During this weekend I purchased a Western Digital My Book Home Edition 500GB. This is the triple-interface model that includes FireWire 400 and eSATA in addition to USB 2.0.
I wanted the FireWire model since it's faster than USB 2.0, and connecting a FireWire drive in a Mac is the same as connecting a USB one. Just perform these two easy steps - connect cable, wait 3 seconds.
Anyway, this is just a prelude to the story, since this drive came pre-formatted with FAT32 to suit both Mac and Windows computers, so I didn't have to format it. Western Digital also sells some drives pre-formatted with HFS+ and some with NTFS, by the way.
The next thing I wanted to do after setting up the My Book was to format my old 60GB NTFS external drive using FAT32, so that I could use it with both computers.
I copied it's contents over to the 500GB drive (OS X has read-only access to mounted NTFS volumes) and plugged it into a Vista machine to format it as one big FAT32 volume.
This is when I found out that Windows Disk Management allows you to format drives larger than 32GB using only NTFS.
So I can use a 500GB FAT32 drive in Windows, but I can't format a 60GB one. This also means by the way, that if you re-partition a 500GB drive you bought, and you don't know how to bypass this limitation, you're basically doomed to creating ~15 32GB partitions to use your drive, unless of course you use NTFS.
I've done my research+trial+error and eventually used my Macintosh to format the drive for Windows. Sort of poetic justice.
The 500GB monster eventually got converted to HFS+ since it's about 2 times faster in writes compared to FAT32. This is no official benchmark: I just monitored the HD read/write sustained speeds while copying files during setup.
Windows XP/2000/Vista don't allow creating FAT32 partitions larger than 32GB. This is to promote NTFS, and because FAT32 becomes slower as volume size increases. Reading/Writing of any volume size is possible.
If you want to format a drive larger than 32GB with FAT32, you have the following choices:
- Run the Windows XP installer from the CD - just make sure you quit it in time just after "preparing" the drive for installation.
- Use any Linux bootable CD - fdisk can do it. If you can boot into Linux, you can also Google for instructions about using fdisk so I'll stop here.
- Use the free FAT32 Formatter. Small windows utility that does what its name implies. I didn't use it myself, but it should do the trick.
- Use your Mac. The Mac "Disk Utility" can format FAT32 of any size.
Open Disk Utility, select the volume, click erase, and select "MS-DOS (FAT)" as the file system.
Leopard also includes the fdisk utility so you can use that one if you are some kind of a masochist.
P.S. I published the previous post by a clicking mistake, deleted it right away, checked that it wasn't there - only to find out that blogger entered 3 identical posts, marked 2 as drafts and one got published anyway.