Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

The irritation of a 4 GB file size limitation

20th November 2007

I recently got myself a 500GB Western Digital My Book, an external hard drive in other words. Bizarrely, the thing is formatted using the FAT32 file system. I appreciate that backward compatibility for Windows 9x might seem desirable but using NTFS would be more understandable, particularly given that the last of the 9x line, Windows ME, is now eight years old (there cannot be anybody who still uses that, can there?). The result is that I got core dump messages from cp commands issued from the terminal on my Ubuntu system to copy files of size in excess of 4GB last night. It surprised me at first but it now seems to be a FAT32 limitation. The idea of formatting the drive as NTFS did occur to me but GParted would not do that, at least not with my current configuration. The ext3 file system is an option but I have a spare PC with Windows 2000 so that will be a step too far for now, unless I take the plunge and bring that into the Linux universe too.

Other than the 4GB irritation, the new drive works well and was picked up and supported by Ubuntu without any hassle beyond getting it out of the box, finding a place for it on my desk and plugging in a few cables. While needing judiciousness about file sizes, it played an important role while I converted a 320 GB internal WD drive from NTFS to ext3 and may yet be vital if my Windows 2000 box gets a migration to Linux. In interim, 500 GB is a lot of space and having an external drive that size is a bonus these days. That is especially the case when you consider that the 1 terabyte threshold is on the verge of getting crossed. It certainly makes DVD’s, flash drives and other multi-gigabyte media less impressive than they otherwise might appear.

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