Folder Size Limits

Written by Eric Wyatt (last updated September 21, 2020)


In another tip, I discuss an issue that Hazel had with regards to a service technician. In that tip, I focused on one of two possible concerns the technician may have had about Hazel storing files in a download folder. While I believe the issue the technician may have had pertained to another possible problem, another area that I lightly touched on could be the perceived limits to a folder's size. This is an area that many don't know (or pay much attention to) and just work away hoping that everything will be saved without a problem. Thankfully, it is pretty hard to exceed the limits of a folder, so problems are very rare. Even so, when it comes to size limitations of any given folder on your Windows 10 system, it is good to know what the limits really are.

Before delving into limits, we need to make sure we are at the same starting point or footing. I am not referring to a specific file's size. I am, instead, referring to the size limitations of a folder or directory, both of which hold a collection of many individual files. When it comes to storage limits on your files and folders there are some technical items to figure out. The first is what file system your drive uses. How your hard drive or storage device is formatted determines the number of folders and files your system can have.

Typically, a Windows 10 system will be formatted using the NTFS (New Technology File System) file system. With an NTFS drive, the typical Windows user will run out of storage space on the drive itself before reaching an individual folders' limits. The reason for this is a single folder on an NTFS formatted drive can hold up to 256 terabytes (TB) of data. If you don't know, that's a lot—it's over 256,000 gigabytes (GB)!

The storage space isn't the only issue to think about. A single folder can contain 4,294,967,295 files, as long as the size of those files combined does not exceed the storage space limits just mentioned. Considering that no one makes a 256 TB drive, it's safe to assume you can keep saving and not have to worry about reaching the limits of the operating system without first hitting your disk or storage devices limits. Keep in mind, however, that you should be backing up your data, and that may impact or add limits to your system.

To learn more about storage and see about how limits might be impacted based on the formatting of your drive, I suggest you check out Leo Notenboom's website A former Microsoft software engineer, Leo really knows his stuff, such as this article where he gives more information on what limits a single folder or directory might hold.

 This tip (8211) applies to Windows 10.

Author Bio

Eric Wyatt

Eric Wyatt is a swell guy (or so his friends tell him). He is a formally trained designer and branding expert, bringing a wide range of skills to his Tips.Net articles. ...


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What is one less than 2?

2020-09-22 00:27:27

Steven Mackey

Although probably not encountered much anymore, didn’t FAT16 have a limit of 512 (or about that amount) entries in the root directory?

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