Many people on many forums and websites claims that this or that piece of software is able to convert NTFS partition to FAT32 without losing data. In most cases this turns out to be only a blunt lie and results in a huge time waste on installing software that is only able to achieve such conversion by formatting partition.
Here you have the only known to me method of getting your drive from NTFS to FAT32 under Windows, while keeping your data safe.
One small note. Before I was really able to perform NTFS-to-FAT32 conversion without losing data I wasted hours on installing and uninstalling crappy software which was expected to be able to do such conversion, but eventually turned out not. This irritated me a little bit, so expect (and please, forgive me for) a harsh language in this article.
Do you really need the conversion?
Or maybe simple format will do the trick?
In this article we’re talking here about advanced work to be done. Like converting your NTFS system disk to FAT32 or doing so with a large USB disks. For really small disks (a few GB) it is far more reasonable to:
- move data somewhere,
- quickly format empty disk to FAT32 and
- copy data back.
rather than installing some powerful disk manager for such a quick task.
Converting 2 TB (1892 GB) disk from NTFS to FAT32 took nearly two hours. The disk was full of data and copy process took twelve times more (approx. 48 hours; i.e. two days) so there was no point with move-format-move back solution discussed here.
But, for the significantly smaller disks I’d advise you to reconsider, if there is any point in installing new software and actually converting the disk rather than formatting it.
Before you get your hands dirty
Keep in mind that your disk must have cluster size set to at least 16 kB (32 kb according to some sources). While in most cases, disks initially formatted to NTFS has 4 kB cluster size.
Changing cluster size without losing data is as problematic as actually converting disks from NTFS to FAT32, so check cluster size for your disk before. If it is — as expected — too small then you have another problem. It is covered here (in an 2019 update of this article), but still… you need to deal with that problem.
Other things, you have to remember
There are some limitations of FAT32 disk that you need to consider:
- single file must have 4 GB at most,
- FAT32 officially supports partitions up to 32 GB; some older programs may not see your disk after conversion,
- disk’s cluster size must be set to at least 32 kB (some sources claims that 16 kB) is enough,
- FAT32 doesn’t support disk compression and extended file access rights.
For these (and many more) reasons, NTFS is simply a better file system than FAT32. But in certain scenarios (like using old hardware) you have no other option than stick with ol’good FAT32 (I am old enough to still remember FAT16! :>).
Software that is NOT working or is partially working (2013)
Let’s start with the list of software that was told to be able to do the data-loseless NTFS to FAT32 converstion, but it can’t:
- Acronis Disk Director Suite — no, only opposite way (FAT32 to NTFS),
- Partition Commander — no, fuck no! Don’t you ever use this crappy piece of shit! It brokes Windows Vista and 7 in the way, that sometimes even Windows Recovery can’t recover,
- Partition Manager – said to be able to convert NTFS to FAT32, but this option is only available in pro version, so I haven’t tested it,
- gParted – I’m gonna crucify and burn all those Linux idiots and morons and all those mindless assholes on all those fucken forums that says, this shit can do this! Complete waste of time for burning bootable CD! It can only format partition! It can’t, the fuck, convert it without losing data,
- Partition Magic – can do the job, but use it only for external or data disks! Don’t you ever, never touch any system disk, if you have Windows Vista or newer installed on it! It will fuck up such disk in the way, even Windows can’t recover it,
- Mini Tool Partition Wizard 11 Pro — as name says, option for conversion between NTFS and FAT32 is available only in paid, Pro versions.
- Aomei NTFS to FAT32 Converter Free Edition 2.0 is able to do such conversion, but free version supports disks and pendrives up to 8 GB only; you must purchase paid version to convert bigger disks,
- EaseUS Partition Master Free — another piece of shit whose creators claims that it is able to do NTFS to FAT32 conversions and that doesn’t even have such functionality built-in.
Now, let’s get to the software that really works!
Working solution (2013)
Paragon Partition Manager 8.5 Server Edition (and probably newer versions) can do the job for every disk, even system one! It can convert NTFS partition to FAT32 without losing your data.
Some notices: Sometimes it says, it can’t do conversion due to files larger than 4 GB existing on a drive, when these files have already been deleted. If it happens to you, try these:
- use tools inside Partition Manager to check disk integrity,
- unplug and replug external drive, if working with USB drive,
- restart your system.
This was tested with Paragon Partition Manager 8.5 Server and Paragon Partition Manager 10.0 Server.
Software that is NOT working or is partially working (2019)
Six years later neither Paragon Partition Manager 8.5 Server Edition nor Paragon Partition Manager 10.0 Server are available for download or purchase and some alternative solution must be used:
- IM-Magic Partition Resizer Server 2019 — supports NTFS to FAT32 conversion, but your disk must have at least 32 kB cluster size and there is now functionality for changing cluster size,
- Tool Partition Wizard 9.1 Free — is able to do such conversion, but again you need to have correct cluster size and cluster size changing functionality requires Pro version of this program,
- Paragon Hard Disk Manager 12 Server Demo — supports both operations, but in paid version only (600+ USD!).
Notice that you must have Tool Partition Wizard 9.1 Free or older. Starting with Tool Partition Wizard 11 both cluster size changing and partition conversion are paid features and are not available in free edition.
Working solution (2019)
After checking a lot of programs, I have finally came with Paragon Partition Manager 2014 Free. This program isn’t available for download at official website, so you need to google around sites like OldVersions.com etc.
Paragon Partition Manager 2014 Free can:
- perform NTFS to FAT32 conversion without losing data,
- increase cluster size in the same process (no need to perform a separate operation) and
- do this in free version.
But… (there are always some “buts”) in my case, it took it an extremely long time and it… actually didn’t completed the task.
It all went like this:
- I started the process.
- It went with “disk preparation stage” and some stupid garbage like “don’t lose your hope”, “we’re just finishing”.
- This preparation process took about 15-30 minutes during which progress bar stayed at 0% all the time.
- After that, an actual conversion started with absurd-like speed of… 1% per each 15 minutes.
- I have managed to “survive” only first 3% / first 45 minutes then I have cancelled the process.
- It took another 5 minutes to display “Are you sure” and extra 10 minutes to really cancel.
After that I was ready with “broken” disk formatting and another two nights spent on copying all data again, but — to my extreme surprise — my Windows 7 started to claim that my disk has FAT32 file system and 32 kb cluster size.
I have ejected and plugged disk again and then I have run a checkdisk over it, but it reported no problems found. Finally, I have connected this disk to another computer with Windows 10 and, again, it reported that the disk is all fine and dandy, having FAT32 file system.