all! The format process will take a while, at least it will give you the percent it’s completing at.


40 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. OMG, I just had to write and thank you for this. Soooooooooo much easier than any other stupid suggestions on web ( third party downloads, linux, etc. ). All I wanted was ext hard drive for PS3, and now I have it. Thanx again !

  2. natech

    Lloyd, no plm, you’re welcome. Thought I’d share in here so anyone else didn’t have to endure what I had to go through. Ha.

  3. Daniel

    Hey, i tried your method but it said “Access denied as you do not have sufficient privileges. You have to invoke this utility running in elevated mode.”

    What does this mean?

  4. john

    I if a 160GB external and I tried the right click and it only has NTFS. I tired the cmd way but it came back and said that the drive was too large

  5. natech

    Daniel, oh your user name may not be running in administrator mode. You need to be in one.

    John, oh strange, hmm. Not exactly sure why. It worked ok on mine.

  6. Danny

    I have a big problem, I formatted my 40gb HD to NTFS to clear away all the old files then used swissknife to format it into Fat32, after that it wont work and crashes windows Vista and wont open in XP. I tried the above method of formatting it but still nothing, me thinks I have a dead HD on my hands. Any idea if it’s possible to recover it, all I wanted was an exernal hd.


  7. Trevore Hamilton

    I needed to format my hard drive to FAT32 so it could be read by my DVD player (USB input). This worked a treat!!! Thanks so much for the advice.

  8. adam

    vista does alow u to format a drive to fat 32 the partition size jsut has to be less tahn 32Gb

  9. Dan B - danrox48

    Daniel, if you haven’t managed yet, to do it, instead of clicking on cmd as usual, right click and choose run as administrator, if you’re not already logged on as such, you will need to type in the password for an admin account. (vista)

    Lloyd, also doing this for ps3, add me if ya want. psn: danrox48

  10. John

    Thanks for the tip guy running vista with a
    saved me a bit of messing round and learned a new cmd line for formating with vista so thanx.
    oh if you where wondering i came across this on google so very helpful.

  11. MikeMc


    I got “volume is too big for FAT32” as well. I did some research and was able to find the following info. from wikipedia…hopefully it helps:

    “Windows 2000 and Windows XP can read and write to FAT32 file systems of any size, but the format program included in Windows 2000 and higher can only create FAT32 file systems of 32 GiB or less. This limitation is by design and according to Microsoft was imposed because many tasks on a very large FAT32 file system become slow and inefficient.[11][15] This limitation can be bypassed by using third-party formatting utilities.”

  12. MikeMc

    this is also straight from MicroSoft’s website to further support my previous post:

  13. Tmac

    Thanks, great new DOS command I was not aware of. I too was unable to format an external drive to fat32 using basic windows right click format option, would only offer NTFS. This did go slowly but at least it worked. Now finally able to drop movies from DVR to external drive.

    Thanks again!

  14. Thanks, I have a habit of getting new external drives with files already on it. I like to delete and reformat fresh. With a 500GB hard drive, this can be difficult to do through Windows itself, with this command line trick I should be able to circumvent the Mxrosoft (yep, I went there) format process through Computer Managment / Disk Management. 6% done, I’ll leave another comment ONLY if it doesn’t work :-)

  15. awfa

    Thank you

    it was good

  16. Monti

    Hi all i tried to formate with cmd command
    when type :format (F): /FS:FAT32 in command line nothing happened,
    am i missing something?? i have maxtor 500GB and i am trying to formate with fat32 for my dvr but no luck
    i am using windows Xp
    plz help am i missing something???

  17. Monti

    never mind figure out!!! i was not putting space after word format

    so command is like this

    format F:/FS:FAT32

    thanks all its working now

  18. Excellent help got from here.. I was thinking to reload Win 98/2 K in my system to format my HDD player with FAT32 system of 80GB hard disk.. but file helped me a lot… thanks Scott Kingsley Clark for valuable help from your end.. and also for Ke5ter site owners…

  19. sorry..forgot to add link where I downloaded..
    just download file in C drive and use at C:\> (thru cmd from run)

    C:\>fat32format H:
    (assumed h drive is your destination drive need to format by FAT32 system)

  20. Jay


    I needed to turn my external HD into a backup drive for my PS3 and swissknife does a QUICK FAT32 format so you dont have to wait for the damn thing to take forever, doing it the CMD way.
    free download

  21. Jason

    It sais enter current volume label for Drive. What do I put?

