MP4 Video on USB – Why some files don’t fit when there’s plenty of space

By | 1st April 2017

Video USB sticks are really useful but sometimes you will see an error message stating the video file you are trying to copy is too large for the destination when there is plenty of room. It’s a common problem with a simple solutions.

Video USB 7GB file

Almost all USB memory sticks arrive formatted and ready use in any computer and other devices such as a SmartTV. To achieve this universal compatibility the USB sticks are formatted using the older FAT32 file system. It’s been around for over 2 decades. The biggest single file FAT32 can store is 4GB. Anything larger than 4GB won’t fit. Most computer files are much smaller than 4GB so the limitation doesn’t cause any problems. However, video files can easily be much larger.

Alternatives to FAT32 for a video USB stick

ExFAT is a later file system which isn’t hampered by the 4GB file size limit. It works perfectly with Windows (Vista or later) and Mac OS. You can even get an ExFAT driver for Windows XP.

While ExFAT works great with computers it may not work with other devices such as SmartTVs. There are some TVs that can handle the newer file format but unless you know for certain then you should assume that it will not work.

There are several other file systems which handle large files sizes but these tend to be operating system specific and are therefore limited to full compatibility with either PCs or Macs.

Workarounds to make large video files fit on a USB stick

You have several options. You can recompress the video to make file size smaller or split the video into sections smaller than 4GB.

Recompression using a program like Handbrake (free for Windows or Mac) may reduce the file size down to less than 4gb. If the video files are MPEG-2 or AVI then compressing them using H.264 MP4 will reduce the file sizes without a noticeable drop in quality. Too much compression could have an impact on the picture quality so do some experimenting to see what works best for you.

Splitting the file without recompression will maintain the original quality with the slight inconvenience of having the the video in sections. In general playing a video in two sections doesn’t cause any real problems. Most computers and many SmartTVs will allow you to play sequential video files easily. AvideMux is a free cross-platform video conversion tool that will split (and join) video files. It’s very flexible and there are lots of tutorials online to help you find your way around the software.

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