Why You Should Always Format Your USB Stick File System to exFAT

You should always have your USB stick in exFAT file format, period. Okay, let’s take a step back, there are quite a few reasons why you want to do this. The whole point of having a USB stick is for portability and quickly sharing data between computers. This means, we need something that’s cross platform and works for both Windows and Mac. The existing File Format for a USB stick usually defaults to FAT32. While there is nothing wrong with this file system, it only allow you to move up to 4GB per file. If you need to move any single file larger than 4GB this file system will not work for you. NTFS, works across Windows but it’s read only on Mac. On Mac OS X, even with the latest version of OS X 10.11  El Capitan write operation is not allowed. So if you have friends using Mac and try to share a large file bigger than 4GB, the only option you got is to format the USB driver in exFAT file system. This file system works for both Windows and Mac, with limitations for Linux.

To Format Your USB Stick into exFAT File System

On Windows, just right click your removable drive > Format … > File System and select exFAT. Note, when you do this all the existing data on your USB stick will be wiped and you won’t be able to recover. Be sure to create backup for those data.

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On Mac, go to “Disk Utility” > find the USB and go under “Erase” for the dropdown of Format select “ExFAT”. (this is the same file format with lower case exFAT on Windows)

Mac exFAT File Format

That’s it, the process should be fairly quick. Now you are end up with a USB Drive that’s compatible for both Windows and Mac OS X. With the ability to perform both read and write operations without 4GB file size limit.

Jonathan Hu

Programming by day, Web Development, Canucks & Movies for spare time!
Co-founder of Next of Windows and a cool geek 🙂

Last updated: 06/16/2015

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