In Windows XP (might have actually happened in 2000) Microsoft introduced an artificial limitation to FAT32, preventing you from formatting any volume over 32GB in that file system. It instead forces you to use NTFS. A few quick points on NTFS:
– While Microsoft has been unable to enforce any patents on FAT-based files systems because of plenty of prior art (and they have tried, and failed) they can require licensing payments, enforced with patents, for NTFS. Although FAT32 is technically capable of formatting and addressing a volume up to 2TB in size, Microsoft has convinced its customer base into believing that NTFS is required for large volumes.
– NTFS is readable on plenty of non-Windows platforms, but not writable. This means that when you format a USB hard drive to NTFS, and try to use it on a Mac or Linux, you’ll be quite frustrated. If, however, you use a Mac to format the volume to FAT32, Windows will have no issues at all writing-to and reading-from the entire drive — even beyond the 32GB “limit.”
If you haven’t got a Mac on hand to format your drives, you should check out this great little app called Fat32Format that runs from the Windows Command Prompt. There’s no author listed in the article, but he did a fantastic job of solving this problem, and thus has my eternal gratitude.