This page provides help on formatting harddrives with the FAT32 filesystem, suitable for use with this MP3 player. Note that it’s easiest to use a Windows PC to do this (thanks to a handy utility described below). Linux or Macintosh machines can readily read FAT32 filesystems, but it’s more work for those machines to create them.
Windows XP has an arbitrary limit of 32 GB when formatting with FAT32. (There is no technical reason for this limitation; Microsoft just did this because they’re trying to force NTFS down everyone’s throats.) If your harddisk is 32 GB or smaller you can use natively use WinXP to format it. If it’s greater than 32 GB you’ll want to format it using Win98 or WinME, or use the fat32format program described below.
As always, please remember this MP3 player will only see a maximum of 137 GB on the harddrive. So if you physically have a larger harddrive, only partition and format to a maximum of 137 GB, otherwise the player can have difficulties.
Formatting FAT32 in Windows XP
As mentioned earlier, WinXP won’t natively FAT32 format drives above 32 GB in size. This is due to Microsoft trying to force everyone towards their more complex NTFS file system. However WinXP will happily read & write to FAT32 drives of any size, provided you can format it first.
The easiest way to FAT32 format a harddisk in Windows XP is using a wonderful open-source program called fat32format. It can be found, with usage instructions, here. A really nice thing about this program is it will format USB connected drives, which is perfect for formatting a drive connected to the MP3 player. If this is you, simply use the fat32format program & you don’t need to read any more of this page.
Removing Existing Partitions
(This section does not apply for brand-new drives.) If you’re reusing a drive you may wish to delete any existing partitions to “clear” the disk and make it like new. Note that doing this will erase any information currently on the drive. So make sure to copy off any files on the drive first. To delete existing partitions, run FDISK from a command prompt, select the drive, then choose Delete Partition. Be careful you’ve selected the right drive! FDISK will prompt you “are you sure?” and once you’ve confirmed “y” it will remove the partition. If the drive has multiple partitions you’ll want to delete them all to fully clear the drive.
As an alternative to FDISK, Win2000/XP also have a graphical Disk Manager. Right-click on My Computer. Choose Manage. Then choose Storage – Disk Management. You’ll be presented with a graphical view of the drives in the system and their partitions. You can then select the partition(s) to delete. As before, make certain you select the correct drive – you don’t want to erase the wrong one!
Create & Format a FAT32 Partition
This section only applies if you’re not using the fat32format program on WinXP.
At a command prompt start FDISK. FDISK will ask you “Do you want to enable large hard disk support?”. Select “Y” (yes). This tells FDISK to use FAT32. Then select the drive, then choose “create primary DOS partition”. For partition size accept the default of the entire disk. FDISK will give your partition a drive letter (for example E:). Remember this. After exiting FDISK, back at the command prompt type: format e: (where e: is your diskdrive letter) to format your newly-partitioned drive.
As an alternative to FDISK, Win2000/XP also have a graphical Disk Manager. Right-click on My Computer. Choose Manage. Then choose Storage – Disk Management. You’ll be presented with a graphical view of the drives in the system and their partitions. In the case of an unpartitioned disk it’ll appear to Windows as an unknown, or “unallocated”.
A wizard should appear if the drive has never been connected to your machine. Follow the directions. If the wizard does not appear, right click on Disk X (X being the drive that is unknown), select “Write Signature..” or “Initialize..”. Click OK.
a) Right click on the unallocated drive (your new drive)
b) Select Create Partion
1) A wizard will appear
2) Click next
3) Select Primary Partion
4) Select size of the partion (accept the default value to use the entire drive)
5) Specify drive letter (accept the default)
6) To format select FAT32 from the drop-down box.
7) Click finish
Partitioning is fast; only a few seconds. Formatting is slow; it takes several minutes, so be patient.
USB versus IDE Connection
The above instructions work for both USB and IDE (cabled to the PC motherboard) connected drives. For FDISK to work on a USB drive, ie, the player plugged into the PC, Windows needs to be running and recognizing the drive. If you can see the MP3 player diskdrive under Windows Explorer then FDISK in a command prompt box should work.
Some people find it easier to plug the drive directly into the IDE cable of their PC. Although not as convenient as the USB connection, it has some advantages. One advantage is that you can boot the PC using a Win98/ME boot disk, and do everything (FDISK, format) from there, without ever starting Windows. This may be attractive to you. Realistically though, most people will just plug the MP3 player, drive and all, into the USB port of their PC and do everything from within WinXP, using the fat32format program.