  22. Dan

    Enter any letter that is not identical to the one that were already assigned in your computer for other components like HD, DVD, CD….
    Swissknife got very poor rating in CNET

  23. Dan

    Sorry, I misread your quetion

  24. Josh

    fat32format worked beautifully. it was hard to understand exactly how to get it working, but once i did it was so easy. why does vista have to make things harder.

  25. terence

    fat32format just flashed the HD and it converted from the filesys to FAT32. Amazing.

  26. john94

    SwissKnife didn’t work for me.

    Fat32formatter worked like a charm

  27. wari

    when i type in the commd; format F:/FS:FAT32 and enter it will then come up with this question ” enter current volume label for drive F:

    what should i do then?


  28. DarkKevin

    Just have to say Thank you SO much, this was so much easier than others made it out to be. Just one command line, Genuis!


  29. Sean

    HAHA, Agreed, this was the simplest and easiest way to do it, every other post on the web tries to reinvent formatting like it’s some fucking mystery thanks!

  30. thank you so much for your help, im loading my hdd into the ps3 and your advice works perfectly, command prompt is a forgotten art nowadays, its still extremely useful.

  31. Brian

    For those encountering the “Volume is too Big for FAT32″ when executing the run line command. Is the partition you are trying to format still RAW? (Meening you have deleted the existing partition, created a new volume, but did not format) If so I am getting the same error. To fix, just format in NTFS as Vista suggests then re-run the command line Format X: /FS:FAT32 and it will say ” The type of file system is NTFS. The new file system is FAT32.
    Enter the Current volume label for drive X: (Here you just look up the volume label by either viewing properties for the drive/partition in your computer or by using Drive Management from management console)” It will then ask you to enter Y and you should be good to go. Let me know if this approach to your “Drive is too big for FAT32” helps.

  32. Paulo

    Many thanks, you just saved me €150, now i dont have to buy a multimedia drive to watch movies on my tv.
    Once again many thanks

    Best Regards


  33. ak3e

    Wish I had found this site first. Just spent several hours formatting my new 1Tb Maxtor external hd, only to receive the “volume too big for Fat32” message. I, too, tried Swissknife which other sites rave about but it didn’t work for me. Would only see half of the hard drive and reflect 500 gb instead of the 1tb. The fat32format utility worked great. Formatted my hard drive to Fat32 in about 15 sec. This would have saved me a ton of time…but oh well, at least it’s done. Thanks to all who posted here..great discussion and thanks Scott for letting us all know about Fat32Format.

  34. Nice, had same issue, but figured there was a command arg that would still give you the fat32 format option, but was unsure of the syntax… found while looking for (cmd line format syntax fat32 xbox) search string ;) all is good ty :)

  35. Odin Von D

    Okay, I’ve tried a few variations of this Command version of formatting but every time I do it asks me to enter the current volume label of the drive, and though I try entering whatever values are total, used or free, it will not accept it and will not format it. It reads:

    The type of the file system is NTFS.
    The new file system is FAT32.
    Enter current volume label for drive (drive letter):

    Now, the first part of the code that I need to enter type from is , not Documents and Settings\Administrator. Might that be the issue? If it is then how do I change that?

  36. Rich

    when it says enter volume label what exactly am i looking for. like do i type 455.56 as thats the max space of my hdd. i dont know what to type….

  37. Thanks man! Awesome bit of info…

  38. Char

    If you are formatting a drive larger than 32gb you cannot use the command prompt. This is the reason for the error “The volume is too big for FAT32.” I wish I had known this before using the command prompt, because the process took 12 hours.
    I downloaded the free version of Swissknife, but every time I try to open the program it crashes. I have Vista 64-bit and I do not believe the program supports it
    I have successfully downloaded and opened
    There are no instructions for this program. I guess they figure if you cannot figure it out then you shouldn’t be using it. I selected the correct physical drive, deleted the partition and then started the new format. It is running now. Hopefully it works.

  39. josh

    if you put the /Q switch in the command, it’ll do a quick format.. not even close to secure, but if you’re just looking for a quick file system switch, it works great!


korea deafness Life pics blogging thoughts Links birthdays family Writings videos adoption running google reviews workouts design sign language beers apple psychology economics philosophy education Golf languages travel food snowboarding traveling finance tips wordpress tech sports science identity asl reading childhood movies news coding honda shoes people buildings beauty surfing nature twitter obama blackberry howto time toys ergonomics party dreams textmate speeches wiki gmail san francisco dinosaurs extinction trains technology hydration element bike human capital deaf olympics xbox dating productivity communication ego hockey iphone