The Feature Microsoft Forgot to Update for 30 Years

While Windows 11 is an operating system that opens up to productive artificial intelligence, it contains user interfaces that date back a long time.

You have seen and used the Format dialog box in modern or old versions of Windows: that long rectangular window with options like Capacity, File System, Allocation Unit Size, and “Quick Format.” But did you know that this feature and user interface is a “temporary” solution almost 30 years old?


The format drive dialog was written about 30 years ago in 1994, on a rainy day. Dave Plummer, a former developer at Microsoft, recently shared the story of how this tool came about on X. In 1994, Dave and other software engineers were busy porting millions of lines of code from Windows 95 to NT. One of these was a user interface for the Format dialog box. For this, Plummer created a paper sketch of the tool we use today.

Plummer then developed a primary user interface that he added to the Windows NT codebase as a “temporary solution” until the elegant user interface arrived. However, this expected interface improvement has yet to come. Even after 30 years, the Formatting window is still used in Windows 11.

Why is this tool limited to only 32GB for the FAT partition format?

FAT supports partitions up to 2TB, but according to Plummer, the 32GB choice was an arbitrary decision made on that rainy morning in 1994. While Microsoft has revised old interfaces into modern versions, the formatting tool, like many others, has yet to receive its share. On the other hand, it is unclear why a temporary tool has not been updated for 30 years. Perhaps the “if it works, don’t touch it” approach was adopted.

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