As we progress into times where file sizes of portable media are getting huge, there is a lot to learn about how any why file size restrictions exist. Drag and Drop of files is limited in size depending on the formatting of the drive.
For most applications, file sizes don’t matter too much because they will never be so large that you can’t put a file on a drive with enough space. However, in the video, photo and graphic arts world this will often be the opposite. High resolution video files can easily amount to Gigabyte after Gigabyte.
Once you get into this cosmos of large files and have tried to use a flash drive to drop a file on, you know exactly the problem this blog post is about. You are trying to drop a 7BG file onto a 16GB flash drive: You have 10GB of open space, but the computer tells you there isn’t enough memory on the drive. What the heck??
As drives developed over the last 10-15 years, they used 2 or 4GB chips. The technology was lagging behind the needs of file sizes but now are growing at a high rate. I’ve seen 2TB flash drives available now! Beyond the 4GB chip sizes, it also tied into the limitations of FAT 32 file system. FAT 32 file system dates back to a time of Windows 95 when they never imagined the need for file management of a file over 4GB. Back then, the largest single storage chip was 2GB.
What does this FAT 32 / Windows 95 talk have to do with 2017 problems? Most Flash drives and SD cards come programmed with FAT 32 formatting. So this is why the 4GB file drop limitation continues to exist even though chips and technology of modern day drives and cards can handle huge files. So you may have a 128GB flash drive, but still won’t be able to drop a single file larger then 4GB.
Fortunately, just like any drive, you can use windows or Mac drive manager to reformat the drive into more modern formatting. NTFS works well if you are in the windows environment. It will work in Mac computers, but will not have full function on newer Mac OS. It should also work on other newer technology like smart TV’s and tablets. exFAT in another option if you want to work more cross-platform between PC and Mac. But it will likely not have a lot function elsewhere.
Keep in mind that changing the format of the drive will erase everything that is on it. You can try other formats for different needs, but every time you do, the data will be lost.
Drives will likely continue to come formatted as FAT 32. It is the most plug-and-play friendly and cross platform ready. Because most people rarely come across 4GB or larger files in everyday life, they have no real need to change that. But for those of us in the video world, the introduction of HD video definitely accelerated the issue.