Transferring large files on iPod


Q: I’d like to copy a 12 gigabyte file onto my iPod and use it as a normal memory stick but as I drag the file onto the iPod folder Windows tells me that I do not have enough space, even though the iPod has more than 40GB free. What could be the problem?

– Roland

A: The problem here is not that your iPod does not have enough space, but that the file system that you are using on your iPod does not support extremely large files.

A Windows-formatted iPod uses the FAT32 file system, which supports a maximum file size of just under 4 GiB. This means that even if you have a 160 GB iPod classic, the maximum single file you can store on the device is 4 GiB. You could fill your iPod with these 4 GiB files, but each file can be no larger than that maximum size. This is not a limitation of the iPod per se, but rather a limitation of the file system used by the iPod.

Most modern Windows computers use the NTFS file system, which for all practical purposes has an unlimited maximum file size (at least by today’s standards). Unfortunately, you cannot use an iPod that is formatted for the NTFS file system as the iPod OS itself will not read an NTFS-formatted partition.

Note that this limitation does not exist with Mac-formatted iPods, as these use the HFS+ file system instead, which like NTFS has a virtually unlimited maximum file size. A tool such as MediaFour’s MacDrive would allow you to use a Mac-formatted iPod on Windows, but you would need this utility installed on all of the computers that you plan to access your iPod on, so this is likely not a practical solution unless you are only planning on using your iPod with a limited number of computers that are under your direct control (since most work and campus computers will not allow you to install additional software on them).

Realistically, the only way you are going to get around this while still being able to use your iPod to play music is to use a tool to split your 12 gigabyte file into smaller pieces that are each under the 4 GiB maximum. Due to the FAT32 limitation being a rather common issue, you can find numerous tools that can do this for you. Compression tools like WinZIP and WinRAR are particularly useful for this purpose.

Of course, keep in mind that you will not be able to actually use your large file from the iPod directly, but if your primary goal is simply to transfer your data between two computers, this is the most effective method of doing so.

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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.