How To Fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ Error in Windows

Windows may have gotten much better at managing space but it isn’t without the odd problem now and again. I was asked the other day to fix an issue a customer had when moving files between their hard drive and an external drive. They kept seeing ‘file too large for destination file system’ errors. Here is how I fixed it for them.

How To Fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ Error in Windows

On the surface, it is an odd error. There is usually lots of free space on the source drive and more than enough space on the destination drive, so why does it say there isn’t. The clue is in the syntax but you have to be a bit of an IT geek to figure it out. Yet once you see it, it is obvious and you wonder why you didn’t notice it first.

The key term is ‘file system’. That means the destination file system cannot cope with the files. That does not mean the destination drive. It is a very minor but critical distinction.

The ‘file too large for destination file system’ error in Windows is becoming rarer thanks to larger drives that use the NTFS file system. Any drive formatted with FAT32 is only capable of handling 4GB files. Anything larger than that, even if made up of smaller individual files, will not work. FAT32 simply cannot handle it. That’s why Windows switched to NTFS and has other file systems available, such as ReFS (Resilient File System).

How to fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ errors in Windows2

Fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ errors in Windows

So now you know what the error actually means, you will likely have already figured out how to fix it. We format the destination drive with NTFS. This will work for USB or external hard drives but will not work for Windows phones or consoles that use FAT32 like Xbox One.

Be aware though that this process will wipe anything you have stored on the drive. Don’t’ do it if you need those files, or save them somewhere else first.

  1. Put your removable drive into your PC.
  2. Next, right-click it in Windows Explorer and select Format. Windows menu
  3. Select NTFS from the File system dropdown box. Windows 10 Format menu
  4. For faster results, ensure that Quick Format is selected. Windows 10 Format menu 2
  5. Now, select Start and let the formatter do its work. Windows 10 Format menu 3

Once formatted, you should be able to move larger files without seeing the ‘file too large for destination file system’ error.

Split the File in Windows Using GSplit

If you cannot format the destination drive for any reason, like having too much other useful data on it, you have another option. You can split the file. This works with a range of file types and splits the file into smaller chunks that you can either reform manually on the destination computer or will reform itself.

GSplit will only work if you are sharing a large file between computers using a removable drive. It will not work for storing larger files on removable drives as it needs an installed app on both the source and destination computers. Without both, this process will not work.

  1. Download and install GSplit onto your computer. GSplit Homepage
  2. Open the app and select Original File. Select the file you want to move.
  3. Select the destination folder. I tend to have the destination on my hard drive and move it as a separate operation. You can save directly to your destination drive if you prefer.
  4. Select Disk spanned or Disk blocked. Disk spanned is more useful for removable drives.
  5. Select Split and let the program do its work.
  6. Install GUnite onto the destination computer.
  7. Open the app and select the first piece file.
  8. Follow the wizard to verify and then rebuild the files.

Use Windows Resilient File System (ReFS)

How to fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ errors in Windows3

Microsoft’s  Resilient File System (ReFS)  has been around for several years and was built from the ground up to support big data and be a more efficient and more reliable file storage medium. It is part of the current Windows 10 build, but, as of Fall 2017, has only been a part of Pro and Enterprise versions.

To use it you would need to create a virtual drive on your Windows 10 PC and use ReFS as the file system. If you would like to try it out, Windows Central has a pretty good guide on setting it up. I have yet to try it as NTFS works fine for me right now.

There are limitations to the current edition of ReFS. It cannot be used on the boot drive or removable drives. It is currently not compatible with BitLocker either as far as I can tell. Aside from that, it should work fine if you want to try it out. Let me know how you get on if you do.

Use 7-Zip to Split Files

Another great way to split files is to use 7-Zip’s built-in file splitting tool.

  1. Download the 7-Zip from the website and install it.
  2. Next, right-click the file you want to split and go to 7-Zip > Add to Archive.
  3. Then, name your archive, click on the Split to Volumes, bytes dropdown menu and select you desired file size or enter a custom value.
  4. Now, select OK to split the file.
  5. Transfer your files to its location and right-click on the first file in the archive and select 7-Zip > Extract to [File Name].

11 thoughts on “How To Fix ‘file too large for destination file system’ Error in Windows”

Rodney Kingsley says:
Not much help in my case, I need to do a clean install of windows and my laptop only recognizes fat32 formatted usb drives, the install.esd file is 4.06gb, making it a rock and a hard place for me.
Steve Larner says:
What about formatting as exFat?
Sam says:
This was very helpful, thanks
kabir says:
Great help. Thank you
Michael Salih says:
Thank you very much.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos