Error: Thumb Drive Full





Introduction: Error: Thumb Drive Full

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

In the office where I work we use a small thumb drive for short term file backup.  If the hard drive crashes and burns, files on the thumb drive will survive.  Later we can save them to a disc for storage.

(The photo is an edited version of a picture from Bing Images.)

Step 1: Space Available

One day there was an error message.  The thumb drive was full.  We clicked on "Properties," but there was still quite a bit of free space remaining.

Step 2: What to Do?

I searched the Internet for a solution to the apparent contradiction that a drive with space available could be full.  One suggestion was that the drive could contain a hidden file that actually used the available space.  Search the help function for "hidden files."  Follow the instructions to show all hidden files on the drive.  This did not help me at all.  

Step 3: Format?

The next option was more severe.  It was suggested that the drive ought be formatted to remove all problems.  First I copied all files on the drive to a new folder on the computer desktop.  But, that also did not help.   Another suggestion was that the drive had become defective and must be replaced.

Step 4: The Solution

I brought the problematic thumb drive home and plugged it into a new computer running on Windows 7.  When I tried to save a file to the allegedly full thumb drive, I got the same error message about the drive being full, but with more detail.  The thumb drive uses the FAT 32 file format protocol.  FAT 32 counts files and determines that the drive is full when a certain number of files are stored on the drive, regardless of their size.  The error message suggested making some new folders and grouping similar files within folders.  FAT 32 sees a folder as one file, no matter how many files may be within it.  I removed some files from the thumb drive temporarily and made some folders.  Then I grouped similar files into these folders.  Suddenly our full thumb drive was no longer full and we can now save new files to it.  It does not matter that you may not have Windows 7.  If you are getting an error message that a drive with space on it is full, try grouping some files into folders to restore access to the space still on that drive.



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    That would be a good idea, but as he said, he use the key at work. He may be using it with many different OS, and ntfs is not supported on all OS.

    The work computer is Windows XP. I did wonder if formatting to NTFS would create any compatibility conflicts. I just was not sure.


    If you are only using it on windows, you may consider ntfs. It have some advantage(Encryption possible, file can be larger than 4gb, ..)

    I used Puppy Linux from a Live disc for a while. What I read about Linux systems indicated hardware compatibility can be a problem with peripherals, like a printer. It is intriguing, but easily makes me feel lost and helpless.

    If you cannot work with it then it cannot work for you. At least you've given it a look which is a good thing. I'm the opposite, Windows makes me lost and helpless. And with closed source software it is actually more than just a feeling!

    This sums it up better than I can:

    Yes. That was an option in the Windows 7 error message. I forgot to mention that. Thank you for mentioning it.

    I'd not heard of that one before, thanks for sharing.

    2 replies

    When I searched the Internet for a solution to the problem, there were numerous hits, but none suggested grouping loose files into folders.

    Phil B, long time fan.
    Another thing you could do is to use the Send To: compressed file option by right clicking a folder. Of course because you were hitting the limit at the time you would have had to manipulate your files having made a copy on your hard drive. but after that just use them to overwrite your thumb drive. Also since the .zip architecture has been incorporated into all windows releases since XP you can simply use the "explore" feature to navigate the .zip archive without any special program (drag and dropping to move files).

    Best regards!

    I didn't think of this until Step 4, but I had this very same thing happen to me when transferring files from one computer to another. I made a folder on the root of the thumb drive and just put everything in there, and that worked for me. Both computers were using XP at the time.

    I'm not sure about Macs, but Linux computers can read and write to NTFS, so that's the way that I would go as well.

    1 reply

    Mac can read NTFS out of the box, but needs help to write. I use macfuse, a google project.

    Phil, that error appears in some Kingston DataTraveler. But sometimes yes, sometimes no. Thanks for the solution!

    3 replies

    Osvaldo, our thumb drive with the problem is a Kingston DataTraveler.

    Another problem I had with that drive (but 8GB) was as follows: when I bought it, they tried it and walked rapidly, both read and write. I came to the office, I wanted to copy some personal files and it took much time, even "hung". I returned to the business where I had purchased, and it walked back to test perfect. In the office there was no way to make it work, at many PCs. Luckily at home it works perfectly in both PC and notebook. I have read in the web that this behavior is quite common with this model

    BTW, I am putting wheels to my electrogenerator. I use two wasted bearings, they are well, only a bit noisy at high speed. But I do not intend to run a race dragging the generator...

    As long as your wheels make it easy to move your generator it is good. I see on the Internet that the newer NordicTrack machines have casters where ours has legs at the back end. Still, I like my system better than their system.

    . Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
    . Back when the Macintoshes first came out, we had a customer that bought a high-capacity, removable-media drive to back up a bunch of small files. Unfortunately, the original Mac OS (a flat system; folders were just window dressing) would crash the drive when more than, IIRC, 255 files were present.