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USB Flash Drives and USB External Hard Disks can be used on your computer in much the same way. There may be a few formatting requirements.

I have Sony DVD player BluRay disc, BDP-S370. I have a 32 Gig flash drive, formatted FAT with Windows 7 Ultimate. It works very well with a DVD player playing films. If I bought an external USB hard drive and formatted it the same, would it work as the flash drive does? Is there anything I should watch out for when buying the external drive?

In this excerpt from Answercast #80, I look at the similarities between a USB Flash Drive and USB External Hard Disks and how to format them for a computer and DVD player.

USB Flash and External Disks

The short answer is it will work just fine.

So, the issue is that - as far as the device you're connecting to? It can't really distinguish between the types of media inside that external USB drive.

If it happens to be flash memory or if it happens to be a hard disk, an actual physical hard disk, it doesn't matter. They are both disk-like devices and they just look like "some" amount of disk storage.

One might be a little bit faster; one might be a little bit bigger than the other; but they are just disks - they are literally just disks as far as the device that they are connecting to thinks.

Formatting the drives

Now, the only thing that I would be concerned about is that, you are correct, I do believe you need to have the hard drive formatted using the FAT file system. FAT 32 should be just fine for most of the different devices that things might connect to.

That may limit you to the amount usable space on the external hard drive, I'm not sure but it's something to be aware of.

Other than that, go for it! Grab yourself an external hard drive, format it FAT, load it up with whatever it is you're using with that DVD player and my sense is it will work just fine.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6154 - December 20, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

December 21, 2012 8:57 AM

An external disk I would format in NTFS. A USB flash drive is a bit faster in Fat32.

There are a few things you cannot do with a flash drive - e.g. you cannot INCLUDE folders into the library (in Windows 7). Or you cannot move a pagefile to a stick.

Gary Richtmeyer
December 21, 2012 10:03 AM

From a file size perspective, remember that FAT32 can't handle files larger than 4GB, which usually doesn't happen unless you're storing large videos or backup files.
If you will be storing large files like this, then format the drive for NTFS, otherwise FAT32 is usually fine.

December 21, 2012 1:10 PM

Some say that other operating systems or even older Win systems can't work with NTFS. Therefore the FAT32 formatting for compatibility.

Mark J
December 21, 2012 1:25 PM

It's true that older Windows OSs can't read NTFS, but anything since Windows 2000 and XP can use NTFS. So unless you need compatibility with versions of Windows ME, 98 and earlier, you don't have to worry about that.

Ole Rasmussen
December 22, 2012 12:53 AM

The size limit on FAT32 is about 8TB. However: Windows won't format larger partitions than 32GB. If you need a "modern" drive in FAT32 you can use Easus Partition Manager.
There is a free version here:

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