Most of the time I deliver finished photos and videos to my clients via digital download. It’s quick, easy and saves me time and money by avoiding the hassle of uploading files to a physical storage device and sending it in the mail.
However, it is occasionally necessary to copy photography and videos to a USB flash drive for delivery to a client (some clients don’t have reliable high speed internet, some want a physical product, some don’t have a reliable PC and some are just not tech savvy enough to figure out how to download a large number of files from a link).
One issue that I have started to run into – especially with longer or 4K video – is transferring files larger than 4 GB to a USB flash drive.
Fortunately, the solution is relatively easy – here is how to copy files larger than 4 GB to a USB flash drive, memory card or other FAT32 storage device.
Most USB flash drives (and memory cards) come pre-formatted with the FAT32 file system. While this is fine for day to day use, one key limitation of the FAT32 file system is that you cannot save individual files that are over 4GB in size.
Back in 1995 when the FAT32 file system was introduced, this wasn’t much of a problem – nobody had 4GB files! However, with 4K video, longer HD videos or ProRes / DNxHD video clips, exceeding that 4GB file size limit isn’t too hard to do.
If you try to copy a file that is larger than 4GB to a USB flash drive with the default FAT32 file system, you will get an error saying that there is not enough space to copy the file (even if its say a 6GB file being copied onto a 64GB USB flash drive with lots of room to spare).
To solve this problem, all you need to do is format your USB flash drive with the exFAT file system.
exFAT has no file size limitations and is compatible across most modern devices including both Windows and macOS (although there may be some compatibility issues with older devices).
To format your USB flash drive with the exFAT file system: select the USB drive you want to format from your file explorer, right click and select “Format”, then in the format dialogue, choose exFAT under the File System drop down menu.
Warning! This will delete everything on the drive you are formatting, so make sure you have selected the correct drive and that you don’t have any critical data saved that you don’t want to lose.
If you are working in a strictly Windows environment, you could also format your USB drive to NTFS, but exFAT is more compatible across platforms and is specifically optimized for flash drives.
If you’re interested, here is a great article that explains the difference between FAT32, exFAT and NTFS.