You have more than enough available space on a given hard disk, so why can’t you park your file there? Read on as we investigate why Windows will deny you even if there is plenty of space to spare.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader BumSkeeter is trying to figure out why he can’t copy a small file into a larger disk. He writes:

The pictures [above] explains it well, but it seems Windows will not let me place an 8.16 GB .vhd file on a flash drive with 14.6 GB of free space.

Although the error message he receives does provide a little insight into the problem, to a user unfamiliar with what a file system is or what file system the disk  they’re working with is formatted in, it’s of little help.

The Answers

SuperUser contributor Darth Android offers some insight:

The issue is that the target filesystem is FAT32, which only supports files up to 4 GB in size. The error message is not very clear if you’ve never run into this issue before. You can fill the 14.6 GB space with multiple 4 GB files, but no single file may be larger than 4 GB. You’d need to reformat the disk as NTFS or exFAT to support larger files.

Another contributor Elbekko, offers a useful reminder that you can upgrade a FAT32 disk to NTFS without a total reformat:

In addition to David Marshall’s answer, there’s no need to reformat the drive. You can upgrade from FAT32 to NTFS with the convert command.

>convert /?
Converts a FAT volume to NTFS.

CONVERT volume /FS:NTFS [/V] [/CvtArea:filename] [/NoSecurity] [/X]

  volume      Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon),
              mount point, or volume name.
  /FS:NTFS    Specifies that the volume will be converted to NTFS.
  /V          Specifies that Convert will be run in verbose mode.
              Specifies a contiguous file in the root directory
              that will be the place holder for NTFS system files.
  /NoSecurity Specifies that the security settings on the converted
              files and directories allow access by all users.
  /X          Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary.
              All open handles to the volume will not be valid.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy, How-To Geek's sister site focused life hacks, tips, and tricks. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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