Operating System Limits
We’ve seen all the limits the two major file systems – FAT and NTFS – have. Your operating system, however, may also have its own limitations that prevent you from reaching the maximum partition size the file system you are using could support. Below we list all limits from all Microsoft operating systems.
- MS-DOS up to 6.22: Can recognize hard drives up to 7.84 GB (“8 GB”) in size and there is nothing you can do about it. You need to upgrade your operating system to at least Windows 95 to get partitions over 8 GB. Keep in mind that DOS uses FAT-16, so for hard disk drives above 2 GB you will need to create several partitions.
- Windows 95 OSR2: This operating system can only access partitions up to 32 GB and there is nothing you can do about it. You need to upgrade your operating system to at least Windows 98 to get partitions over 32 GB. Of course we are talking about FAT-32 here, as FAT-16 has a limit of 2 GB per partition that has nothing to do with the OS.
- Windows 98: The Fdisk command, which is used to create partitions, displays the wrong size for partitions above 64 GB. The solution is to download a fixed Fdisk.exe file from Microsoft’s website. With this updated Fdisk, however, the maximum partition size that you can enter manually is 99,999 MB, as this utility displays sizes in MB and allows you to enter only up to 5 digits. The workaround is to enter the size of partitions in percentage or to select the entire hard disk drive to be used as a single partition.
- Windows 98: This operating system can only access partitions up to 128 GB and there is nothing you can do about it. You need to upgrade your operating system to at least Windows ME to get partitions over 128 GB (you will need, however, to run a small program to get over 128 GB, see below).
- Windows 98 and ME: When you format a partition over 64 GB using the command Format.com the command says that the partition size is of 64 GB. This is a cosmetic bug, however, as the partition is formatted to its full capacity (providing that there is no other thing limiting the maximum partition size you may use).
- Windows ME: Fdisk.exe can’t create partitions over 512 GB in size. The solution is to use a partitioning utility. Even the partitioning utility available on Windows ME’s boot disk works fine for this.
- Windows NT: This operating system can’t boot from a partition that is larger than 7.84 GB (“8 GB”). The workaround for this operating system is to create a bootable partition with 7.84 GB and then put the rest of the disk space on one or more extra partitions. If you want to access your hard disk drive over 8 GB as a single partition you will need to upgrade your system to Windows 2000 or other newer OS.
- Windows ME, NT, 2000 and XP without SP1 or SP2 installed can’t recognize partitions over 128 GB because they don’t enable 48-bit LBA by default. The solution is to run “Big Drive Enabler“.
- Windows NT, 2000 and XP (and probably Vista) can’t format FAT-32 partitions over 32 GB, even though they can recognize hard disk drives formatted with FAT-32 under Windows ME up to the 2 TB limit.
- Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista: By default these systems do not support NTFS partitions over 2 TB as their boot partition. If you want disks larger than that to be recognized as a single partition you will need to create a dynamic volume (feature that allows you to join several partitions into a single partition).