I have a 16GB Kingston USB flash drive that I use on my Mac system and I’m trying to copy a 5GB file onto it. But I keep getting the error “can’t be copied because it’s too large”. What’s wrong and how do I fix it? I’ve seen this error too and what you’re missing is the critical last few words of the error itself. It actually says “item can’t be copied because it is too large for the volume’s format.” That “for the volume’s format” is critical, because most vendors — Kingston included — ship flash drives with a default format of Windows (FAT). A bit of digging reveals that the max filesize supported on the File Allocation Table (FAT) version of the Windows file system is 4GB. So even if the flash drive has tons and tons of available space, the sad fact is that your file is too big for the file format.
You can, however, backup an APFS formatted disk to a Mac OS Extended Time Machine drive. How to format a USB drive to FAT32 on a Mac. The main reason for formatting a USB drive as Fat32 on a Mac is that you want to be able to use the drive on a Windows PC, as well as a Mac — perhaps to transfer files between the two machines.
But there’s another possibility that I see a lot of people trip over with flash drives too, even when the files are smaller than 4GB, that you haven’t emptied your trash yet. It works like this: You have an 8GB flash drive. You have 6GB of files on it. You drag them all to the Trash, then check your free space. Empty your Trash and it’ll both empty whatever trashed files you have on the computer itself and the files you’ve dragged to the Trash from your USB flash drive too. Confusing, yes. Microsoft solitaire collection daily challenge. And it’s true on both Mac and Windows.
Now back to the file too big for the FAT format problem. Here’s the error message you’re probably seeing: As you can see, if you miss the last few words, you can be baffled how a file can be substantially smaller than the capacity of the thumb drive, but still fail to copy.
To fix it, we’re going to need to reformat the flash drive. That’s done by finding the “Disk Utility” program that’s included with Mac OS X in the “Utilities” folder within the “Applications” folder. It looks like this: Launch it and you’ll see a list of all drives and devices hooked up to your system: Be careful here.
Pick the right device. Take your time here and make sure that you’ve selected the flash drive, not your main hard drive. Picking the latter would be a complete disaster and you’d hate me forever. So don’t do it. You can confirm by looking at all the stats at the bottom of the window. Here’s what I see for my Kingston drive: Notice the file format is MS-DOS (FAT). Well, it’s at least an early, relatively primitive file format from the Windows side of things, though I can’t imagine a single person still running MS-DOS on their computer!
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