How to Restore a FAT32 to NTFS Disk

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FAT32 to NTFS restore won’t get you files back. Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Why on Earth some nerd stuff about the type of my hard drive (NTFS and FAT32 are about my hard drive, aren’t they?) has something to do with backup and recovery operation failing, one might think. Let’s see what exactly it has to do and how to avoid losing files and proceed with backup restore (try downloading Handy Backup to check the instruction working).

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Super Brief Note on the File System Stuff

FAT32 to NTFS are file systems. They denote the way your data are organized on a hard drive. Why would anyone care (except geeks)? Well, among tons of elegant reasons to feel awesome about the fact that you know what the type of your file system is, there is at least one regarding data protection: FAT32 to NTFS restore and vice versa. Those are likely to fail if you don’t treat the file system thing properly.

Note: there are other file systems too.

Two quick facts before we go on.

First, checking what file system your hard drive has takes as little of right-clicking My Computer and seeing the General properties. Super simple, isn’t it?

Second, you do realize how awesomesauce it is when computer stuff is backed up, don’t you?

FAT32 to NTFS Backup Case Study

So, here comes an example. Let’s say you have super important files you want to prevent from getting lost. Let’s say you have large important files, e.g. at least 5GB big (say, a monster-truck size database). You heard that backing things up an insanely cool data protection option. So, you take an external hard drive + backup software and use the second to drive data to the first.

To make sure that every single important file gets protected, you make sure that there is enough room on the external disk.

Then a data loss incident comes. That might be a virus, blue screen of death, or a nephew playing with a hammer next to your laptop. But you have a backup! You get that restore-aimed device of yours, try to recover data, and fail: some files are lost!

What the Heck, or Why Some Files Are Lost and How to Prevent That

The problem is in the nature of the FAT32 file system. FAT32 does not allow files to be larger than 4GB. Thus, if you back up a file larger than 4GB (e.g. your wedding movie), it won’t be copied entirely.

So, how do you prevent that?

Option 1. Convert FAT32 to NTFS.

Pros: you get rid of the 4GB file size limitation.


  • conversion to NTFS is a one-way process. After you convert a drive (or a partition) to NTFS, you can’t convert back without having to format it again as FAT32;
  • the converted drive has to have enough free space on it.

Option 2. Use backup software that can split a large file (spanning) and then get it restored to one.

Pros: you can manage the backup and FAT32 to NTFS restore without the formatting, converting, and other tech headache.

Cons: well, you have to learn how to use another sort of software.

The choice is all yours (may be it will be the most anticipated third option). Hope this short overview will help your FAT32 to NTFS restore to proceed.

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    Converting a Disk to NTFS - official Microsoft help on converting a disk or partition to NTFS

    VSS Backup Restore - how the Volume shadow Copy thing can boost the efficiency of a data restore strategy

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