By default, Windows XP will not allow you to use anything but the FAT and FAT32 file systems to format your USB drives. With a little fiddling you can also enable the NTFS file system on your removable devices though. As for whether you would want to, there are pros and cons.

On the positive side, enabling NTFS allows you to encrypt your documents with Windows XP’s built in file encryption (though you should only do this in a Windows 2000 or 2003 domain network). It also allows the use of file compression to stretch the capacity of your disk. You can also use NTFS to allow and deny permissions for individual files and folders within XP, something you can’t do with FAT file systems. You can also set disk quotas. In short, enabling NTFS on flash drives might have several benefits for IT departments that use or issue these devices as standard.

One potential negative of using NTFS on your flash drive is the additional data writes that are necessary. NTFS is a journaling file system, which means that disk transactions are logged separately on the disk as they occur. This adds up to a considerable amount of extra disk activity, which could mean wearing out your USB drive faster in the long run. As the life span of intensively used flash memory is still measured in years, this is unlikely to be much of an issue. Also, Windows 98/ME systems, and most Linux systems cannot read NTFS partitions.

As we mentioned, using the EFS file encryption is not really recommended unless your home or office uses a Windows domain with centralized user accounts. The reason for this is that the encryption depends on the user account to unlock it. Even if your user account on your other computer has the same name, it has a different ID as far as the encryption is concerned.

The upshot of this is that you will not be able to open your documents when you get home, as your ‘home’ user account does not possess the right credentials. While it is possible to get around this with ‘recovery agent’ certificates, the procedure is time-consuming and complicated. You’d be better off using a third-party program to encrypt your files, like the one we detail below.

To enable NTFS on your drive, right click ‘my computer’ and select ‘manage’ then open ‘device manager.’ Find your USB drive under the ‘disk drives’ heading. It should be listed as ‘generic storage device USB device’ or something similar.


Right click it and select ‘properties’ then go to the ‘policies’ tab. Select the ‘optimize for performance’ option. Click ‘ok.’

Now open ‘my computer,’ right click on the removable drive and select ‘format.’ You will have the option to format to NTFS in the ‘file system’ dropdown box.


  1. michael says:

    Hello! i had the same problem, this was resolved with paragon partition manager software.

  2. Henry says:

    Please can someone help me?
    I formatted my LG Usb flash with command prompt
    and now i can’t use the flash again for nay stuff.
    Please i need to restore it back….
    Any ideas…?

  3. Mostafa says:

    Hello. I have a 500 GB flash memory but when I copy files more than about 4 GB the files lose and the folders are emty my flash memory is transcend JF V30/500GB Made in china could sombody help me please

  4. Shofiq says:

    Hi can any one help me to solve this problem with converting fat32 into NTFS -below is the error report: I have tried PHEIDIAS suggestion but fail. Help needed thanks advice – 16GB kingston pen drive.

    C:\Documents and Settings\a>CONVERT G: /FS:NTFS
    The type of the file system is FAT32.
    Volume Serial Number is C4C8-53A8
    Windows is verifying files and folders…
    File and folder verification is complete.
    Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
    16,760,800 KB total disk space.
    16,760,792 KB are available.

    8,192 bytes in each allocation unit.
    2,095,100 total allocation units on disk.
    2,095,099 allocation units available on disk.

    Determining disk space required for file system conversion…
    Total disk space: 16777184 KB
    Free space on volume: 16760792 KB
    Space required for conversion: 83017 KB
    Cannot create the elementary file system structures.

  5. chaos says:

    i have a 1gig flash drive with fat32 but i plug it in and i get nothing from my xbox i also have a 1tb hard drive i could use but i don’t want to format the whole thing for just my xbox can any one help plz thx.

  6. zolax says:

    I couldn’t even delete the stupid partition in windows so I plugged it into a linux box to do that. No problem. As far as:

    “NTFS on a USB drive is just plain stupid. Windows can’t release drives properly in NTFS and if the meta data gets adjusted in transit then the USB drive is toast. Most format the drive to alleviate the error but this just damages the drive faster.
    Its like adding oil to your gas to give the engine more lubrication. Leave it the way you got it.”

    I say “bla bla bla bla BLA freakin’ BLAH!” Yeah windows may screw up your flash drive… like everything else. Perhaps they could work on a file system that doesn’t suck. As long as my clients demand to get screwed by Bill, I’ll have to give them data using a file system that they can read. As someone else pointed out some of us have files larger than 4GB. That would be a real problem for a 32 bit file system, wouldn’t it you pseudo-pedantic douche bag?

  7. Mike says:

    Hi all,

    He’s my position.. I have 1 vista and 2 XP machines. With one of the XP and Vista I am unable to format a Kingston 128G USB but on my other XP I can. I used a download from HP to be able to format it as FAT32 but formating using NFTS fails. When I attempt to run the convert command I get the same error above i.e. Cannot create the elementary file system structures.

    For those who have successfully performed this on Vista and XP can you please post the details of your s/w and driver installations?

  8. khurram says:

    mari USB fotmet nahi ho rahi plz help me…….my USB not Formet plz help me…my USB errer is ………..The disk is write protected.

  9. oRoFLash says:

    Thanks, it works in my 8gb Patriot Xporter on Windows XP, now i can copy larger files above 4gb. Muchas gracias!!!

  10. Lee says:

    Mostafa…..obviously the flash drive is not 500gb its only a 4gb flash drive ….that would be my opinion …….lol… should look up a program in google to read the flash drives memory

  11. Sam says:

    Thanks i was trying to predownload starcraft 2 and it said no more space when i had 3 gb free

  12. fdindaa says:

    @ Lee- i was having the same problem its not that the flashdrive is 4gb its the file system and this solution helped so thank you guys

  13. jas says:

    i can not format my pen drive with windows utilty or with hp tool of format

  14. FUZAIL says:


  15. makhtar says:


  16. Joe says:

    Tried CONVERT X: /FS:NTFS at cmd prompt like everyone suggested to get my drive formated to NTFS. It’s been stuck at “Converting File system”. Given I left it on all night, shouldn’t it be done by now?

    Like everyone else, I would like to transfer files bigger than 4 gigs on my USB drive. Also I was able to format to exFAT and store files larger than 4 gigs on my USB, but when I stick my USB into my TV, it is found, but there are no files on the drive. Anyone have any ideas?

  17. Matt says:

    M$ released a new FS called exFAT, its basically FAT64. To be able to do this need to load KB955704 patch.

    This is what I used since none of the USB drives I tried have a format as NTFS option.

  18. Patrick says:

    Thank you for this,worked perfectly,and I was able to reformat in a minute or two.I needed to reformat my Kingston 16g flash drive so I could put larger files on it.I appreciate it.

  19. navatha says:

    i have removed all the file systems except ext2 after that i stick the usb but its not supporting plz help me

  20. hemanta says:

    i have a 2 GB Kingston pen drive and when I had format it from command, it converted from fat32 to fat default. And now it is showing 2 MB space

  21. Stefanie Zucker says:

    Thanks – this worked perfectly! King of the lab! :)

  22. Ken says:

    If you manage to get a counterfeit 256GB Kingston DataTraveler, NTFS is impossible even though its a formatting choice on Win7. You’ll be stuck with exFat.

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